Using special collections reading rooms


Using the collections

The manuscripts, archives and books available in the reading rooms are part of the Bodleian's great inheritance. To help us preserve them for future generations, we ask all readers:

  1. To leave bags and cases in the lockers;
  2. To be signed in and out by the security porter;
  3. Reading room staff will advise on the scope, extent and availability of collections and services;  
  4. To use pencils only or a laptop, and not to use pens, paints, obliterating or erasing liquids. The use of scanners is not permitted;
  5. To read all bound manuscripts and rare books on appropriate-sized foam book-rests, as provided in the reading room. Pages of a bound volume on a book-rest and loose documents being used flat on the desk may be gently held in place by cotton-linked weights or snakes, available from the staff desk. Cotton gloves are not used for manuscript consultation at the Bodleian Library;
  6. To consult only one box or file of loose documents at a time;
  7. To close boxes and books whenever you leave your desk, and return them to the staff desk whenever you leave the Library;
  8. To take great care to keep loose or fasciculed papers in order;
  9. Not to touch illuminations or any written area in a manuscript. A slip of acid-free paper may be used to follow a written text. Please do not place anything else on an open book or manuscript, or take notes on top of a manuscript or book, whether open or closed;
  10. Not to bring any food (including sweets, chewing gum, cough sweets and medicine) or drink (including water) to the Reading Room;
  11. Switch the laptops and mobile phones to silent mode.

In addition, please note that:

  1. Two or more readers may not use the same special collections at the same time without permission from a senior member of staff;
  2. Items on exhibition are not available for readers (microfilm copies may be available for consultation);
  3. Copying a book or manuscript by tracing, painting or rubbing is not permitted.
  4. Computers, bags, and other personal property, may not be left with staff;
  5. Chosen or allocated desks may be reserved throughout the day but material may not be left on a desk overnight;
  6. If the fire alarm sounds at any time readers should leave special collections material and personal property at their desks and evacuate the building as quickly as possible under the direction of the staff. 

Access and admissions

To obtain a Bodleian reader's card, please contact Admissions. All card holders are granted entry to the Weston Library reading rooms and reader areas, and may order printed material from the main collection (stored in the Library’s offsite facility).

Access to special collections (manuscript and archival material; rare printed books) is granted on the basis of a reader’s research interests. Readers from outside Oxford University should state these interests when applying for a reader’s card. Oxford University undergraduates and taught postgraduates should always make prior application to consult special collections by emailing us.

Ordering material

For information on ordering specific special collections (e.g. manuscripts or maps) please see below. You may order up to ten items at any one time by email, telephone or in person. Please note that some collections require special permission before they may be consulted. We recommend contacting us in advance of a visit for advice on availability.

Please ask staff for an estimate of the delivery time, as delivery times will vary depending on the location of the material and can take up to 24 hours.

There is no fetching/delivery service after 15.45 weekdays, after 1400 on Saturdays. Material is automatically reserved for one week (7 days) and this reservation may be renewed on request.

To order special collections material and for advice, please contact:
Telephone: (+44) (0)1865 277150

Ordering books and journals

Books and journals, including early and rare material, can be ordered to reading rooms remotely on SOLO (Search Oxford Libraries Online) with your Bodleian Library reader's card. Your reader's card and/or Single Sign-On username and password give you access to SOLO. You will find that some material found on SOLO can be ordered only via application to Rare Books (

Ordering manuscripts and archives

Our manuscripts and archives are not catalogued on SOLO (Search Oxford Libraries Online) and you need to order this material in person by filling in the green order forms in the reading room. [Manuscript catalogues and finding aids.]

Ordering the John Johnson Collection of Printed Ephemera

Appointments must be made in advance and material ordered through the Librarian [John Johnson catalogues and images]. For more information on ordering, please see the John Johnson website.

Ordering maps

Many maps are catalogued on SOLO (Search Oxford Libraries Online) but most will be found via the digitised card catalogue (also accessible via a link from the SOLO homepage). For more information, please see the Maps LibGuide.

Ordering music 

Some printed music is catalogued on SOLO (Search Oxford Libraries Online) but most will be found via the digitised card catalogue (also accessible via a link from the SOLO homepage). [A more detailed explanation of the music catalogues.]

The Library's collection of musical sound recordings is quite small, consisting largely of items which accompany books and journals. Most are catalogued in SOLO. The Music Faculty Library houses Oxford University's main collection of music recordings. For more information, please see the Music LibGuide.

Closing routine

Reader computers will be turned off 20 minutes before closure. A bell will be rung 10 minutes before closure, which is the signal for readers to finish working and leave. Please ensure that you take all your belongings with you when you leave the Library.

Please note that photocopiers are turned off and that staff-service photocopy orders are not accepted from 30 minutes before closing.


Computer and laptop facilities

Computers are available in the reading room for readers to consult SOLO (Search Oxford Libraries Online) and internet resources of academic interest. All reader seats are equipped with power sockets and ethernet points for connection to the internet, and wireless is available (see information about using a laptop). 

Microform equipment

Microfiche and microfilm readers are available in the Sir Charles Mackerras Reading Room. A microfilm scanner with payment by PCAS (see Making a Copy for prices) is also available.

Codicological tools

An ultra-violet lamp and a fibre-optic light sheet and a collator are available on application to reading room staff.

Audio equipment

The Sir Charles Mackerras Reading Room houses a record player, a cassette deck and a CD player along with an electric piano. In addition to playing Bodleian recordings, readers may bring in their own recordings if they wish to listen to them in conjunction with Bodleian material. A reel-to-reel tape recorder is also available on request.

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