Tower of London

Tower of London

Thursday, July 23, 2009

ACADEMIC- Bodleian Library at Oxford University

Any serious academic knows the power of the name Oxford in the higher education community. Just the mere whisper of Oxford in association with a person or project elevates the research to a new level. It is no wonder then that the opportunity to tour the Bodleian Library at Oxford University is the ultimate reason some students decide to enter the British Studies program. To be able to study in the wake of some of the world’s greatest thinkers is not an opportunity that arises everyday.

The libraries did not disappoint. They look exactly as you hope they would. The tomes on the shelves date back centuries and are in languages as varied as the student body. The towers that store the books implement the best technology available in order to ensure that these precious manuscripts will be accessible to scholars for generations to come. Inside and out, the libraries appear as though they have not changed in centuries; but to the trained eye there is much going on behind the scenes in order to maintain the classic look of Oxford while doing the more important work of making sure that the information they house is ready when called upon.

The nature of our tour focused on the history of the area and the architecture of the buildings. Our tour guides were wonderful, and they certainly knew their history, but they were not librarians. As a library student, I felt I missed out on some of the wonderful fundamentals of academic librarianship that a world class university such as Oxford would be able to impart on an up-and-coming professional. After all, some of the most groundbreaking and important research in the world right now is happening within these very walls. And with that glory comes a very great responsibility. It is not enough to order something from another institution or to let a scholar know that something has gone out of print. I would have liked to know more about the process for obtaining information-especially when that information is not on the grounds. I also would have liked to know more about how the library staff supports their students and visiting scholars in their research. I imagine the everyday questions they receive are not like those of most librarians.

I left Oxford University with more questions than when I arrived. Then again, isn’t that the sign of a great university? A student should never leave feeling they have learned it all but with a greater thirst for knowledge than ever before.

For more information about the Bodleian Library at Oxford University, click here.

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