New Scheme for Bodleian Facilities and Services

17 March 2009

The Bodleian Library is embarking on a major programme of work to overhaul its facilities and services in order to provide innovative services for 21st-century scholars and better preserve its heritage collections. These plans have been informed by the new academic strategy for the libraries. The overarching objective is to increase the speed of access to information. This will be achieved by providing direct access to high-demand print collections, increased online access to materials, electronic document delivery, and expanded interlibrary loans.

A new book storage facility

The University has entered into a contract to purchase a 15-acre site in South Marston, close to Swindon, for the construction of a high-density book storage facility for the Bodleian.

The new storage facility, which will provide storage for up to 8 million volumes, will provide essential space and better conditions to house the Bodleianís collections. It will be used to house predominantly low-use items, many of which have electronic copies available. It is envisaged that the facility will fulfil approximately 200,000 requests per year, which is a reduction of more than 50 per cent over its previously anticipated use.

Subject to planning permission and the necessary University approvals, construction will begin in August 2009. Completion is expected in August 2010, and the facility is due to become operational in Michaelmas Term 2010.

The New Bodleian

The new book storage facility will enable the New Bodleian to be redeveloped as a modern special collections library and research centre by providing temporary storage for some of the Libraryís collections during its refurbishment programme. The refurbishment will involve the rebuilding of the central book stack, the installation of three floors of secure storage below ground level, the provision of additional reading rooms, and the creation of dedicated floors for curation and conservation. The refurbishment will also see the ground floor of the library opened up to the public, with the creation of exhibition galleries and learning space.

During the refurbishment, the South Marston storage facility will be used to store predominantly low-use items from the New Bodleianís collections, while a high proportion of the Libraryís special collections and high-demand volumes will be housed in the Radcliffe Science Library. This will ensure that high-use and high-value works are retained in central Oxford.

The remodelling of the New Bodleian is expected to take four years to complete, with preparation work beginning in 2010. It is being supported by major gifts from benefactors, including the Garfield Weston Foundation and Julian Blackwell. In honour of the £25 million donation from the Garfield Weston Foundation, the New Bodleian is being renamed the Weston Library, with the name change coming into effect following the refurbishment.

Increased digital access

In addition to providing greater access to its print volumes, the Bodleian is investing heavily in increased digital access to its collections. Half a million pounds has been spent this year on improving access to retrospective journal holdings in electronic form, and a further £500,000 has recently been approved.

Radcliffe Observatory Quarter

The development of the Radcliffe Observatory Quarter is a key part of the plans for the Libraryís future. The first phase of this new development in central Oxford will see the creation of an interdisciplinary humanities library, located on the lower floors of the new Humanities centre. The new library will house up to one million volumes of printed material, eventually consolidating the holdings of up to 14 separate collections and related collections and integrating them with stock from the main Bodleian. It will be a state-of-the-art facility, offering the very latest developments in information technology, dedicated study space for graduate students, and longer opening hours for readers.

Further information

For further information about the plans for the Bodleian, please visit www.bodleian.ox.ac.uk/about/buildings. For further details about the Radcliffe Observatory Quarter, please visit www.ox.ac.uk/roq.

Implementing these changes will be a long and complex process due to the scale of the work involved. We will do all possible to keep any disruption to services to a minimum and to continue to provide the best possible service to our readers.

Further updates will be provided about the programme of work in due course as details are clarified and the timetable confirmed.  In the meantime if you have any queries please send them to reader.services@bodleian.ox.ac.uk.

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