FAQ relating to the proposal

1. Who is involved in taking decisions and when will they be taken?

Different elements of the proposal will be decided by relevant committees so that, for example, the release of the old Indian Institute space needs to be passed through BESC (Buildings and Estates Subcommittee) and then onto PRAC (Planning and Resources Committee), University Council, and with time allowed for a vote in Congregation if required. The main proposal will be presented to relevant Faculty Boards, in particular History, this term as part of the ongoing consultation process with a view to obtaining support, or otherwise, when the final proposal is presented to the Curators of the University Libraries on 5 March.

See also the Calendar of events.

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2. Why can’t we just stay as we are?

We want to improve services, particularly in response to the stated requirements of our readers, but this  situation needs to be put into the broader context of the University finances. 

The Bodleian Libraries find themselves at the end of a three-year budget reduction programme which saw 10% retrenchment in which the materials budget was protected from reductions in cash terms but the size of the staff was reduced by around 60 FTE.

Under the 1-2-3 charging model, the Humanities Libraries also have to satisfy the Humanities Division that resources are being spent cost effectively.

There is no slack in staffing which would otherwise enable us to improve provision (e.g. digitise Set Texts) and services (extended opening hours, individual support, online guides & database tutorials).

Furthermore, the continued erosion of the value of the library materials budget due to above regular inflationary increases will in the long term lead to permanent gaps in the collections, primarily in the purchase of research collections in the Bodleian Library and lending copies of newly published monographs in the HFL.

Finally, without the proposed move, the temporary funding for Sunday opening of the Radcliffe Camera and Gladstone Link will run out at the end of this academic year. Thereafter and without the expectation of additional sources of funds at the time of writing, there would be no prospect of offering Sunday opening hours in any of the Old Bodleian Library, Radcliffe Camera, Gladstone Link and certainly not in the HFL.

If we move, we therefore have a financial lifeline for our services and collections.

Under the current proposal the savings will be reinvested in improved services, and, remarkably, increased acquisitions budget. Conversely, if we do not move, there will be a direct, and only negative, impact on the services and collections for several thousand students and academics in the near and long-term future.

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3. Is the Old Indian Institute lift a compelling reason permanently to remove the Library?

It is not acceptable to offer absolutely no disabled access to any part of the HFL, including staff desks, as is currently the case. Installing a lift in the OII building is therefore a priority for the University Estates Department (OUED). While the plans for the OII lift are still in development, a preferred configuration has now been determined. OUED confirms that if its project planning goes smoothly, then the building work could start as early as autumn this year and would last several months. The building work would be hugely disruptive in terms of loss of space, noise, dirt and inconvenience. Specifically the building work would entail the following:
a.    installation of a platform lift from street level to ground floor
b.    construction of a lift shaft and installation of lift from the basement (Library Stack 1) right up to the 2nd floor (library space next leading to the photocopy room).
c.    installation of a new back staircase on the outside of the HFL (Hertford end)
d.    conversion of existing back staircase into public facilities.
e.    extension of small amount of floor space of the West Gallery (north end)

The long-term consequences of remaining in OII add up to the permanent loss of significant amount of shelf space, reader and staff space. In particular these can be itemised as follows:
•    the circulation desk area would be halved
•    loss of enquiry / registration desk
•    the staff workroom area, already extremely cramped, would be halved and space for 3 out of 5 desks lost
•    loss of photocopy room and necessity to use reader space elsewhere to house the equipment
•    loss of at least one desk but possibly more if staff and collections need to be re-housed
•    loss of c 88m of open-shelf space
•    loss of 40% of Set Text shelf space (c 39 metres)
•    loss of Stack 1 (183 metres of shelf space)

In total, at least 310 metres of stock from open shelves and stack would have to be permanently removed.

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4. Until it is clear whether the plans for the ROQ are simply to be delayed or are substantially to be re-thought, there seems to rationale for change in the current provision.

We had been hoping that the Humanities development at the ROQ would allow us to deliver improved services whilst solving the existing problems of restricted budgets and the imminent complications of the building works in the OII. This proposal both delivers the reinvestment of savings in improved services and obviates the need to deal with a lift installation. The existing situation, as set out here, is in our view unsustainable for the 10 or so years which it will take to build the ROQ, at the most optimistic estimates.

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5. Will there be a knock-on effect on college libraries?

We do not propose to dispose of any books and do not anticipate any changes in the provision of collections required for teaching or loss of desk space as a result of this transfer. Therefore there should be no impact on college libraries. See Q6 for further details on collections and Q10 for further details on desk space.

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6. What HFL stock will be moved and what won’t be moved?

The following lists proposed destinations for the transfer of the HFL collections. They are not finalised and are open for further discussion. The relocation of English and Theology collections have been discussed with the English and Theology librarians and consultation in the faculties concerned is ongoing.

  • We anticipate that all of the open-shelf lending stock would move to the Radcliffe Camera and Gladstone Link, excluding stock that is normally weeded as part of the annual tidy-up operations.

  • Integrate books, which have been used in the past, from the Oresko lending collection into HFL lending collection. The donor would agree to this. Work to identify these has yet to be done. C 50m have been set aside in the plans.
  • Set Texts (Counter) collection to move to the Lower Camera Reserve.
  • Almost all lending books which are in the HFL stack (i.e. little used and not on reading lists) would go to the Book Storage Facility (BSF) in Swindon. Readers will be able to order books and borrow them from the Lower Camera. It is the same arrangement as now except that the "new" stack would be vastly bigger than the current one.
  • Videos and DVDs would move to the Lower Camera. We have identified 43 video tapes which can be re-purchased in DVD format. Students would, as before, be able to borrow DVDs or consult the reference copy on Library PCs or laptops, using library headphones if so wished. More thought will have to be given how to provide access to the reference copies of the remaining 9 video tapes for which there is no DVD replacement.
  • Relocate Quick Reference to UCam. Where there is duplication with the Bodleian, there may be an advantage to make selected number of reference works available as lending copies, e.g. Cambridge Histories.
  • Move journals to Gladstone Link where there is already a Bodleian copy and/or full e-access. In the latter case, we would probably move journals to the BSF, or if triple copies are held, we would investigate opportunity for selling stock.
  • Revamp the URR printed source collection, possibly using HFL West Gallery material which is not required by Prof Sharpe. URR would therefore become the enlarged and improved equivalent of the West Gallery.

Journals in the Bodleian

Please note that as announced at the Faculty meeting of Trinity Term 2011 it is planned to remove all open-shelf journals in the Old Bodleian and Radcliffe Camera. Those without complete or secure electronic access will be located in the Gladstone Link to form a Humanities journal section (organised A-Z by title); those journal titles with complete and secure electronic access - and not considered an absolutely key title for that subject – will be sent to the BSF in Swindon. A list of draft decisions is available on request from Isabel Holowaty.

The move of the URR journals would allow the creation of an open-shelf history of science and medicine monograph and sources collection in the Upper Reading Room. This is currently a priority for academics and students working in that subject and is endorsed by Pietro Corsi, Professor of History of Science, and the History of Science, Medicine and Technology Committee.

It is worth noting that the collection plans for the ROQ Humanities Library resemble these plans very closely. One of the main differences is that research materials in URR would be located closer to the lending collection, a consideration for UG students considering theses.

We will certainly invite further comments and suggestion, especially regarding the move of certain West Room Gallery collections.

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7. Will the HFL collections be re-classified?

Yes, to the Library of Congress Classification scheme as in use in the HFL in the Maitland Gallery and to which all new purchases are classified by book suppliers.

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8. If so many HFL collections move into the Gladstone Link, will there not be less space for the Bodleian’s new academic in-take?

It has always been the plan to maintain only 3 years’ worth of new academic intake in the Gladstone Link. After a 6-month trial and in the context of this proposal, the thinking is to now focus that new academic intake on exclusively humanities subjects (and those not required elsewhere e.g. the Sackler Library, the Taylor Institution Library, etc.) and major publishers. We would be able to grow a more relevant collection into the same space.

Furthermore, following this term’s review of the Gladstone Link collections, we will be making some adjustments which will reduce the number of non-Humanities books shelved in the Gladstone Link because they are required in other subject hub libraries, e.g. SSL, RSL, etc.

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9. In what way is “intermingling of lending and non-lending collections” an advantage?

Interfiling of lending and non-lending collections is a widespread approach in university libraries and there appears to be a consensus that this delivers a greater level of convenience to readers. In this case, however, we are in fact proposing to keep the two sets of material separate, placing them in close proximity in the same building, and making them available for the same hours.

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10. Will there be sufficient desk space?

In summer 2011, the Bodleian Library added 120 additional seats.

Currently historians have access to a nominal 208 seats in Upper Camera (153) and HFL (55). In the new set-up they would have access to a nominal 221 in Upper Camera (114) and Lower Camera (107). This would be achieved by the move of Theology out of the Radcliffe Camera and adding more seating the Upper Camera as follows (subject to fire regulation):

  • re-furbish an unused bay in the gallery to add 6 more seats
  • replace unused stand-alone book cases with single desks
  • re-furbish the inside of the Old Reserve (middle of Upper Camera) to add 4 PCs to the middle with SunRays on the outside. This frees up a row of desk space.
  • add up to 4 seats in front of the current UCam Reserve as the entrance to the History Information Services Team would be on the side.
In the course of time, as and when fewer non-Humanities books are shelved in the Gladstone Link, we expect the number of non-Humanities readers to drop (see also Q8)

It is worth noting that the average number of seats occupied on SCONUL sampling days during term time is 18 at 11:30am and 21 at 3pm.

We also anticipate different levels and patterns of use due to greater flexibility of moving between reading rooms, increasing availability of electronic resources and extended opening hours, especially Sundays.

We are mindful of the need to provide a variety of workspaces. Therefore we have also identified opportunities in the Upper Camera and Gladstone Link to add a mix of individual desks and informal seating, again within the constraints of fire regulations and sympathetic to the environment and history of the buildings.

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11. Were the HFL to move into the Radcliffe Camera, would it continue to be a lending library?

Absolutely. We would move all the lending books, i.e. not remove multiple copies, and they could be issued to readers at the Lower Camera Reserve or at a Self Issue desk which we plan to introduce.

We would also have a book drop box for any returns.

Any books that readers had placed holds for would be collected from the Lower Camera Reserve.

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12. Are there going to be enough photocopiers and PCs / SunRays?

The two HFL photocopiers (i.e. copier-printer-scanner) would be added to the Gladstone Link copiers in the upper and lower levels, doubling capacity in that area.

We aim to make a similar provision as currently as there are areas where more PCs or SunRays can be added.

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13. Many students prefer working in the History Faculty Library because it has good atmosphere and is less intimidating than the Bodleian. What would be done to address this?

It is very pleasing to hear that the History Faculty Library enjoys a good reputation in this respect as this is one of our main goals. We hope that as readers find familiar faces from the History Faculty Library, who will bring with them the same friendly service ethos and practices, they will feel encouraged to think of this part of the Bodleian, at least, as less intimidating. The Gladstone Link already appears to be a very welcoming space and again we hope to build on this by, for instance, adding more informal seating.

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14. How can quiet research areas be guaranteed if a busy Faculty lending library operation moves in?

Our proposal would reinforce what is commonly acknowledged, i.e. that the Lower Camera and Gladstone Link are perhaps livelier spaces. Gladstone Link was primarily designed to be an open stack area with some seats rather than a reading room. The Old Library houses the more traditional quiet reading rooms (URR, LRR, Duke Humfrey’s Library). The Upper Camera also tends to be quieter and no change is planned there. We will continue to enforce a Quiet Zone in one or two sections of the Upper Camera.

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15. What are the implications for our ability to access books over the summer period while the move is taking place?

We are not yet able to provide details of the nature of disruption or its length which will unavoidably cause some inconvenience to our readers. It is clear that all the work would take place during Long Vacation, but after History examinations end. Students can still borrow for books for the duration of Long Vacation. The disruption to UGs is less severe than it would be for graduates, Summer School students, UNIQ visitors and the Faculty. We aim not to make any material totally unavailable. The Bodleian’s Just-in-Time Team will devote themselves to supplying historians with alternative copies of books during the move period. Graduates who have deadlines during July and August will be encouraged to make themselves known to library staff so that reservations of books can be arranged in advance.

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16. What would be the new opening hours?

The aim is to use some of the savings, generated from the HFL move, to partially re-invest into permanently funding Sunday opening hours in the Radcliffe Camera, Gladstone Link and extend it to the Old Library.

The opening hours of the HFL compare as follows to the RadCam and Gladstone Link.


Wks 0-9
Mon-Fri 9am-7pm
Sat 10am-1pm


Wks 1-9
Mon-Fri 9am-10pm
Sat 10am-4pm
Sun 11am-5pm
Mon-Fri 9am-5.30pm Mon-Fri 9am-7pm
Sat 10am-4pm
Regular closures
Christmas Eve to New Year’s Day
Good Friday to Easter Monday
Last 2 weeks in August (incl. Bank Holiday)
Christmas Eve to New Year’s Day*
Good Friday to Easter Monday
Encaenia (until 2pm)
August BH weekend

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