Bodleian road to renewal or ruin? 2

April 8, 2005

You are to be congratulated on publicising the disquieting proposals for the Bodleian. Hopefully this will lead to their wider discussion. Naturally, several have merit. But there are also major questions the report does not address. Thus the absorption of many of the smaller libraries depends on the building of a new humanities library on the Radcliffe Infirmary site, whose cost, and possible overruns, we cannot know.

It is proposed to reduce the "overclassification" of many library posts; but experience suggests that, in a town such as Oxford, staff cannot be recruited without enhanced grades to match external salaries. In the special collections, there is a danger that the process will spread expertise dangerously thin: can any one person cover the "Middle East" from the Babylonians to Gaddafi?

There are, no doubt, financial problems in maintaining small libraries, and some may well be best merged. But their scholarly contribution is at least easier to perceive than that of some of the administrative proliferation highlighted by the retiring senior proctor. Perhaps we should be comparing the value of, say, the social studies divisional bureaucracy with that of the Bodleian Japanese library.

J. P. D. Dunbabin
Oxford

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