The opening of the Gladstone Link last Tuesday has marked the creation of a completely new study environment in the Bodleian.
The link is part of a tunnel, named after Victorian Liberal Prime Minister and Oxford graduate William Gladstone, which allows readers to move underground between the Old Bod and the Rad Cam for the first time.
The facility, incorporating 120 work stations and doubling the Bod’s provision of open shelf material, is a small part of the £5 million redevelopment of the University’s library services.
A senior Bodleian librarian involved in the design of the two-levelled basement space described it as an “experiment”, emphasising that the environment would evolve depending on students’ wishes.
He drew attention to the more relaxed atmosphere as a contrast to traditional reading rooms; talking and group study are encouraged. There are even plans to permit hot drinks, with staff keen to promote the new tea room off the Old Bod quad.
Initial feedback on the area has been positive. The space was welcomed as something ‘very different’ by one visitor.
The development will also greatly increase access for those of limited mobility, with a new lift allowing movement to the upper and lower reading rooms and even occasional visits to the Rad Cam.
One student who has never directly accessed Oxford libraries before commented that she was looking forward to “an environment more conducive to study,” rather than having books delivered to her college room.
The book stacks previously housed in the area have migrated to Swindon, allowing the New Bod’s reincarnation into a ‘Special Collections research library” due to open in 2015. A former underground bookstore is to become the location for frequently ordered and new material.