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125 years at Aberdeen Central Library

The history of the Library service in Aberdeen is well documented from its inception in 1884 right through to the present day. "On the Viaduct" was produced in 1992 for the centenary of the Central Library and in 2012 selections from the Library Archive were featured in our 120 publication.

For 125 years the Library has served as a repository of knowledge open to all with space and resources to learn, create and enjoy. It has evolved through the years to meet the needs of the time as reflected in its history and development.

Download the 125 years of Aberdeen Central Library Timeline (PDF - 3.45MB)


Brief History of Aberdeen Central Library


  • 25 March 1884: Public Library Acts adopted in Aberdeen.
  • April 1884: First Library Committee appointed. It continued as a separate committee up until local government re-organisation in 1975 when it functioned as a sub committee of the Arts and Recreation Committee.
  • August 1884: Public Library opens in Mechanics' Institution, Market Street.


Alexander W Robertson MA was appointed first City Librarian from 123 applicants including only one female. He submitted 21 testimonials to the Public Library Committee in support of his application. Prior to his appointment he was Assistant Librarian at Aberdeen University.

Prior to the opening of the Library, he had prepared a small "Manual for Readers" giving a brief historical sketch of the Library and a description of the new departments including also a section on handling books. Over 10,000 copies were distributed free.

Robertson resigned in 1899.


Timeline 1

Find more information about the opening ceremony, Aberdeen Central Library Staff,
the Lending Library, the Reading Room and the Reference department in 1892 on The Silver City Vault.



George Milne Fraser was a journalist by profession with a substantial knowledge of the
North East. His finest memorial is the Local Studies Collection we have today.

  • 12 May 1905: Central Library Extension opens as Reading Room. Find out more about the proposed extension on The Silver City Vault.
  • 11 July 1911: Juvenile Library and Reading Rooms open.
  • 1911 - 1936: Fraser delivered a series of free local history lectures to children in the Juvenile Department every winter.
  • 3 October 1925: New look Lending Library. Books on open access.
    See the souvenir card issued to all borrowers.


Fraser died in 1938. He was succeeded by Marcus Kelly Milne.




Marcus Kelly Milne introduced many innovations during WW2 before leaving in 1942 to serve in the RAF.

When he returned, he oversaw the opening of 4 new branch libraries, and the introduction of the mobile library and housebound service. He was President of the Scottish Library Association in 1967 before retiring a year later.





Amongst his many attributes, Bill Critchley planned a major extension to the Central Library and undertook the inauguration of a gramophone record department.

He died in 1972 and was succeeded by Peter Grant.



125_grant Peter Grant held the position of City Librarian for 16 years until his retirement in 1989. During this time, he oversaw the modernisation programme of the Central Library and the introduction of the automated issue system.

  • 3 December 1973: Gramophone record service opened
  • 1976: Picture Lending introduced
  • 1979: Major extension and modernisation programme begins. Automation begins - Plessy Pen automated issue system.
  • April 1979: TV set with a teletext receiver installed in Commercial and Technical Department
  • December 1979: Online terminal and VDU installed in Commercial Library
  • April 1980: Computer Terminal installed in Commercial Library linking into Euronet-Diane computer
  • December 1981: 7 storey extension complete. New Audio and Local Studies departments




27 October 1983: The Admirable Mechanic published

1984: Video cassette lending service introduced

1985: Community Contacts directory published

1987: CDs introduced to Adult Lending

1989: Alan Fulton appointed Head of Libraries, Operations 

1990: Arts equipment lending service introduced and Cassette tapes published by Local Studies

  • 1991: Hugh Scott, first writer in residence
  • 1992: Centenary of Central Library




  • 1997: New Libraries: People's Network - public access PCs in Libraries/Library Learning Centres
  • October 1999: Bookstart Aberdeen launched.
  • 2001: Aberdeen College Learning Centre open in the Central Reference department.
  • May 2001: DVDs introduced in A/V Department of Central Library
  • 2002: Library webpages created on ACC website




2003: Development of the Central Library as a Centre for Library Excellence. A major refurbishment programme begins: over the period March 2003 to May 2004, window were all replaced and painted in original colour, granite was repointed.

  • From 2005: Media Centre offers a range of DVDS, Blu-Ray, CDs and Language Courses, along with an Arts Equipment loan service and PC access.


  • 125_edic 12 December 2005: Dialogue Youth Information Point launched in Central Library
  • 2006: Library catalogue goes online
  • 16 May 2006: Reference Library refurbished. Information Centre opened by Sir James Milne, Chairman of the Balmoral Group.  
  • December 2007: Lauch of Europe Direct service


125timeline05 2008: WiFi in Central Library. Central Library participates in Doors Open Day for first time

20 May 2008: Migrant Communities Information Point

30 November 2009: Homecoming 2009 - Enlightened Burns

May 2010: Wii games available for loan

February 2011: Health Point launched in Central Library


  • Silver City Vault Logo Small September 2011: Launch of Local Studies online archive The Silver City Vault
  • 2012: Raman Mundair appointed as Reader in Residence
  • March 2012: Launch of eBook service (Overdrive)
  • April 2012: Filming of "Who do you think you are" with Annie Lennox
  • May 2012: Lending Library refurbished. A new reception area has been created and self issue machines installed
  • 5 July 2012: 120 years of Central Library
  • March 2014: Information Centre refurbishment





  • 2015: Launch of 125 programme with Butterflies on the Move
  • 11 July 2015: 10 years of Media Centre
  • 22 January 2016: Healthy Reading Collection
  • 3-28 September 2016: "Valentine" participates in CatParade
  • 4 March 2017: Hall of Mirror, Local History Conference held at Aberdeen Beach Ballroom
  • 29-30 March 2017: Arts Across Learning Classroom in Central Library
  • 4 July 2017: Central Library celebrates 125 years


Aberdeen Central Library - did you know?

  • A. W. Robertson, the first city Librarian, was depicted as a cartoon character and known as "Shiner" Image
  • 10,000 copies of Robertson's Manual for Readers were distributed when the library opened
  • In 1934 the Jubilee of the Public Library was celebrated in the Reference Department with luncheon for members of the British Association
  • Local Studies holds the James Pratt Theatre Collection of Tivoli posters and programmes Image
  • The Central Library once had a spiral staircase which was hidden behind closed doors for staff to ascend to the reserve stocks in the basement
  • Aberdeen Booked! Festival was held for the first time in August 2016 with events in the Central Library
  • The Central Library participated in Granite Noir Aberdeen's first crime writing festival 24-26 Feb 2017
  • The earliest locally printed book in the collection is Edward Raban: Raine from the Clouds, 1624
  • The smallest book in stock measures 2 x 1 inches - Fine Gold: texts and reflections for every evening in the year, published by Hamilton, Adams and Company 1853
  • Annie Lennox filmed "Who do you think you are" In the Central Library in 2012
  • Some have seen the Library ghost and there have been paranormal investigations conducted over the years
  • We are a PATLIB Centre and hold regular Intellectual Property advice clinics with local patent attorneys
  • During the war years 1939-45 a Casualty Recording Service was operated by Library staff
  • Aberdeen City Libraries has been awarded the prestigious Volunteer Friendly Award. The first library in Scotland to achieve the award


Zoom on... Libraries Playing Chess

In 2017 an original chess table was discovered in the staffroom at Northfield Community Library. The table was restored by a member of staff, Driver/Library Assistant William Wright and displayed at the 125 celebration launch on 4 July.

125 Library chess Tables for playing draughts and chess were provided at Old Aberdeen, Torry and Ferryhill branch libraries back in the early 20th century. There was usually 6 tables with 2 chairs to each table. The Librarian could provide more if it was found "the tables were appreciated and did not interfere with the good order and general convenience of the Reading Room".

The tables proved popular and the games attracted many spectators. It came to a head when a draught competition held in Torry in 1924 attracted a large crowd disturbing the users of the reading room and upsetting the attendants. From then on spectators were not allowed. The image from the Bon Accord and Northern Pictorial of 1949 shows 70 year old Harry Dow of the Bon Accord Chess Club enjoying a game of chess at Ferryhill Library.

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