Friday, July 16, 2010

Bodleian Library Visit

Visiting the Bodleian Library was a fascinating experience. As our tour guide, Celia, noted, it contains a quirky mixture of archaic and modern elements. I was particularly intrigued by the often leading place the Bodleian Library has taken in the history of academic libraries.

One of the earliest innovations that can be traced to the Bodleian Library, we learned, was the now-quotidian practice of keeping books on shelves. The Bodleian also devised an early cataloging system--because its books were chained to the shelves and had to be filed spine-in. The practice of chaining books to the shelves was discontinued only in the early 20th century. Now, the library's books are stored in several stacks and are delivered to the reading room via a complicated conveyor belt system. From its start, with just 20 volumes, the Library is a national repository (along with the British Library)and collects 6% of materials printed in the UK.

Although our tour was extremely thorough, covering the growth of the library buildings as well as collections, I was disappointed that we were not shown any specific books from the collection. And although our guide was enthusiastic and well-informed, she was not a librarian, and so we didn't receive that unique perspective on the Library.

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