Bodleian staff have admitted that the redevelopment of the New Bodleian is on hold indefinitely.
The news comes after the final appeal for the £29m new book depository at Osney Mead failed.
Richard Ovenden, assistant director of the Bod, said the depository’s final rejection will halt any progress, as there is nowhere else to store the New Bodleian’s millions of books.
The New Bodleian renovation aimed to transform the housing of the Bod’s collections and create a display hall to exhibit its treasures.
The depository design, which could have stored up to 8 million volumes, was thrown out amid fears that the proposed building would disrupt Oxford’s iconic skyline.
The Bodleian’s dismal storage conditions have created a crisis for the storage of their extensive archive and manuscript collection.
The National Archives highlighted the urgency of the depository plans this year, as they again granted the Bodleian a mere temporary licence to store archives and manuscripts, on the condition that storage improves.
Sarah Thomas said, “we absolutely passionately need the depository,” calling the current storage conditions “abysmal.”
Richard Ovenden said the state of the stacks was “really bad practice” at the moment.
The stacks have some fire control but no fire protection. They form, he said, a “massive forest of unprotected steel columns.” These stacks have also been overcrowded for many years, operating at an estimated 130% of their capacity.
The archive and manuscript documents must now be moved to temporary storage within existing Bodleian buildings until the depository plans can go ahead.
More than £25m has been donated to the New Bodleian Library work by the Garfield Weston Foundation, as well as £5m by Julian Blackwell, of book shop fame. Dr Sarah Thomas said, “we’ve been in contact with our donors and they’re extremely sympathetic.”