Update on changes to Radcliffe Camera, the Gladstone Link and the Old Bodleian Library - 31 July 2012

An update from Sarah Thomas, Bodley’s Librarian

The following is an update on a number of activities underway at the Bodleian Libraries and in particular on changes underway in the Radcliffe Camera, the Gladstone Link, and the Old Bodleian Library. 

The transfer of collections from the History Faculty Library to the Radcliffe Camera and the Gladstone Link will start on Monday 6 August, with the HFL space in the Old Indian Institute vacated by 29 August.

Planning permission for our proposed alterations to the Camera will be considered in September, later than had been anticipated, with the consequence that some of the improvements intended to increase functionality, such as adding power and data to the Upper Camera Gallery and the creation of a small enclosed staff office in the Upper Camera may be delayed. The BESC Project SponsorGroup will consider interim options this week (wc 30 July). Other proposed changes, such as ground level access for the disabled on the south side of the Camera, had already been placed on hold pending extended consultation through Michaelmas Term 2012. The Oxford Mail recently reported on the work underway but please note that the headline and some of the coverage was slightly misleading in that it implied that we are moving forward when in fact a decision of whether or not to implement the changes is dependent on achieving planning permission, completing consultation, and approval from the Curators of the University Libraries.

As this work is underway we are working to improve our research collections by purchasing several important databases to support scholars in the humanities. They include:  Literary Manuscripts Berg; Romanticism: Life, Literature and Landscape; Medieval Family Life; First World War: Personal Experiences; London Low Life; Popular Culture in Britain and America, 1950-1975’; Victorian Popular Culture Sections I-IV; Confidential Print: Africa, 1834-1966; and Confidential Print: Middle East, 1839-1969, and most of these are now available for access.

Following several meetings in the past two weeks with members of Congregation who had asked to learn more about the Bodleian’s plans for the future of the Central Bodleian, we have identified a number of issues that we shall be addressing over the next several weeks and months:

  • The Classics Faculty has expressed a strong desire to retain periodicals, many of which contain editions of texts and reproductions of primary source materials, in the Lower Reading Room. We are working with a team of Classicists to review Classics collections to modify the plans, returning some journals and selectively weeding the existing stock to accommodate them.  
  • A recurrent concern about the Gladstone Link, a sign of its popularity, is that readers are using books, with the result that these books are unavailable to others who are looking for them. We are therefore considering the introduction of a slip system (similar to that used for open shelf material in central Bodleian reading rooms). There is also a strong wish to have the books in the Gladstone Link arranged in classified order. The history books will be classified to the Library of Congress Classification Scheme, and we are considering whether to classify the remainder of the stock. We are also looking at the options for providing additional staff assistance in the Gladstone Link. 
  • The issue of security of the collections has been raised over the past few months. We are conducting a thorough review of security across the libraries, and will introduce additional measures if appropriate as the review takes its course, to ensure that readers can access the materials they need. 
  • Consultation with student leaders has confirmed that the highest priority extended service for students would be Sunday hours, and the Bodleian has committed to opening the Central Bodleian, including the Camera and the Old Bodleian on Sundays during term time.
  • The desire for more consultation and communication is one of the points raised in feedback sessions with readers.  Consultation throughout this process remains of vital importance and we will be using a variety of channels to solicit ideas and responses to proposals and to keep people informed about the rationale for change and the specific details. The Bodleian website and the HFL website will remain key resources for updates on the project. Dates in October for discussion with members of Congregation and with students are being identified and will be published at the start of Michaelmas Term 2012.

We can expect many other changes over the coming months and we will continue to keep you up to date on as they occur.  With two more years before construction is finished on the Weston Library, we can expect to be a bit cramped.  I am looking forward to the day in late 2014 when we can safely return over 1 million volumes of special collections to the Weston Library and expand our seating by 200 places.  In the interim, I thank you for your patience during this busy period.  

If you would like more information about changes in the Bodleian Libraries please see a longer summary circulated to staff on 16 July at: www.bodleian.ox.ac.uk/__data/assets/pdf_file/0009/107784/Update-from-the-Bodleian-Libraries-July-2012.pdf  And, as always, please do not hesitate to contact me if you have any questions or concerns regarding this activity. 

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