The first students’ union at University College Dundee’s was formed in 1886 but it wasn’t until 1904 that it was given its first premises at Ellenbank (No.1 Perth Road) a converted Georgian villa.
By the 1950s it was clear that this was too small for an ever-expanding student population, leading to plans for new facilities for students. A new building, New Dines, was intended as the first phase in a new Students’ Union complex and opened in 1963. It was built on land between Cross Row and the Geddes Quad that had been occupied by housing as seen in this 1908 map and 1950s aerial photograph.
While, as its uninspired name suggests, it was primarily intended as dining facility – it was able to provide hot meals for 750 students (catering for far more students than the ‘old’ cafe in Ellenbank) – it also was to have laundry and bathing facilities. In addition, with phase 2 of the new Students’ Union much delayed (it would not open until session 1973-1974) its large refectory space was used for dances and mass meetings which were difficult to accommodate in the old Union.
As campus plans show New Dines, the current Students’ Association Building (which was built as phase 2 of the plan) and the new chaplaincy were eventually linked together as one complex.
However, New Dines was not a success. Student behaviour was changing meaning that there was less demand for a large refectory. By the early 1970s the hot meals being served in New Dines were making losses and, as demand dropped, many students favoured discontinuing them to save the Students’ Association money. In 1975, with today’s DUSA building fully opened, New Dines stopped serving meals and apart from the laundry and showers was little used. Demand for the latter also dropped as student accommodation improved. In 1984 it was announced that New Dines was to be demolished to make way for a new University Library which would also cover the adjacent carpark.
A new library had been intended as part of the building programme following the establishment of the University of Dundee in 1967, and was to be called the Baxter Library and built to the north of today’s Students’ Association Building. This scheme had been scrapped in 1973 when the Heath Government imposed a moratorium on capital building projects. However, by the 1980s it was clear the facilities the library had in the Tower Building were no longer suitable, having been designed for a much smaller number of students when it was planned in the 1950s, and construction began on the New Dines site. The Queen Mother came to lay the “foundation stone” of the library at a special ceremony on 21 October 1986 where she also inspected the architect’s model of the new building (work on the building had in fact already started). The Library was opened in in 1988 and was soon one of the busiest and most used buildings on campus.
An extension was added to the Library in the 1990s and the whole building was further expanded in the 2000s.