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Collection overview

All of the Bodleian Libraries and reading rooms listed have reference materials appropriate to their collections, which are selected by the subject librarians responsible for those libraries and rooms. The Bodleian's legal deposit privilege means that the collections of British and Irish reference materials are extensive. There is an ongoing programme of purchases of reference works published outside the United Kingdom and Republic of Ireland.

The general reference collections encompass general, national and regional bibliography, encyclopaedias, general quick reference works, and general and national biographical reference works (especially those covering Western Europe). 

Libraries and reading rooms

The open shelf general reference collection (shelfmarks beginning with B) can currently be found at the north end of the Lower Reading Room in the Old Bodleian Library, where the Main Enquiry Desk is also located. The collection includes general bibliographies, quick reference works such as directories, and several general encyclopaedias. There is a section of material related to the University, including a full set of the University Calendar, and an extensive biographical section.

The majority of the collection supports study of the humanities, and most materials focus on Western Europe, complementing other Bodleian Libraries' reference collections. Print copies of the second edition of the Oxford English Dictionary and of Johnson's Dictionary are shelved in the Upper Reading Room of the Old Bodleian Library.

The main collection of science reference material may be found in the Radcliffe Science Library.

Important e-resources

These are listed on OxLIP+ under title (click on link for more information):

  • Biographical resources including the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, the American National Biography, the Dictionary of Irish Biography, and the World Biographical Information System
  • General bibliographies and publishing aids including Global Books in Print and Ulrichsweb Global Serials Directory
  • Dictionaries, encyclopaedias and reference works including the Oxford English Dictionary and the Encyclopaedia Britannica
  • Newspapers including archives available in full text such as the Times Digital Archive 1785-1985, the Washington Post Historical Archive, and 19th Century British Library Newspapers, and finding aids such as the Waterloo Directory of English Periodicals and Newspapers, 1800-1900
  • Theses and dissertations including Index to Theses, DART- Europe E-thesis Portal, EThOS and Dissertations and Theses
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