Spurgeon’s College Library Aug. 2015

JANICE PAINE reports on a visit  by CLIS members

On Tuesday 18 August 2015,  six CLIS  members were welcomed to Spurgeon’s College in South London by the Librarian, Annabel Haycraft.  It was a fine day so we ate our packed lunches on the lawn in the very pleasant gardens outside the Victorian mansion originally built as “Falkland Park” in 1890. This was given to Spurgeon’s College in 1923 when they were able to move from “central London, with its infamous smog, to the bracing air of the leafy suburbs of Upper Norwood”[i]

The college was founded by Charles Haddon Surgeon in 1852 to train young men for the Baptist ministry; it now provides a variety of courses for men and women of all ages, including evangelism and counselling, from short courses to research degrees, with on-line learning options. Some of the students live on-site.

Our group relaxed in the current Student Common Room (previously the mansion’s dining room) before visiting the adjacent 1937 building housing the library. This was splendidly refurbished in 2009, bringing together the lending and reference libraries previously in separate buildings. A beautifully carved frieze showing Spurgeon teaching his students is inserted in the wall of the Reference Library.

The collection of 70,000 books is classified by Dewey and uses the Heritage Cirqa LMS; borrowers use a self-issue system. There are extended, partly unattended opening hours (7.00 am – 11.00 pm) which unfortunately give rise to concerns about book losses.

As well as the main lending collection there is a large Biography section, periodicals, a Reference sequence including study Bibles, commentaries, and dictionaries and a Temporary Reference section for heavily used texts. There are considerable electronic resources, with access to the American Theological  Library Association  Religion Database and many e-books and e-journals.[ii]

The library is available to  all staff and students, but distance learning students do not have borrowing rights. A generous book budget keeps the stock up to date, supplemented by donations from staff and retired ministers, and Annabel also uses ABTAPL (Association of British Theological and Philosophical Libraries) resources for inter-library loans.

As the only full-time librarian, Annabel deals with a wide variety of tasks, including external enquiries, many of which are of a historical nature. She answers many of these from archive resources kept in the Heritage Room (no longer available for public visits, though we were able to see this on a previous LCF visit).


The librarian takes part in college open days, which include sample lectures, a service, and opportunities to learn about the courses available. A recent innovation is the Centre for Spirituality which runs Quiet Days one Friday per month, open to all (pre-bookable).

We then visited the college chapel, opened in 1957, where we admired a statue of C.H. Spurgeon and the pulpit from the church where he was converted. A daily service is held here for all staff and students; those in training are encouraged to preach and lead the worship.

Finally we were provided with tea and biscuits back in the lounge, with time for a wide-ranging discussion on our varied current interests and concerns in the library world, such as preserving archives, running church libraries and using social media.

Many thanks to Annabel for giving up her time to host this visit.

Janice E.  Paine, MCLIP, serves on the executive committee of  Christians in Library and Information Services  as Membership Secretary.

[i]  Powles, Judy: Forward in faith: Spurgeon’s College in South Norwood, 1923-199