Day 4: Oxford and The

The entrance room at the Bodleian Library before we began our tour.

The entrance room at the Bodleian Library before we began our tour.

Our first class day was spent traveling out to Oxford to see the Bodleian Library and Christ’s Church. The Bodleian is a beautiful old library that started several trends within libraries, such as being the first library to have floor to ceiling shelving as well as shelving against the outside walls. Usually shelving would be within the room and not along the outside walls because of the changes in temperature as well as humidity levels that could potentially damage the books. The Bodleian solved these dilemmas within the construction of the building as well as keeping all books on upper levels rather than ground level. This was also to discourage and make it more difficult for thieves to steal the books. Another deterrent was that the books used to be chained to the shelves. Unlike in the Harry Potter movies when the books in the Restricted Section are chained to the shelves with the chains going through the spines of the books, real libraries would chain the books through part of the covers. In order for the books to be stored on shelves the spines were put in towards the back of the shelves, making it difficult to identify books. This required special numbering systems for the books. Each unit of shelves would have a desk and benches or chairs along the front so that the books could be removed from their shelves but not from their chains. The worst part of this practice for the libraries was the sounds the chains would make and cost for chaining each new book. The Bodleian also contains vast troves of underground storage for their collections and throughout the history of the library the young men who have worked in the stores retrieving books and taking them from one place to another through the underground systems were called the Bodley Boys. The Bodleian also contains classroom space that has different levels of benches running around the perimeter of the room and an ornate seat at the front of the room. These rooms were the inspiration for some government chambers, they provide the right polarizing seating in which each person must choose a side to sit on and a position in whatever discussion is going on.

The classroom space within the Bodleian.

The classroom space within the Bodleian.

What stood out the most from our class trip to the Bodleian was not only how beautiful and well maintained that library still is but that it is still a functioning library, as well as the many library practices that have occurred throughout the centuries that the Bodleian can display and show their guests. Practices such as the chained books, books stored horizontally rather than vertically, the book retrieval system for books residing in storage rather than on the shelves accessible to the patrons of the library. The Bodleian was a great visit to start the trip off with.

The Bodleian

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