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Reform Club ~ Library and Archives

A Brief History

The Library was established in 1841, shortly after the Club moved into the newly built clubhouse.  A comprehensive collection of parliamentary papers, reports, speeches and reference works was regarded as essential for the many active politicians amongst the early members.  But the Library also aimed to achieve a broad coverage in the humanities, in order to serve the Club's more general cultural aims.

The Library was formed under the guidance of Sir Anthony Panizzi, a Club member and also the most distinguished librarian of the age; from 1856 to 1866 Panizzi held the post of Principal Librarian to the British Museum, where he is particularly remembered as the designer of the famous circular Reading Room.

The book collection was at first accommodated in the Morning Room (originally called the Parliamentary Library) and in the Smoking Room (originally the Upper Library).  In 1853, the Club commissioned Charles Barry to convert what was then the Drawing Room to the present Library.  This created a breathing space for the rapidly expanding stock; but before long, the Library was again bursting at the seams and needed to expand into other public rooms and various stores throughout the clubhouse.

The Library Committee

The Library is managed by a Library Committee which is composed of four elected members who each serve a four year term, two members who are appointed by the General Committee from its own number, and up to three co-opted members.  Elections to the Library Committee take place in December with the other committee elections.

The Library Collection

The Library now comprises more than 75,000 volumes.  The collection has been built up through regular purchases made by the Library Committee at its monthly meetings and through donations from members, particularly of their own published works.  The Library is very strong in certain areas, for example, 19th Century English literature, topography, political biography, political economy and British history of the last two hundred years.  There are special collections covering the history of India, London topography, and political reform.  The Library is also well represented in many other areas, including philosophy, the theatre, travel, theology, architecture, art and the classics.

Members will find the Library ideal for private study and scholarly research.  The Study Room provides a pleasant haven for uninterrupted work.  Material not immediately available from the Library's considerable resources can usually be obtained on loan from other libraries.

The Librarian

The Library is administered under the direction of the Library Committee by a full-time, qualified Librarian who is also available to answer members' bibliographical enquiries and to lend assistance with their research.

The Archive

The Club’s historical records contain a wealth of domestic, social and economic information covering all aspects of the Club’s history.  They have been sorted and catalogued by a professional archivist.  Members and researchers wishing to consult them may arrange to do so through the Librarian.