The Radcliffe Science Library is the main science library of Oxford University. It supports the teaching and research needs of the science departments across the University with strong collections in Physical Sciences, Biological Sciences, Medicine, Experimental Psychology, Mathematics, Computing Science and Geography.

The RSL holds the legal deposit material in the sciences for Oxford University. This means that it is entitled to receive a copy of all British scientific publications. In addition, the RSL subscribes to many journals published overseas, most of which are in English. Scientific doctoral theses submitted for degrees at Oxford are deposited in the Library.

There are approximately 1 million items held by the RSL, but only a minority are displayed in the Reading Rooms. The rest are housed in remote storage and most journals are available electronically.

Reading rooms

Levels 5, 6, 7 and 8 contain quiet reading rooms which house the on-site book collection, as well as some informal group study spaces. Level 4 is the ground floor entrance and the main enquiry point. Level 2 is the temporary home of the Alexander Library. Level 3 contains the Henry Acland Room, the John Kidd Room, the Group Study Room and 3 study carrels.

Remote storage

A lot of material in the library is housed in remote storage; it can be requested via SOLO. Printed materials can usually be delivered from offsite storage within 24 hours.


Most RSL holdings (all books and the majority of periodicals) are catalogued on SOLO. This includes both printed and online materials.

SOLO: Search Oxford Libraries Online

SOLO is a union catalogue of Oxford University libraries and includes some items from College libraries which are not available for use by RSL readers.

SOLO displays a shelfmark and location for the item that you require. The location indicates whether the item is on open access or in closed access storage. SOLO also indicates which books can be borrowed and which can only be consulted in the library. Books which are on loan which show the date they are due back.

Oxford University e-journals

Oxford University's electronic journals subscriptions are listed in OU e-Journals.

Finding and connecting to e-resources and e-journals using Oxlip+ [LibGuides, opens in new window].

Experimental Psychology collections

The collections of the Experimental Psychology Library moved to the RSL from the Department of Experimental Psychology in 2009.

Psychology books are interfiled with the RSL's holdings mainly in the BF, WL, and WM sequences.

Photocopies and pamphlets listed on the reading lists of the advanced options for the part 2 undergraduate course are kept in folders by option title. These are for reference only. Folders are located behind the main circulation desk - please ask a member of staff for them.

DVDs and videos collections: viewing facilities are available on Level 3. Please contact the Librarian to obtain the videos or DVDs you wish to watch before your visit.

For further information please contact Karine Barker.

Back to top

Geography collections

The Bodleian Libraries' collections in Geography and the Environment were moved to the RSL in 2007 and were interfiled with the RSL's own holdings.

Geography books are now found on Levels 5 to 8.

The main Map Collection transferred to the Bodleian Map Room and integrated with the collections there; some report literature was transferred to the Radcliffe Camera or Rhodes House, Vere Harmsworth, Indian Institute or Social Social Science Libraries where they had related holdings, but the vast majority of books and periodicals transferred to the RSL. Although de-duplication has taken place where necessary, no unique titles were discarded.

Oxford Mountaineering Library

The Oxford Mountaineering Library (OML) was formally launched on 7th December 1992 and is now housed on Level 5 of the RSL. This specialist library was created by combining the collections of the Oxford University Mountaineering Club and Michael Roberts and Janet Adam Smith. Since then other smaller donations, such as that from Mr Dunning Idle IV and that in memory of Maurice Allan, have augmented the collection. There is also a section on Caving comprised of material donated to the School of Geography Library by Dr. Marjorie Sweeting.

The ethos of the donation by Janet Adam Smith was that the material be freely available on open shelves for readers and include not only practical books on mountaineering but also those on the experience and essence of it.

""Mountains are the beginning and the end of all natural scenery"" Ruskin (1856) Modern painters, vol. 4, pt. 5, ch. 20

For further information please contact Andy Kernot (Bodleian Libraries Subject Specialist, Geography and the Environment).

Back to top

Plant Sciences collections

In the course of summer 2010, the majority of the Plant Sciences Library collections were transferred from the Department of Plant Sciences to the Radcliffe Science Library and integrated with the collections there. This included all undergraduate Biology materials, general botany and plant sciences, and forestry materials including grey literature.

The Zoology Library collections were also transferred, thus bringing the majority of Oxfords's biological materials together in one place for the first time.

Taxonomic collections, including rare books, remain in the Department of Plant Sciences to permit their use alongside specimens in the University Herbaria also located there. These collections form the Sherardian Library of Plant Taxonomy.

From September 2017, the Sherardian Library will be open to visitors by appointment only. To make an appointment, please email


  • Plant biology in general, including reference and lending copies of undergraduate material required for the Biology degree course.
  • Plant taxonomy in association with the two departmental Herbaria in the Plant Sciences Department, including many early taxonomic works, some grouped in the 'Sherard Collection'.
  • Forestry: world coverage, especially of tropical forestry, in all languages, fully abstracted and indexed in association with CAB International. This includes a substantial printed forestry bulletin collection which is now held in offsite storage.


Some, but not all, Plant Sciences holdings are included in the Oxford University on-line catalogue, SOLO:

  • All open-shelf books, books in the Fielding-Druce Herbarium, and current serials are on SOLO.
  • Older bulletins, reprints, translations and maps are mostly not at present on SOLO.
  • All serial parts received from 1 January 1999 are on SOLO.

All forestry holdings from 1939 are indexed and abstracted in Forest Science Database (CAB International); material prior to 1939 indexed in microfilm catalogues.

Back to top

Zoology collections

In the course of summer 2010, the main Zoology Library collections were transferred to the RSL from the Department of Zoology and integrated with the collections there. This included all undergraduate biology materials, general zoology and ecology, and the Elton Library. Zoology books are mostly found in sections QH (biology and ecology) and QL (zoology).

The Plant Sciences Library collections were also transferred to the RSL (apart from the taxonomic collections, which remain in the Plant Sciences Department as the Sherardian Library of Plant Taxonomy), thus bringing the majority of Oxfords's biological materials together in one place for the first time.

The Alexander Library of Ornithology remained in the Department of Zoology to facilitate its use by members of the Edward Grey Institute of Field Ornithology, also located there. However, as of 2017, the Alexander Library has been moved to the RSL after the closure of the Tinbergen Building.

The Zoology archive (research notes and other materials by Oxford zoologists from the late 19th to early 20th century, and photograph albums from the Challenger Expedition, 1872-1876) is closed access (please ask staff).

The Elton Library

The Elton Library is named after Charles Elton, of the Bureau of Animal Populations, the "father of animal ecology", and covers ecology in general, with strength in terrestrial ecology, particularly population ecology. The books and periodicals from the collection are now fully interfiled with those of the RSL, but there are separate reprint and archive collections.

The Elton archive (research materials produced by the Bureau of Animal Populations) is closed access (please ask staff).


All books, theses and journals are catalogued on SOLO.

Back to top

Back to top