Visit from another college librarian

I will begin by telling you a little story about what it means to be a collegiate university.

A major difference between the University of Oxford (and Cambridge and Durham) and other UK universities it that it has a collegiate structure.

The University of Oxford has 38 independent, self-governing colleges and 6 permanent private halls (here’s a list).

Students and staff therefore belong to both their faculty and college communities.  Colleges and permanent private halls have their own libraries, which are usually only for the use of members of that College or Hall.

Each College or Hall has its own governing structures, ethos and Fellows, and they are also financially independent.

So the College Libraries* at the University of Oxford have (paradoxically) everything and nothing in common.  They are financially and ideologically independent of each other, and can modify every aspect of their services and collections to suit their particular college.  For example, some colleges are only for postgraduates and some have subject specialisms.

However, for all these differences, the college libraries and their Librarians have common ground in that they occupy a unique niche within the University, and are quite different from the faculty and departmental libraries of the University.

And so it is that college librarians find it very useful to meet up and discuss different aspects of their work, and share experiences of tackling a variety of issues in their work.

Today, I had a visit from another college librarian who was interested to know about the library lobby redesign project I am undertaking this summer.

The new design will include:

  • Security gates for RFID security and stock management system
  • Self-issue and return kiosk for RFID
  • Combined printing, photocopying and scanning machine
  • New tables and comfortable seating
  • New carpet
  • New coat of paint

I am looking forward to the pleasant entrance to the library that this refurbishment will provide, as well as the new equipment and facilities available to readers: self-return, photocopying , scanning and colour reprographics are all new features.

This work will begin next week, so I am spending this week making sure that we are ready for the move of the library office for the duration of the work, and ensuring that library users know about alternative arrangements for access during this period.

*From here on, I will use the term “College Libraries” to refer to the libraries of both colleges and permanent private halls, to avoid repetition.  Apologies to Blackfriars, Campion Hall, Regent’s Park College**, St Benet’s Hall, St Stephen’s House and Wycliffe Hall.

** I know, I put Regent’s Park College in the list of Permanent Private Halls.  But it is in fact a Hall, and not a College.  See?



  1. Just come across your new blog and found this post really interesting. I don’t know much about the structure of Oxford University apart from a brief chat with Adrienne which fascinated me. Thanks for the clear explanation, think I may have to pay a visit sometime to see what it’s like. Must be a very different way of working to the majority of universities whereby all libraries are part of the same service; imagine it has both pros and cons! Thanks again for sharing 🙂

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