24 July 2007
Thanks to generous support, the early seventeenth-century entrance (known as the Proscholium) to the oldest part of Oxford University’s Bodleian Library will soon be remodelled, resulting in better access for readers.
The Wolfson Foundation CURL (Consortium of Research Libraries in the British Isles) Libraries Programme has given a grant towards the refurbishment of the area which leads to the fifteenth-century Divinity School, one of Oxford’s finest buildings, and to the Library’s older reading rooms. This will enable significant improvements to be made to access to the reading rooms as well as to security.
The Proscholium was constructed in 1610-12 to create a new entrance for the Divinity School (1424-88). At the same time, a new room, Arts End, was built above the Proscholium to provide much needed expansion space for the Bodleian Library. For 300 years the Proscholium served only as an ante room to the Divinity School. In 1968 doorways were cut through from the Proscholium to the grand staircases of the Old Schools Quadrangle, and the Proscholium became, for the first time, the main entrance hall for the Library. It was until recently the site of the Bodleian Shop, which has now moved to another part of the Old Bodleian (see www.bodleian.ox.ac.uk/2007_june_27/2007_jun_25), giving the Library the opportunity to rethink the use of the historic entrance area.
A review in 2002 of security issues in the Bodleian resulted in a number of recommendations to improve management of collections and to make separate provision for readers and visitors. The Wolfson Foundation grant will provide the opportunity to implement proposals for increased security as well as to manage better the flow of readers and visitors within the Bodleian.
In addition to the renovation of the Proscholium itself, the project envisions the integration of book reserves, enquiries, photocopying and IT workstation areas into a single location for each reading room, to be sited close to reading room entrances. Book deliveries will be made direct to reserve shelving, reducing overall retrieval times. Reader circulation will be simplified, and signage will be greatly improved.
The project will consist of three phases:
Proscholium renovation – completed by July 2008
Upper Reading Room – remodelled summer 2008
Lower Reading Room – remodelled summer 2009
An exhibition of the proposals for renovation will be mounted in the Proscholium during Michaelmas term. The Bodleian Library will welcome comments on the proposals and the public and readers will be invited to join in the consultation process.
The Bodleian Library is the largest university research library in the UK. The Bodleian and the libraries of the Oxford University Library Services hold over 11 million printed volumes, 200,000 manuscript volumes, and 1 million maps. Of its over 50,000 registered users, almost 60% come from outside Oxford, and 5,000 of these are researchers from overseas. The Old Bodleian is also a major visitor attraction, drawing over 300,000 visitors a year. See www.bodley.ox.ac.uk.