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£80m transformation of the Bodleian is almost complete
OXFORD’S Bodleian Library is getting a new look, with the £80m Weston Library opening in the autumn before the official unveiling in March 2015.
To many it will surely feel like walking into a spacious new library on Broad Street.
The vast structure already appears to be totally different from the unloved 1930s New Bodleian building and in the autumn Oxford will be celebrating the opening of a 10-storey building, seven levels above ground with three below.
Sir Giles Gilbert Scott had built the New Bodleian as a vast book fortress but it has brought in modern demolition equipment with 6,500 tonnes of rubble, concrete and masonry being removed.
It is now possible to see what has become of the New Bodleian, now destined to become far more than a place of study and storage for some of the world’s most precious books, maps and manuscripts.
Steps on Broad Street will lead into a new entrance colonnade with glass doors on the south side of the building.
Behind the doors a vast entrance hall has been created, to act as a central 854m sq public space, through which both scholars and the public will enter the building.
It will be known as the Blackwell Hall, in honour of Julian Blackwell, President of Blackwell’s, which neighbours the New Bodleian, who donated over £5m to the project, one of the largest cash donations ever made to a university library in the UK.
Adjoining the entrance hall will be a 76- seater cafe, with doors from the hall leading on to two public galleries, one for temporary exhibitions, the other to display treasures of the Bodleian itself.
Doors will be open up to the public seven days a week, probably from 8.30am to 5pm.
Bodleian Libraries estates projects officer Toby Kirtley shows Mail man Reg Little the work
Toby Kirtley, estates project officer, said: “We will be putting in 99 CCTV cameras.
“I believe that will almost double the number of cameras on university sites.”
While declining to reveal the location of “the inner sanctum”, where priceless Bodleian items will be stored, Mr Kirtley said that the most valuable material would be housed in a large concrete box with walls half-a-metre thick.
The new library takes shape
The ground floor public areas of the new building will not be opening until March 2015, when the Weston Library will be officially opened.
With the treasures of the Bodleian seemingly limitless – two Shakespeare first folios, four Magna Cartas, the papers of six British Prime Ministers and more than 10,000 medieval manuscripts representing just the tip of the iceberg – the Weston Library is certain to become one of the city’s busiest visitor attractions.
Huge cost has gone into fire protection, the New Bodleian having previously relied for decades on a Second World War vintage system with fire hoses and hand held extinguishers.
Rooms containing collections will be able to withstand fire outside for up to four hours.
An artist's impression of how the new Weston Library will look when finished
39km of shelves
THE New Bodleian had housed some 3.5m books.
With millions having been dispatched to Bodleian’s book depository just outside Swindon, the transformed library will still house 1.4m volumes in the basement, covering some 39km of new shelving.
On the upper floors there are three reading rooms – including an impressive wood panelled room created by Gilbert Scott.
There are now additional facilities such as a suite of seminar rooms, which will allow teaching and masterclasses using materials from the library’s special collections.
A Visiting Scholars Centre has also been created along with a new digital media centre.
Construction workers are making a series of discoveries.
Buried behind radiators in rooms used by the Red Cross Educational Books Section during World War Two, they came across a Red Cross typewritten response to a request from a British POW for books about engines and electricity, dated September 24, 1941 and addressed to the POW, Camp Stalag VIIIB, Germany.
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