Prestigious library lecture series launched

Wednesday 3 June 2009

A celebratory lecture series is to be held at the University of St Andrews to mark a significant historical milestone.

The King James Library Lectures will be delivered over the years 2009 – 2012, culminating in the year which marks the 400th anniversary of the establishment of the University’s King James Library.

Described by Dr Samuel Johnson in the eighteenth century as an ‘elegant and luminous’ book-room, the library was built on the site of the medieval College of St John – the place where teaching began in St Andrews.

The building was intended to house books bequeathed by Mary Queen of Scots for the founding of a library, together with the University’s existing collections.

Dr James Billington, Librarian of Congress in Washington will travel to St Andrews from the world’s largest library and the United States’ oldest federal institution to deliver the first lecture.

Alice Crawford, Academic Liaison Librarian from the University of St Andrews said, “This talk by the Librarian of Congress inaugurates the Library’s series of lectures on ‘The Meaning of the Library’.

“The series will culminate in 2012, the year which marks the 400th anniversary of the establishment of the University’s King James Library, and lectures will be published in book form in 2013 as part of the celebrations to mark the 600th birthday of the University of St Andrews.”

Delivered by internationally renowned figures from the academic and library worlds, the King James Library Lectures will articulate what the library as an institution has meant to civilisation in different historical periods.  The lectures will also set out visions of what the library might mean in our own time and beyond.

Appointed as Librarian of Congress in 1987, Dr Billington has taught history at both Harvard and Princeton Universites and served as Director of the Woodrow Wilson International Centre for Scholars, where he founded the Kennan Institute for Advanced Russian Studies. He is author of a number of books on Russian politics, including The Face of Russia (1998) and Breakthrough to Hope (1992), and has accompanied 10 congressional delegations to Russia and the former Soviet Union.

He is the founder of the Open World Program, a nonpartisan initiative of the U.S. Congress which has brought over 10,000 emerging young Russian political leaders to communities throughout America.  In October 2004, Dr Billington headed a Library of Congress delegation to Tehran to develop an exchange programme with the National Library of Iran, becoming the most senior U.S. government official to visit Iran openly in 25 years.

Dr Billington’s lecture will take place at 2pm in School III, St Salvator’s Quadrangle on Tuesday 9th June and will be followed by a wine reception in the King James Library.  All are welcome.

For details on the lecture series visit:

Further information on the history of the library is available on:



Alice Crawford is available for interview on Tel: 01334 462317 or Email: [email protected]



Issued by the Press Office, University of St Andrews
Contact Fiona Armstrong, Press Officer on 01334 462530 / 467227, Mobile: 07730 415 015 or Email: [email protected]
Ref:  King James lectures 02/06/09
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