Saturday, March 06, 2010

Bodleian Library unveils plans for renovation of New Bodleian

Oxford University’s world-famous Bodleian Library has unveiled its plans for the restoration and renovation of the New Bodleian library building. The long-awaited project has been designed by Wilkinson Eyre Architects; planning permission and Listed Building Consent will be applied for at the end of March. Once completed, it will be renamed the Weston Library, in honour of the £25 million donation given in March 2008 by the Garfield Weston Foundation.

The restoration project has three aims: to create high-quality storage for the library’s valuable Special Collections, which include the precious manuscripts, books and maps that the Bodleian preserves for the international world of scholarship; to develop the library’s facilities for the support of advanced research; and to expand public access to its great treasures through new exhibition galleries and other facilities.

Sarah Thomas, director of the Bodleian Libraries, said: ‘The improvements to the New Bodleian building are long overdue. Thanks to the generosity of the donors who have contributed to this project, we are at last able to move forward with this exciting and much-needed development. This major investment of £78 million will enable the library both to protect its great collections and to open them up to readers, researchers and the public in an historic building that has been reinterpreted for the 21st century.’

The plans have been unveiled at a public exhibition at the New Bodleian Library, Parks Road, Oxford. Planning permission and listed building consent will be applied for at the end of the month. Subject to this approval being received, the renovation and remodelling work will take five years and the building will reopen in 2015. The renovation of the New Bodleian is part of an integrated strategy to improve the management of and access to the Bodleian Libraries’ historic collections. To accommodate the books now housed in the New Bodleian and to provide space for the Libraries’ growing collections, the University is constructing a book storage facility in Swindon which will open in late 2010; it also plans to upgrade storage in the underground bookstore under Radcliffe Square to enable direct access to high-use books by readers.

Richard Ovenden, associate director and keeper of special collections, said: ‘Wilkinson Eyre Architects has created a stunning design that respects the building’s heritage while at the same time modernising our infrastructure and providing better facilities for students and researchers, as well as greater opportunities for collaboration with and outreach to the wider community.’

‘This is a major project for a working academic library. We need to move over 3.5 million books out of the building before work begins. As a working University library, we will continue to deliver our normal high standards of book and information delivery. We are fortunate to have excellent temporary facilities available for students and readers during the redevelopment.’

The New Bodleian building has been in urgent need of upgrading to modern standards appropriate for one of the largest and most important repositories of historical and legal deposit materials in the world. These will ensure the building complies with national standards for the storage of the library’s unique special collections. The Bodleian has consulted extensively with English Heritage, preservation groups and the city of Oxford to develop a plan that respects the best aspects of Giles Gilbert Scott’s classic 1930s building whilst opening it up to readers and visitors in a sympathetic fashion.

Jim Eyre, Director at Wilkinson Eyre Architects, commented: ‘This is a very exciting project for us. It is both a privilege and a challenge to be working within such an important historic context as this, and with such a unique collection of books and manuscripts. Our design aims to celebrate these precious objects by providing improved storage and preservation space, but also to increase public access and appreciation of this cultural and intellectual landmark.'