Collection Development Policy for Theology

The depth and breadth of the theological collections within Oxford have few rivals in the UK. From the establishment of the Bodleian, in the seventeenth century, theological material has been continuously and extensively collected.

1. Overview

1.1 General coverage of subject in the Bodleian Libraries

Library provision supporting research, teaching and learning within the Faculty of Theology and Religion can be found distributed across a number of libraries within the University. The most significant collections can be found in the Bodleian, the Philosophy & Theology Faculties Library, and to a lesser extent the Sackler and Oriental Institute libraries.

The Bodleian Library is the central research library of the University and offers access to in-depth research level theological collections on a reference-only basis. The extensive printed and manuscript collections have developed over the centuries, and cover most theological subject areas. While the Bodleian's collections are extensive, the vast majority of the material is located on closed access shelving in the Book Storage Facility, callable electronically to any reading room within the Bodleian Group, or directly to your desk top via Scan&Deliver. Most heavily-used materials are located on the open shelves in the Lower Reading Room of the Old Library, the Gladstone Link and the Upper Radcliffe Camera that will be of interest to the Faculty. The open shelf collection is largely consolidated in the Lower Reading Room

The Philosophy & Theology Faculties Library [PTFL] provides a tailored, lending collection focused primarily on providing support for courses being taught by the Faculty. It covers all aspects of Christianity, with good collections in biblical studies, translation of texts and studies of patristic and medieval theologians, systematic and dogmatic theology and moral theology.  The PTFL also covers Philosophy of Religion, Science and Religion and the study of religions. It also contains material on other world religions, including Islam, Judaism, Hinduism and Buddhism; provision here is co-ordinated with the lending collections of the Oriental Institute Library. While the Faculty Library does contain material on Church History, particularly the Reformation, a more comprehensive collection on the subject can be found in the History Faculty Library.

Other libraries provide teaching and / or research level material in specialised areas of interest; for example the Indian Institute Library, contains material on religions and religious thought from S. Asia, Tibet and Himalayas; the Oriental Institute Library contains material of relevance to biblical studies, Jewish studies as well as collections relevant to Islam; Radcliffe Science Library covers Science and Religion; and the Sackler with its focus on Archaeology, Ancient History, Art and Classics, will have material of interest to theologians.  

SOLO is the resource discovery toll (online catalogue) which lists books, journals, databases in the Bodleian Libraries’  teaching, learning and research collections.

1.2 Legal deposit

As a Copyright Library the Bodleian receives a significant proportion of all UK published material in the field of Theology, including both scholarly works and more popular texts. All new academic acquisitions (deposit and purchased) are placed in the Gladstone Link for up to three years. Subsequently, the majority of our acquisitions are transferred to the Book Storage Facility, with material of demonstrated higher use or particular interest to the Faculty being located, if possible, on the open shelves. Any UK published item not available in the Bodleian can be claimed, with certain restrictions, by the Copyright Receipt Office in the Bodleian. Material in the Book Storage Facility may be ordered back to the reading rooms via SOLO, or single articles or chapters may be delivered to your desktop via our Scan&Deliver service.

1.3 Purchased material

In addition to the legal deposit intake and general works, the Bodleian Libraries  purchase non-deposited material for Theology, giving priority to the research and teaching needs of the university and current scholarship.

1.4 Electronic resources

Increasingly, the strong printed collections are enhanced by the availability of an extensive array of electronic resources. The Bodleian Libraries acquires electronic and other non-print resources to support research and teaching. We currently offer more than 50,000 individual e-journals and newspapers through OxLIP+, as well as in excess of 500 bibliographic or full-text databases through OxLIP. In addition to primary sources, such as EEBO, ECCO, and the Past Masters collections, there are currently c.3,000 e-books available in theology, mostly in Oxford Scholarship On-Line, EBL and  EBSO platforms. All are available through the university domain or remotely via Oxford’s Single Sign-On. Many may be be download for time-limited off-line use (“loans”). Databases for Bible Studies are especially strong, with Oxford Biblical Studies On-Line and BibleWorks being the most heavily-used.

Decisions to buy new titles, or cancel existing subscriptions are taken in consultation with the Committee on Library Provision and Strategy in Theology and the Faculty of Theology and Religion.

1.5 Languages

The Bodleian collects a wide range of scholary monographs, series and journals in the principal Western European languages, and to a lesser extent other European languages. Significant texts in Greek and Latin are also collected. The Philosophy & Theology Faculties Library will primarily purchase English language material although primary texts in other languages will continue to be acquired.

1.6 Bodleian Libraries’  Collection Management

The Bodleian Libraries’ Collection Management Policy statement may be viewed at and deals with a range of issues such as the disposal, retention and transfer of items. [To note: this is currently being revised and a new version will be released in 2013].

2. Research collections

The Bodleian holds the main research collections for Theology, although some material in the PTFL, Sackler Library and Oriental Institute Library may be of some use to researchers.

2.1 Research books

In most cases the Bodleian will be the primary location for research-level collections within the University. The collecting policy in the Bodleian is to cover as broadly as possible, and within the funds available, the field of Theology to meet the needs of local as well as external scholars. Scholarly editions of primary texts, bibliographies and important secondary works are collected in all the major Western European languages.

Research titles, particularly of major series, may be duplicated within the PTFL so as to provide a lending copy for University members. In some cases, an electronic copy will be preferred.

2.2 Journals

The Bodleian Libraries aims to collect or provide access to all titles of interest to the Faculty, subject to scope and resource availability. Print journal provision is centred in the Bodleian Library (Gladstone Link). To maximise open shelf space for print-only items, where full and sustainable electronic access is available for a journal title, the print volumes may be located in the Book Storage Facility. Some journal titles are now taken in electronic format only. Legal deposit print titles are kept in perpetuity. Material in the Book Storage Facility may be ordered back to the reading rooms via SOLO, or single articles or chapters may be delivered to your desktop via our Scan&Deliver service.

Decisions to buy new titles, or cancel existing subscriptions are taken in consultation with the Committee of Library Provision and Strategy in Theology and the Faculty of Theology and Religion.

3. Teaching collections

The Philosophy & Theology Faculties Library provides the main teaching collections for the Theology Faculty. The Oriental Institute Library may also hold material of relevance to students undertaking courses within the Faculty.

3.1 Text Books.

The Library will aim to acquire all titles included on reading lists and make those copies available on open access shelving.  Background texts and additional titles will be acquired if they are in subject areas of interest to the Faculty. There is increasing emphasis on acquiring electronic copies of reading list material where possible.

3.2 Levels of provision

In most circumstances, at least one copy of each title on a Theology Faculty reading list is made available in both the Bodleian (reference) and the PTFL (lending). In addition if a course has high student numbers, or the title is included on a number of bibliographies, additional copies will be bought. For material that might be in high demand and where an additional copy is unavailable, for example if the title is out of print, a reserve or short loan copy may be made available in the PTFL. OLIS reports showing circulation and / or reservation activities are used extensively to monitor the use of the teaching collections.  

4. Book requests and recommendations

We welcome recommendations from all our users, and where scope and resources permit will endeavour to fulfil all requests. In some cases, we may advise the use of our Inter Library Loan service instead.

Request may be placed via the Bodleian Libraries web-site:, or the PTFL web-site

In both cases, the recommendations are received by the Theology Subject Librarian, who will respond individually. Request may also be made by e-mail, or to staff in the libraries. The Theology Subject Librarian also welcomes visitors to her office, accessed from the PTFL first floor reading room. For long discussions, appointments are advised.

 Name of subject consultant(s) responsible for collections

Hilla Wait, Philosophy and Theology Librarian

Philosophy & Theology Faculties Library,

Radcliffe Humanities,

Woodstock Rd.




Revised 15.10.2012

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