19 July, 2007

The University of Oxford's Bodleian Library

Today we had a guided tour of The University of Oxford's Bodleian Library. I have to admit that the view from outside before you even set foot inside one of the buildings is just absolutely breathtaking. You can sense right away that you are entering a place full of history and tradition. We toured the most modern library building "The New Library," which was built in 1938. Since the library opened in the 17th century, new buildings have been added on to keep up with the storage of the ever growing collections. The new library houses underground stacks, research labs, and reading rooms. The underground stacks are climate controlled and catalogued partially according to Dewey Decimal Classification (an old librarian of the University was a friend of Dewey's) and by size classification (since they need to make as much use of space as possible).

The Bodleian is an academic research library, NOT a lending library, so officially no book is ever to leave the library. Hence the traditional declaration: "I hereby undertake not to remove from the Library, or to mark, deface, or injure in any way, any volume, document, or other object belonging to it or in its custody; not to bring into the Library or kindle therein any fire or flame, and not to smoke in the Library; and I promise to obey all rules of the Library."

The library collection contains more than 12 million items. From 1610 up to the present date, the University library is sent 1 copy of everything published in the UK. Once per week, the acquisitions staff make decisions on what is to be kept and what is to be sent away. Since a mile and a half of volumes arrive each year and they have a limited amount of space, the library trades and gives away items to libraries all over the world. It must be difficult for the acquisitions staff to make those decisions because nobody knows for sure what should be kept or given away...who knows who the next Shakespeare will be?