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Sir Philip Pullman opens newly renovated Exeter College Library

Sir Philip Pullman, author of His Dark Materials, formally opened Exeter College Library on Saturday 18th May, following a year of a “multimillion pound” restoration and transformation project. 

Exeter College’s library had been closed for over a year due to extensive renovations and the restored Victorian Gothic library has recently been reopened. Originally opened in 1857, the library was first designed by Sir George Gilbert Scott. The renovations are said to have “enhanced” its original traits. The College wrote on its website: “The stonework, woodwork and oak bookcases have been restored, and where there is new woodwork […] outstanding craftsmanship has ensured that it is of the highest quality throughout and sympathetic to Gilbert Scott’s vision.”

Exeter College told Cherwell: “The library now has step-free access, a lift to access all floors of the building, a wheelchair accessible WC, and desks that can be raised or lowered electronically.” New Architects, who redesigned the library, have also improved the lighting, electrics, ventilation, and environmental performance of the building, with every desk having its own plug sockets and lights. The number of reader spaces was increased by about 30%, as a new mezzanine floor was built in the Library annexe. 

Sir Philip Pullman, who attended the reopening, addressed the new technological improvements. Before cutting the ceremonial ribbon, Pullman said: “Look up Exeter College Library online and you will see the sort of technology that, in the words of Arthur C. Clarke, is indistinguishable from magic. All that information at the stroke of a few keys on your phone. We should be walking about in a continuous state of wonder.”

He continued: “The library of any place of learning is the engine room, the treasure chamber, the nursery, the seedbed, the well of inspiration, the arsenal, the kitchen garden, the beacon, the lighthouse, the workshop, the glory of the past, the present and the future.”

Exeter College Library is now named the Jackson Library after the project’s main donor William Jackson, a 1983 Geography graduate of the College. The co-founder of Twitter, Biz Stone, and his wife, Livia Stone, together contributed $1 million to the renovation and alumnus Bart Holaday, who finished a degree in Philosophy, Politics, and Economics in 1965, made an “equally generous donation”. All attended the ceremony on Saturday. 

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