Thursday, July 19 Bodleian Library, Oxford University
Our group took a train out to Oxford for a very special day. We spent the morning touring the Bodleain Library at Oxford University, and in the afternoon some of us accompanied Mike on a C.S. Lewis tour that he had discovered on our previous visit.
At the Bodleian Library, we discovered that it dates back to the 13th century. An interesting story that our guide shared was about the grand opening of the newest part of the library. King George V was invited to the grand opening and a large silver key was made for the occasion, but when it was placed in the lock, the key snapped and the main doors could not be opened. As a result, everyone, including the king, had to enter the new library through the rear.
The new library is made up of eight floors of stacks, four below ground level, and four above. The library collection consists of books, very old bound newspapers, microfilm, a million maps, greeting cards, calendars, and even bits of wood. The stacks are specially designed to fit whatever is being stored there and they are climate controlled to maintain proper temperature and humidity levels.
Once the guide took us into the stacks, we noticed two things; first that there was a yellow stripe painted on the floor so that anyone who got lost in the stacks could follow it to find the exit. The other funny thing was that there was a sign posted on the door leading into the stacks that said, "Going into the stacks after 5:00 p.m.? Have you told a colleague where you are going?" That sign inspired all kinds of imaginings about what might happen if one got lost in the Bodleian Library stacks. The fact that many of the shelves can be moved together and apart with a crank handle makes one wonder how many careless librarians have been lost due to compression. Who knew library work could be so treacherous?
Our guide explained that "troglodytes" work down in the stacks to retrieve requested items for readers and that no one else really understands how materials are arranged. Many books are stored according to size in order to maximize use of space. When we followed the narrow passages and stairways to the lower levels, we saw the locked cages full of archival boxes which were used for maximum security storage of rare items.
There is so much to say about the Bodleian Library, but some of the most important points are that the library holds twelve million items, there is no subject catalog for the library collection, no books leave the library, but are taken to users in one of the fifteen reading rooms, and two million small-sized books are stored in stacks that are located under the quadrangle area.
Another interesting note is that the scenes from the Harry Potter movies that feature infirmary and dancing scenes were actually filmed in the Divinity Room of the library.