Radcliffe Science Library to be relaunched

15 June 2007

rsl01Work is under way to form a new science and medicine library for the University of Oxford from three existing libraries: the Radcliffe Science Library (RSL) and the Hooke Library in Parks Road, and the Geography Library in Mansfield Road.   Until now the RSL was a reference library; after its relaunch at the beginning of the new academic year in October, it will become a lending library, which is a major change in its functionality and structure.


The new library which supports the teaching and research needs of science departments across the University, aims to provide improved services and many benefits for readers – longer opening hours, better and safer access, the availability of more books for borrowing, increased electronic resources, wireless access, and self-issue services. The challenge is to create a new library for science and medicine in Oxford that incorporates the best of new technology and takes account of the radically changing needs of research and teaching. It is also felt to be important to preserve the strengths of the existing libraries and provide a flexible approach for their future integration.


The library holds strong collections of books and journals in the biological sciences, computing science, experimental psychology, history of science, mathematics, medicine and the physical sciences. It includes material at all levels, including popular works and children's books. Scientific doctoral theses submitted for degrees at Oxford are deposited in the library. There is also a strong historical science collection, especially from the 19th century. Holding over one million items, the RSL is a Legal Deposit library in the sciences, being entitled to receive a copy of all British scientific publications (though it does not claim a copy of everything published). The library also subscribes to material published overseas, most of which is in English.


Founded under the will of Dr. John Radcliffe (1652 - 1714), the library was first housed in the Radcliffe Camera before being transferred to the University museum in 1861. In 1901 it was moved to its present location, what is called now the Jackson Wing. In 1934, an extension, the present Worthington Wingwas was added, after the Radcliffe Trustees had presented the Library and its holdings to the Bodleian Library. A further underground extension which accommodates the new physical sciences reading room and a much larger bookstack, the Lankester Room, was completed in 1975.


The University libraries' policy is to focus its services in five main centres or hubs, thus reducing the number of small libraries scattered around Oxford. As part of this policy, a new Social Science Library opened in 2004, and it is planned that a Humanities Library will be built on the site of the Radcliffe Infirmary, which has recently been acquired by the University. The Radcliffe Infirmary library is closed and the collections incorporated into the Cairns Library at the John Radcliffe Hospital, which concentrates on material related to clinical and Health Service matters.


  • The building work to modify the RSL started at the end of February 2007. The library remains open for most of the refurbishment, although some areas will be closed to readers. Seating is reduced, but the readers are able to study in nearby libraries. Some of the services have been moved to temporary accommodation in the RSL forecourt. The Library will close for one week during September when the Geography collections are brought into the RSL. For more information about the library and daily information on building works, please visit www.bodleian.ox.ac.uk/rsl
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