Brickbats don't stack up

August 30, 2012

As a dynamic service, the Bodleian Libraries is indeed changing, but the picture painted by G.R. Evans ("Shelf harm", Letters, 23 August) is not what it seems.

The relocation of the History Faculty Library is part of a broader, long-term strategy to improve access to the most important parts of the Bodleian's magnificent collections. It will save more than £100,000 annually, allowing the purchase of extra books and journals, and extending opening hours for all readers.

Students have made it clear to us that longer opening hours are a high priority for them, and now the Bodleian will be open on Sundays during term time. An average of 26 readers a day occupied the History Faculty Library at any given time: 48 new seats will be added to the Bodleian, more than compensating for any increased demand.

The changes to the iconic Radcliffe Camera - which have just been approved by Oxford City Council's planning committee - will not only facilitate the relocation of the History Faculty Library, but will also improve security and access. Disabled readers in particular praise the inroads that have been made to providing them with equality of access to collections and historic library buildings.

These changes are not being made in a rushed or incoherent way, but according to carefully constructed plans made in consultation with readers. When concerns have been raised, we have listened to them. Bodleian librarians have held numerous meetings with academics and students in the humanities over the summer, resulting in a better understanding of the particular needs of scholars and of the motivation for change at the Bodleian.

The Bodleian is a magnificent library, which honours its great traditions while simultaneously embracing the 21st century. Use of the institution continues to increase year on year, a testimony to its outstanding collections and expert staff.

What we need to do now is work together, not sow dissension and mistrust through the dissemination of misleading information.

Sarah E. Thomas, Bodley's librarian, University of Oxford

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