Lower Reading Room

Lower Reading Room

The Lower Reading Room of the Old Bodleian Library is the principal reading room for all those studying Classics and Ancient History, Theology (including Patristics) and Philosophy. It is partitioned into smaller rooms dedicated to General Reference, Classics Latin and Classics Greek on the north side, and Patristics, Theology and Philosophy on the north side. The central 'Tower Room' holds a display of new books for Classics, Late Antiquity, Theology and Philosophy, and a section on Late Antiquity; the Classics Greek collections also start in this space. Lower Reading Room is also home to the open shelf General Reference collection and the Main Enquiry Desk at the north end. It is situated on the first floor of the Old Bodleian Library.

Enquiries and contact information

Supervisor: Post vacant
tel: 01865 (2)77144
email: reader.services@bodleian.ox.ac.uk

The Bodleian Library's Main Enquiry Desk in the Lower Reading Room of the Old Library is staffed throughout opening hours, and staff there are happy to help with any queries, direct you to the most appropriate reading room for your studies, and assist with the use of the online catalogue SOLO and electronic resources available via OxLIP+. A range of guides on library services and facilities is also available from the Desk. To contact the Main Enquiry Desk or to ask a question, please use the Ask an Oxford Librarian page.

The staff that manage and maintain the open shelf collections and book service to Lower Reading Room are based in the Upper Reading Room of the Old Bodleian Library, though staff at the Main Enquiry Desk will be happy to help with any enquiry if they can. On some occasions readers may be referred on to the Reading Room Supervisor or dedicated team, however.

Please note that the full range of services is only offered from 9.00am to 5.00pm Monday to Friday, and that after 5.00pm on weekdays and on weekends staff may refer particular enquiries to the Main Enquiry Desk, or to daytime staff.

Information on the services and facilities offered for readers with disabilities can be found on the accessibility information page.



Classics and Ancient History

The open shelf Classics material is arranged across the three rooms of the north wing of the Library: the Greek Room, the Latin Room, and a study space in the middle of the reading room. The Greek Room (C.Gr, C.Epig, C.Hist.) collection contains papyrological texts and modern works on history and religion. The epigraphy section is also shelved in this room. Latin authors are housed in the Latin Room (C.Lat), along with a reference section (C.Ref) and indices (C.Index). The centre Tower room holds the New Books Display for Classics, Theology and Philosophy, and a section on Late Antiquity; the C.Gr section also starts here. Selected general Classics periodicals are shelved in alphabetical order on the upper shelves, starting in the Greek room, then the Latin room and finishing in the Reference Room at the north end, where the Main Enquiry Desk is based.

Latest issues of journals may be found on display in the Latin Room on a windowsill overlooking Clarendon quad. This includes latest issues of a number of journals whose main runs are kept in the bookstack.

 The collection for general studies (C.Gen) on combined Greek and Latin subjects, ancient language (C.Lang) and numismatics (C.Num) can be found. along with general reference, at the north end of the reading room, where the Main Enquiry Desk is situated. 

For more information, please see the Classics subject page.


The Philosophy Room is located at the south end of the reading room. This collection houses the main Philosophy collection (Phil.B. - La.), including reference works (Phil.Ref.). There is also a Phil. Text section holding the important works of major authors in alphabetical sequence. Specialist advice and support is available for those studying Philosophy from the Main Enquiry Desk.

For more information, please see the Philosophy subject page.


The General Reference collection (shelfmarks beginning with B) can be found at the north end of the reading room, in the General Reference Room. The collection includes general bibliographies, quick reference works such as directories, and several general encyclopaedias. The majority of the collection supports study of the humanities, and most materials focus on Western Europe. Reference material on specific subjects can be found in the relevant reading room or library for that subject.

For more information, please see the Reference collections page.

Theology and Patristics

The Theology section contains undergraduate teaching collections, while the Patristics section holds material relating to Greek and Latin writers from the rise of Christianity to the invention of printing. Core reference titles and a collection of Bible texts are also available in the Patristics room.

Selected recent acquisitions of graduate and research materials relating to Theology, from both the legal deposit intake (British and Irish materials) and from a wide range of foreign accessions, are displayed in a freestanding shelf or tray in the Theology section.

The latest issues of Theology journals are displayed in a tray on a windowsill in the Theology Room. This includes a number of journals whose main runs are kept in offsite storage.

Using the collections

All printed materials held in the Lower Reading Room can be found on SOLO, Oxford University's library catalogue. On the catalogue, books and journals available on the open shelves will have the location Lower Reading Room Open Shelves, followed by a shelfmark such as T.Text.Lat.A.738 (Theology), C.Hist.Rom.D.70 (Classics), P.Phil.Jk.2 (Philosophy), or B3.614 (Reference). A yellow slip must be filled out and put in the place of any material removed from the shelves. Slips are kept in trays on windowsills.

Mobile steps, kicksteps, and other items of height access equipment are available to help readers retrieve open shelf books from the higher shelves of bookcases. Before using equipment of this type, please make a visual check that it is not damaged or faulty. Please take care when using the equipment, and if it is unstable, let staff know straightaway, and then find another set of steps. When using sets of steps with hooved or cup feet, please take particular care not to knock the feet against bookcases or skirting boards, as this can distort them and make the steps unstable.

Some sets of black steps in this room have a sprung mechanism whereby the steps move against the main frame. Please take care not to trap fingers as this mechanism moves.

Book replacing

Book replacing is undertaken every weekday evening from 7.30pm in term, and from 5.30pm in vacation, continuing every weekday morning until approximately 9.15am. Book replacing is undertaken throughout the day on Saturdays.

Self Collect book service


To order items to the Lower Reading Room using SOLO, sign in to identify yourself to the system, choose the "hold" option and select the Delivery/Pickup location Bod Lower Self-Collect from the list offered. Some material may be unsuitable for request to Self Collect points. If the option to request to a Self Collect point is not available, that item will have to be requested to a staff mediated delivery location. The closest of these is Upper Reading Room in the Old Bodleian, called Bod Upper Staffed Desk in the catalogue. If material ordered to Lower Self-Collect is too large to be shelved there, it may be re-routed to the Upper Reading Room. 

A maximum of ten hold requests to the Lower Reading Room may be made at any one time. Please collect items ordered to Lower Reading Room from the Self Collect shelves at the north end of the reading room, near the Main Enquiry Desk. For more information on using SOLO for finding and requesting, please consult the online guide


Computer and laptop facilities

Computers are available throughout Lower Reading Room for readers to consult SOLO, OxLIP+ databases, and internet resources of academic interest. Additional computers may be available in the Training Room (off the Theology Room), although this room may close at short notice for training or other library purposes and closes half an hour before the closure of the Library. All reader seats are equipped with power sockets and ethernet points, for connection to the internet. Wireless connections are available. Please see the using a laptop page for more information. There is a quiet area at the south end of Lower Reading Room, in the Philosophy Room. Desks are flagged with notices requesting no device use in this area. We ask readers to respect this as it has been requested by other library users.

Printing and photocopying

Printing, scanning and photocopying is available on the first floor landing at the north end of the Lower Reading Room. Payment is made using a PCAS account, which all University and Library card holders automatically have. The account can be credited using credit/debit cards online, or using the cash-loader located near the Main Enquiry Desk in the Reference Room at the north end of Lower Reading Room. The cash-loader takes notes and coins.

Please present any items from which you wish to make photocopies to staff. Information on the PCAS system, full details of what can be copied and information about other copying services are given on the making a copy page.

Please note that photocopiers are turned off from 30 minutes before closing.

Microform equipment

Microfilm readers are no longer available in the Lower Reading Room. Please use the readers in the Upper Reading Room.

Closing routine

This commences half an hour before closure, when windows will be closed and ladders moved away from the aisles, and staff will start to turn off computers in the Training Room. Reader computers will all be turned off 15 minutes before closure. A bell will be rung 10 minutes before closure, which is the signal for readers to finish working and leave. Please ensure that you take all your belongings with you when you leave the Library.

Please note that photocopiers are turned off and that staff-mediated photocopy orders are not accepted from 30 minutes before closing.

Fire exits and assembly point

If the fire alarm sounds, exit via the North or South staircases and the Proscholium. Assemble in Brasenose Lane. Readers must leave the building promptly when the fire alarm sounds or when instructed to by library staff.


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