Temporary move of Special Collections material to the Radcliffe Science Library

13 February 2009


New Bodleian Library closure and refurbishment

The New Bodleian Library is scheduled to close in 2010 for an extensive refurbishment programme.

Through this refurbishment the New Bodleian building will provide improved research facilities for scholars, and improved access to the Bodleian’s successful programme of Exhibitions and related activities. The refurbishment is also a key activity in improving the physical infrastructure of the Library, where the stacks of the New Bodleian have been identified as requiring urgent renovation. In order to make it possible to begin this essential work, the New Bodleian building – one of the largest library buildings in Britain – must be emptied and the collections stored there relocated, together with the services currently delivered from the building. 

The temporary move of collections will be undertaken in phases, beginning with a move of a large group of special collections, which will be temporarily relocated to the Radcliffe Science Library (RSL).  This has been chosen to ensure both the safe storage of the collections while they are kept there, and for its proximity to the central Bodleian Library. A temporary reading room will be provided in the RSL to allow scholars to consult material located there.

Some special collections will continue to be consulted in Duke Humfrey’s Library, which will continue to be used, as present, as a special collections reading room. 


The timescale for the transfer has yet to be finalised, as the planning of the move requires the careful consideration of issues such as preservation and security. Changes to the RSL itself are also required in order to provide the necessary environmental conditions for the collections. It is anticipated, however, that the changes to the RSL and the relocation of special collections will be completed during 2009, and that they will remain there until the New Bodleian refurbishment is completed in 2013.

Work has already begun to move low-use material (such as material available in electronic form) from the RSL to accommodate the special collections. This material will be moved to DeepStore, Cheshire (from where a fetching service is provided) and it is also planned to relocate heavily used material from the RSL stack to open shelves on the upper floors of the Science Library in the next couple of months.

Detailed planning

Location of the Special Collections Reading Room at RSL

In order to disrupt existing users of the RSL as little as possible, and to provide adequate accommodation for users of special collections, the Lankester Reading Room has been identified as the most suitable location for readers using special collections in the RSL. The room will be divided into two areas, one to continue to accommodate science readers and their material and the other part to accommodate special collections readers.

Readers with disabilities

The RSL reading rooms will also constitute the main provision for Bodleian readers with disabilities when the Special Collections Reading Room on the ground floor of the New Bodleian Library closes.


It is anticipated that the special collections that will move to the RSL will be those that are most heavily used, or are otherwise the most at risk in their current location. Those that will still be consulted in Duke Humfrey’s Library will be those collections that do not move to the RSL. Once this list has been finalised, it will be made available on the OULS web site to help researchers understand where consultation of these collections is to be provided. Staff are also currently considering the disposition of reference materials which will support the study of special collections according to the needs of users and the deployment of collections.

Impact on staff and readers

It is the Library’s aim to maintain access to all of OULS’s collections during the three year closure of the New Bodleian Library and to continue to place our readers’ needs at the forefront of our service during this time.

The Library recognises that the move of some special collections to the RSL will disrupt existing services and inconvenience some readers. This move is an essential step in ensuring the long-term preservation of these collections.  During the period when they are housed in the RSL there will be improved services for those users. They will benefit from increased speed of delivery of special collections material from the closed stacks as well as longer opening hours and the proximity of the refreshment and lounge areas available in the newly refurbished RSL. Science readers too will find that their most frequently requested material will be immediately available on open access or provided in electronic format rather than having to be ordered from the stack. Staff will be able to exchange information with a new group of colleagues, learn more about each other’s work and cover for each other when necessary and practicable, thus further enhancing the service to readers.

Departmental Libraries

The Experimental Psychology Library will move to the RSL during the Long Vacation 2009, a move that has been planned for some years and which was contingent on the renovation of the RSL. Further moves are expected in subsequent years.

Further information

Further updates will be provided about these projects as the timeframe becomes more established and details clarified. In the meantime if you have any queries or comments please contact:

  • Richard Ovenden, Associate Director, Keeper of Special Collections  or
  • JoAnne Sparks, Assistant Director, Research and Learning Services.



Back to top