Upper Reading Room

Upper Reading Room

The Upper Reading Room is on the second floor of the Old Bodleian Library and is the principal research reading room for access to printed books and periodicals published after 1640 in the subject fields of Medieval and Modern History (including History of Science),and English Language and Literature. It is the one Central Bodleian reading room where Inter-Library Loans can be consulted. It is accessible via stairs or the reader lift. 

Enquiries and contact information

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

Please ask staff if you have any enquiries about open shelf material, the book service, or photocopying.

Please note that the full range of services is only offered from 9am to 5pm Monday to Friday, and that after 5pm on weekdays and at weekends staff may refer particular enquiries to the Main Enquiry Desk, or to daytime staff.

The 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.

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


English Language and Literature

The open-shelf English Literature collections (shelfmarks beginning A) consist largely of standard editions of the works of the principal authors from the Anglo-Saxon period onwards, major bibliographical and reference works and series. A guide to the main sequences is given below.

Racks containing the current issues of many of the core journals for the subject can be found on the windowsills. Back runs of journals can be found on the open shelves in the lower level of the Gladstone Link in a section for humanities periodicals with the shelfmark Per.Hums., and/or in offsite storage from where they can be requested to Bodleian Libraries reading rooms via the online catalogue SOLO. Many are also available online and can be accessed via the online catalogue SOLO, or OxLIP+, a dedicated search portal for the Library's subscription online resources. Dictionaries and other reference works for English and History are shelved near the Reserve (shelfmark URR Ref.)

For more information, please see the English subject page.

A.1 General Literature; folklore; anthologies.
A.2 English Language.
A.3 General English Literature; criticism, bibliographies; guides to dissertations and theses; dictionaries of quotations; other reference works; book production; history of language and grammar; place names, personal names.
A.4 English Literature to 1500.
A.5 English Literature, 1500 to 1700.
A.6 English and American Literature, 1701 to 1950.  


The open-shelf History collections (shelfmarks beginning K) consist largely of source materials, major bibliographical and reference works, and periodicals relating to the History of the British Isles and Europe, from the fall of the Roman Empire to 1945 and beyond, with some coverage of other geographical areas. A guide to the main sequences is given below.

Selected recent acquisitions of graduate and research materials relating to History and to English, from both the legal deposit intake (British and Irish materials) and from a wide range of foreign accessions, are displayed on freestanding shelves near the central Reserve with the shelfmark New Books Display.

Racks containing the current issues of journals are located on windowsills in the northern wing of the room. Current issues of a number of journals whose main runs are kept in the bookstack are also displayed on this rack. Back runs of journals can be found on the open shelves in the lower level of the Gladstone Link in a section for humanities periodicals with the shelfmark Per. Hums.. Many are also available online via OU e-Journals.

For more information, please see the History subject page.

K.1 Chronology; guides to dissertations and theses.
K.3 and K.4 General History periodicals; periodicals on particular regions or particular periods.
K.5 Calendars of State Papers; atlases; outsize materials.
K.6 Society publications periodicals; medieval studies periodicals; Ecclesiastical History periodicals; canon law periodicals.
K.7 Bibliographies; national histories.
K.8 Collections of Belgian and French documents. 
K.9 Collections of German, Austrian, Italian, Dutch, and Spanish documents; The Dictionary of National Biography; computing and humanities.
K.10 Foreign-language to English dictionaries.

The Upper Reading Room also houses collections on History of Science and these are classified using the Library of Congress classification scheme (shelfmarks of the form Hist Q 124.6 GUI). 

Using the collections

All printed materials held in the Upper Reading Room are listed on SOLO, Oxford University's library catalogue. On the catalogue, books and journals available on the open shelves will have the location Bodleian Library Upper Reading Room Open Shelves, followed by a shelfmark such as A.6.68 (English Literature), or K.7.1240 (History). 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.

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.

Stack request

To order books to the Upper Reading Room using SOLO, sign in to identify yourself to the system, choose the "hold" option and select the Delivery/Pickup location Bod Upper Self-Collect or Bod Upper Staffed Desk from the list offered. A maximum of ten hold requests to the Upper Reading Room can be made at any one time. Pre-1701, very large or heavy material, and certain types of special collections material (including all manuscripts and Oxford theses) may not be ordered to this room. For more information on using SOLO for finding and requesting material, please consult the online guide.

DVDs and video cassettes held in closed access can be requested to the Upper Reading Room, where media equipment is available. Please ask staff at the reserve desk for assistance in using this equipment. 


Computer and laptop facilities

Computers are available in the Upper Reading Room for readers to consult SOLO, OxLIP+ databases, and internet resources of academic interest. Reader seats are equipped with power sockets. Connection to the internet is available through the Wireless network, though Ethernet points are also available. Please see the IT & computers page for more information.

Printing and photocopying

Printing, scanning and photocopying is available in the Upper 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 which is 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 and microfiche readers can be found near the central Reserve. This includes one digital microfilm reader. Scans from the digital reader can be saved to memory stick and from there printed using PCAS. A memory stick may be borrowed from the Reserve staff if needed.

Closing routine

This commences half an hour before closure, when windows will be closed, ladders moved away from the aisles, and staff will start to turn off computers in the Training Room and close this room. Reader computers will 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 Exit and Assembly Point

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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