How introducing lending at Bodleian Libraries could affect the dynamics of the reading rooms

Something that struck me at the recent CILIP ARLG conference was the strong emphasis on student-focused library development at other universities.  At Oxford, I would say that most libraries seek approval of the academics for any changes, before consulting with students.

I think this is because our academics spend a lot of their time working in our libraries whereas at other universities, they tend to work in their own offices.

Why is this?  Two reasons:

  1. I think that more research at Oxford involves print materials than at other universities, because of the emphasis on pure research in the Humanities
  2. At other universities, academics (and students) may borrow most library materials and take them back to their offices where they can work with them in peace, rather than being obliged to use them in the reading rooms as is the case at many non-lending Oxford libraries.

In 2013 the Bodleian Libraries will be reviewing their lending policy and consulting widely across the University and with stakeholders as part of the process. In the interim there will be no changes to policy. If, in the unlikely instance that unforeseen circumstances require a change in policy, any changes would be made in consultation with users and would be subject to the approval of the Curators of the University Libraries.  [Source]

If broadening the policy on lending goes ahead, I wonder if an unintended benefit will be to ease the pressure on trying to balance two very different models of how the Libraries’ physical space should be; with silent cathedral of knowledge pitted against social, connected, versatile learning space.

If you’re interested in finding out more about behaviour in Oxford libraries, especially with regard to rules and regulations, I recommend this post: Law and Order in the Library by Louise Cowan (Graduate Trainee, St Hugh’s College Library).


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