UPDATE March 23, 2015 Delight as new Weston Library opens its doors (via The Oxford Times)
UPDATE March 21, 2015: Oxford University’s Weston Library reopens (via BBC)
From U. of Oxford:
On 21 March 2015 the University of Oxford’s Bodleian Libraries will celebrate the completion of the Weston Library following an £80m [$95.8 Million/USD] transformation designed to create a 21st-century library where scholarship and research, conservation and digitization take place and where members of the public can explore the Bodleian’s national and international treasures. The public opening marks the completion of an ambitious three-year project to dramatically renew this iconic Giles Gilbert Scott Grade II-listed building, formerly known as the New Bodleian.
Described by lead architect Jim Eyre as a ‘cultural and intellectual landmark,’ the reimagined library boasts state-of-the-art facilities for researchers to work with the Bodleian’s Image of floating stack in Weston Library outstanding special collections which include some of the world’s most important cultural, intellectual and scientific treasures. The completion of the Weston Library allows visitors to explore its new, fully-accessible public spaces for the first time.
The vision of this ambitious project was to fully modernize a historic library, overhauling 80-year old storage facilities for the Bodleian Libraries’ collections to make them meet the latest standards; to dramatically improve research facilities to support scholarship at the highest level; and to create inspirational new facilities for engaging the general public. To do this, London-based Wilkinson Eyre Architects have expertly transformed the library from the inside out, completely updating the interior while retaining the unique historical features of the building.
Central to this was the removal of an 11-storey book stack in the centre of the building to create Blackwell Hall, a grand 13.5 metre-high entrance foyer. From here visitors can look up to see an innovative glass-sided ‘floating stack’ which encompasses the centre of the hall, providing a glimpse into the inner workings of the library. In Blackwell Hall visitors can see displays such as the newly-conserved 16th-century Sheldon Tapestry Map of Gloucestershire and they can view interactive screens providing a behind-the-scene view on the research being undertaken by university scholars of all disciplines within the Libraries.
The Weston Library was opened up to scholars in phases from the end of 2014, and is already proving to be a popular and effective centre for research. In the Library’s three refurbished reading rooms students, scholars and researchers from all over the world can be found studying manuscripts or rare editions to inform a range of research and scholarly questions; the reading rooms are now equipped with the new ‘Bodleian Chair’, designed by London-based design team Barber Osgerby, following a national competition.
Above and below ground, more than 40km of secure, state-of-the-art storage facilities now house the Bodleian Libraries’ special collections which include rare books, manuscripts, archives, music, ephemera and maps. Key materials found within the Weston Library include the largest collection of pre-1500 printed books in a university library, a highly important collection of manuscripts from medieval Europe and the Byzantine Empire and one of the largest concentrations of modern British political manuscripts. Items continue to be acquired, including the first book brought back into the Weston Library after the refurbishment: a beautifully-bound copy of Plato’s complete works in Greek, given to Elizabeth I by the Chancellor of the University of Oxford in 1564.
The Weston Library’s completion is one of many highlights in the building’s remarkable 80-year history. Commissioned in 1934 and designed by leading architect Giles Gilbert Scott between 1936 and 1940, the building was commandeered for war use in 1940 before it could be opened. During this time it functioned as a Naval War Library, the centre for the Prisoner of War educational book scheme by the British Red Cross and a site for the Inter-service Topographical Department of the Naval Intelligence Division. Only at the end of the war could the building finally be used as a university library; in 1946 it was officially opened as the New Bodleian Library. From this point onwards the building performed a dual function as both a space for readers and as a storage facility for over 3.5 million items from the Libraries’ collections.