New publication reveals changes at the Bodleian

16 January 2013

9783110289213A new £29m Book Storage Facility, 7 million books barcoded, a £75m  redevelopment project, 50,000 linear metres of material relocated, 600 staff and a timeframe of only three years. These figures provide a snapshot of the recent major transformations undertaken by the Bodleian Libraries of the University of Oxford.

A new publication, Transforming the Bodleian, chronicles the intense period of dramatic transformation which the Bodleian Libraries, one of world’s most famous library systems, has embarked on since 2008.   

The need to meet the requirements of the 21st century academic world and the goal to stay at the forefront of library services drove the Bodleian to undertake many radical changes, changes that were particularly challenging for a library which traces its origins back to the 14th century and which built up rich and varied collections over time. Transforming the Bodleian chronicles the planning, the decision-taking process, the challenges and the experiences shared by all involved. Each of the fifteen chapters is written by the Bodleian staff member who managed or oversaw the project, thus aiming to provide a comprehensive picture of the whole process.

The transformation of the Bodleian Libraries provides an example of how major libraries can meet 21st-century challenges. In 2008 they were facing an unsuccessful implementation of a new library management system; they lacked a plan to cope with their storage needs and they were threatened with losing status as a repository suitable for archival storage. Three years later they had a new state-of-the-art storage facility holding 7 million items under fully automated control and a new integrated library system, they had transformed reader spaces and the renovation and redevelopment of a major building as a centre for special collections was well under way. This was all achieved in record-breaking time without significant interruptions in service.

This inspirational book shares the experiences of successful collection management where the collection is extremely large and complex. It also illustrates how bold financial planning enabled multi-million pound budgets to be used to maximum effect and savings made.  Moreover, it discusses some of the hurdles that had to be overcome, and the trials encountered along the way. More specifically, it addresses some of the challenges of running a modern library and information service:  how to best manage a growing collection with limited space while trying to maintain a quality service and access to the collections; where and when to invest in behind-the-scenes improvements; and how to optimize space to meet reader needs.  Overall, it demonstrates how innovative methods and a dedicated problem-solving approach enabled millions of books and other items to be barcoded and moved in record time. 

Published by the German academic publisher, de Gruyter, this publication will be of interest to students of and researchers in librarianship and professionals working in the areas of libraries, information management and cultural heritage.

Catriona Cannon, Associate Director, Bodleian Libraries and one of the two editors of the book, said: ‘This is the story of how the Bodleian transformed itself. Requiring strategic thinking, bold decisions, thorough planning, determination, hard work and vision, the Bodleian underwent dramatic transformations in record time. In Transforming the Bodleian, we also share the challenges, obstacles and difficulties we met along the way, as well as the lessons we learned in the process. ’   

TRANSFORMING THE BODLEIAN
Editors Michael Heaney and Catriona Cannon
HB, 300pp, coloured illustrations, ISBN: 978-3-11-028921-3
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