The Bodleian Libraries are undertaking a series of major construction projects to improve facilities that will improve support for researchers, preserve collections, and allow for delivery of better services to readers. The New Bodleian Library is being remodeled as a Special Collections library; the Law Library is being remodeled; access improvements are being made to the Radcliffe Camera and Old Bodleian, in part through the creation of the Gladstone Link; a new Book Storage Facility has been built; and a new Humanities Library is being built on the Radcliffe Observatory Quarter site.
On May 26, 2010, the Bodleian Libraries announced that they had secured Planning Permission approval and Listed Building Consent from Oxford City Council for the £78,000,000 restoration and renovation of the New Bodleian Library, to be reopened as the Weston Library in 2014/2015. The long-awaited project, designed by Wilkinson Eyre Architects (WEA), has three aims. The first aim is to create high quality storage for the Bodleian Libraries’ valuable special collections, which include the rare and unique manuscripts, books and maps that the Bodleian Libraries preserves for scholars not just in England or the United Kingdom but throughout the world.
The second aim is to develop the Bodleian Libraries’ space for the support of advanced research. The third aim is to expand public access to its great intellectual and cultural treasures through new exhibition galleries and other facilities.
The £26,000,000 Book Storage Facillity (BSF) in South Marston, near Swindon, capable of holding 8,400,000 volumes on 153 miles (230 kilometers) of shelving, officially opened on Thursday, 7 October 2010. Of the over 8,000,000 volumes the BSF was built to hold, 2,700,000 volumes come from the New Bodleian Library, 600,000 volumes come from the Underground Bookstore, 1,300,000 volumes come from the Nuneham Courtenay Book Repository, 500,000 volumes come from offsite storage, and 400,000 volumes come from the Bodleian Libraries’ science libraries.
Construction began in the summer of 2009 and has been completed in less than a year. The BSF will house up to 8,000,000 low-use items previously held in the Bodleian bookstack and other remote storage spaces.
To guarantee the long-term preservation of the books, volumes will be stored in 745,000 bar-coded and specially designed storage trays and archival standard boxes. The floor area of the BSF warehouse is equal to 1.6 football pitches (what we call soccer fields) although the High-Density shelving provides shelf surface area equivalent to 16.5 football pitches.
From the start of October of 2010, the Bodleian Libraries began to relocate 6,500,000 items to the BSF (Book Moves). As a result, some items are unavailable. For information on how to request items that are being moved, click here.
Once an item has been received at the BSF, it will be available by request in any of the Bodleian Reading Rooms. There will be deliveries twice a day to Oxford from the BSF.
The BSFsolidshelving system is 11.4 meters high, with an aisle length of 71 meters. There are thirty-one Very Narrow Aisles (VNA) totaling 3,224 bays in seven different bay configurations with 95,000 shelf levels, for a total of 2,196 tons of steel. There are 4,550 meters of safety rail, over 25,000 nuts and bolts, over 1,000,000 rivets, and over 18,000 floor fixings. Over 1,600 linear meters of archived microfilm is to be stored in the BSF. The 600 map cabinets will hold over 1,200,000 maps and large format items. The facility has 49,500 meters of fire alarm, sub mains, lighting, power, and security cables.
The decision to use a storage facility outside Oxford was inspired by the new academic strategy for the Bodleian Libraries. This focuses on increasing the overall speed of access to information. Under this strategic plan, the Bodleian Libraries will be providing direct access to high-demand print collections, increase online access to materials, and provide electronic document delivery.
As a result of this strategy, the BSF will be used to house low-use collections, many of which have electronic copies available. The new facility will also enable the New Bodleian Library to be redeveloped as a modern special collections library and research center. According to the work schedule, materials should have moved from the Bodleian bookstack to the BSF between November of 2010 and July of 2011 and books moved from the Underground Bookstack to the BSF between October of 2010 and November of 2010.
While the BSF will house predominantly low-use items from the New Bodleian’s collections, the Radcliffe Science Library (RSL) has become the temporary home for a high proportion of the special collections. This means that high-value books and manuscripts can be retained in central Oxford.
Another major construction project is the Underground Bookstore and Old Bodleian Library Access Project. [Remember, the term bookstore in this case means book storage, not bookshop.] On Tuesday, July 14, 2010, the Bodleian Libraries announced that plans to upgrade space within the central Bodleian site had been approved by the Oxford City Council at an evening meeting of the Central South and West Area Committee the previous day.
The plans include refurbishment of the Underground Bookstore, under Radcliffe Square, into two floors of openstack library space for readers and opening up the tunnel (to be known as theGladstone Link) that connects the Radcliffe Camera and the Old Bodleian main building. They also called for the installation of a platform lift between the Underground Bookstore and the Lower Radcliffe Camera Reading Room to provide access for disabled readers and to facilitate book deliveries, and a lift in the Old Bodleian Library (also known as the Old Schools Quadrangle) to accommodate passengers and to transport books.
Another thing called for under these plans is the adjustment of the paving level in the Old Schools Quadrangle to facilitate book delivery and disabled access. The planned improvements would enable greater access for scholars, students, and visitors with limited mobility, as well as supporting improved access to books and services.
Work to raise the level of the Old School Quadrangle – Old Schools Quadrangle repaving – took place from December of 2010 to May of 2011. The Gladstone Link (previously Underground Bookstore) opened to readers on Tuesday July 5, 2011. This followed redevelopment building work from August of 2010 to April of 2011 in the Radcliffe Camera and the Old Bodleian Library. Areas in the Radcliffe Camera were redeveloped and enhanced so as to provide additional open-access stacks for readers, housing high-use and in-demand items.
Between August 23, 2010 and January of 2011, temporary lavatory facilities and bag and coat facilities were provided adjacent to the Divinity School, accessible via covered walkway from the Proscholium. The north entrance of the Proscholium was closed in April of 2011. That same month, the north staircase was closed to visitors (except in the event of an emergency).
In September of 2010, the Official Papers Reading Room relocated from the Radcliffe Camera to the Bodleian Law Library. Duke Humfrey’s Library at the Old Bodleian Library re-opened with an emphasis on maps and music.
The free exhibition Treasures of the Bodleianin the Exhibition Room of the Bodleian Librarywas open to the public from Sept 30, 2011 to December 23, 2011. Itbrought “together some of the rarest, most important and most evocative objects in the world. It also asks the question, ‘what is a treasure in the twenty-first century?’”
The Bodleian Autumn Exhibition anticipates the new permanent gallery in the Weston Library. It displays a few of the Bodleian’s rarest items, from ancient papyri to modern ephemera. They include a copy of Magna Carta, the Bakshali manuscript (first evidence of the concept of zero), Handel’s conducting copy of “Messiah;” Shakespeare’s First Folio; one of the earliest Medieval illustrated manuscripts of Dante’s The Divine Comedy; handwritten drafts of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, Kafka’s The Metamorphosis, and Robert Hooke’s Micrographia, The Book of Curiosities; and an illustrated medieval Arabic manuscript. They are thematically arranged under the headings the classical heritage; mapping the world; the sacred word; the animal and plant kingdoms; works of the imagination; the sciences of observation and calculation; and historical moments in time.
The Bodleian Library poses a rhetorical question. “What is it that makes a particular book or manuscript special from a collection of several million items at the Bodleian today? What makes it a ‘treasure’? It may be its age, rarity or beauty; it may be of great scholarly importance, or have the ability to provoke strong emotions, or simply be an accidental survival, a curiosity.”
“Over the next three years,” the Bodleian Library states, “the New Bodleian Library on Broad Street, Oxford, will undergo major renovation and redevelopment. In 2015 it will reopen as the Weston Library, and selections of the Bodleian’s greatest treasures will be on display in a dedicated gallery. Choosing to display one type of treasure over another is a subjective business and Treasures of the Bodleian gives us a chance to rehearse for this new space, bringing together a collection of items that our experts believe deserve the label. Through the voting buttons and comment areas on this website, we would like to hand the debate over to you. What makes something a ‘treasure’? What do you think of the items we are showing here? What would you like to see displayed in the reopened Weston Library? We look forward to hearing from you.”
Between Nov 5, 2011 and December 23, 2011, there is a William Golding exhibition in the Proscholium of the Bodleian Library. It celebrates the 100th anniversary of William Golding’s birth. The curator is the author’s daughter, Judy Carver, and features the manuscript of Lord of the Flies.
For a month between September 30, 2011 and October 30, 2011 the Bodleian Library had an exhibition that celebrated the acquisition of Franz Kafka’s letters to his sister, Liebe Ottla, in partnership with the Deutsches Literaturarchiv in Marbach. The exhibition included highlights of the main Kafka collection and was in the Proscholium of the Bodleian Library.
On December 2, 2011, there was a one-day exhibition, The Bodleian Library: A Seasonal Selection from the Collections, in the Divinity School. The exhibition was between 10:00 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. The Bodleian Library showcases a charming selection of seasonal material from the John Johnson Collection of Printed Ephemera.