26 May 2010
Oxford University’s Bodleian Libraries today announced that they had secured Planning Permission approval and Listed Building Consent from Oxford City Council for the £78 million restoration and renovation of the New Bodleian Library, to be reopened as the Weston Library in 2014/2015. The long-awaited project, designed by Wilkinson Eyre Architects (WEA), has three aims: to create high quality storage for the Libraries’ valuable special collections, which include the rare and unique manuscripts, books and maps that the Bodleian preserves for the international world of scholarship; to develop the Libraries’ space for the support of advanced research; and to expand public access to its great treasures through new exhibition galleries and other facilities.
Sarah Thomas, Bodley’s Librarian, said: ‘Securing planning permission is an important milestone in this exciting library project. The architects, our Broad Street neighbours, library staff, and countless others have all collaborated in this visionary scheme. We’ve worked to ensure that the redeveloped building would appeal to academics and scholars but also would contribute to the city as an inviting space to share the Bodleian’s treasures, in dedicated exhibition galleries, with the general public.’
The New Bodleian was designed by Giles Gilbert Scott in the 1930s. It was built, essentially, as a huge ‘book fortress’. Wilkinson Eyre Architects has reinterpreted the building to respect its heritage while at the same time modernising the infrastructure; providing better facilities for students and researchers, as well as greater opportunities for collaboration with and outreach to the wider community.
This is a major project for a working academic library. The renovation will commence in 2011 following the removal of over 3.5 million books and the Weston Library will reopen in 2015. As a working research library, the Bodleian is endeavouring, despite a number of complex initiatives underway, including the construction of a high-density book storage facility and the relocation of over 6.5 million volumes, to provided uninterrupted service for its readers during the redevelopment. The scale of planned improvements is unparalleled among research libraries.
The New Bodleian Library has been in urgent need of upgrading to modern standards appropriate for one of the largest and most important repositories of historical and legal deposit materials in the world. The planned renovations will ensure the building complies with national standards for the storage of the Library’s unique Special Collections.
Designed by Giles Gilbert Scott, the New Bodleian Library is listed Grade II and was completed in 1940. Featuring an innovative design for that time, the building has 11 floors. The three below-ground floors house approximately 50% of the existing bookstacks. The Bodleian Libraries has consulted extensively with English Heritage, preservation groups and the City of Oxford to develop a plan that respects the best aspects of Giles Gilbert Scott’s classic 1930s building whilst opening it up to readers and visitors in a sympathetic fashion. A new Upper Floor Reading Room is proposed, which will make a feature of the original Gilbert Scott signature slot window design which will once again become visible through the removal of a 1960s addition to the top of the building.
The renovation of the New Bodleian is part of an integrated strategy to improve the management of and access to the Bodleian Libraries’ historic collections. To accommodate the books now housed in the New Bodleian and to provide space for the Libraries’ growing collections, the University is constructing a book storage facility in Swindon which will open in late 2010; it also plans to upgrade storage in the underground bookstore under Radcliffe Square to enable direct access to high-use books by readers.
The Garfield Weston Foundation generously donated £25 million in support of the renovation; in honour of this gift, the New Bodleian will reopen in 2015 as the Weston Library. Oxford University Press provided matching funds of £25 million. Julian Blackwell, the President of Blackwell’s Bookshop, which neighbours the New Bodleian, has donated over £6 million, one of the largest cash donations ever made to a university library in the UK. The entrance hall will be known as Blackwell Hall. Almost £64 m of the £78 m project has been raised through the generous support of donors.