Oxford University Gazette, 22 September 2005
A University Library for the Twenty-first CenturyA Report to Congregation by the Curators of the University Libraries
1. Following the outline statement by the Curators in the Gazette of 24 June 2005, this is the first of a series of reports to Congregation on key strategic proposals for the future development and delivery of library services in the University. The aim of the proposals is to provide, over the next five to seven years, a greatly improved service, worthy of the collections which our libraries house, and fit for the students, scholars and researchers who require much better access to them. This report makes the case to Congregation for allocating space at Osney Mead for a new automated book depository, and relates this proposal to a broader, longer-term estates strategy for the University's libraries.
2. The present report will be followed by publication on-line of the full business case for the depository, which is due to be considered by Council on 10 October after scrutiny by its Planning and Resource Allocation Committee. The business case includes financial, technical and logistical documentation and risk analysis and, subject to approval by Council, will be available electronically  by 17 October. A display is also being mounted for members of the University to explain the need for the depository in the context of the overall proposals for the development of the library estate. The display will be in the Van Houten Room, University Offices, Wellington Square, on 28 September (10 a.m.7 p.m.), 29 September (8 a.m.7 p.m.), and 30 September (8 a.m.3 p.m.). Staff will be on hand to answer questions. The display will be available electronically from 3 October. 
3. Submission to Congregation of a Resolution allocating space at Osney Mead for an automated depository has been rescheduled from 18 October to 15 November to allow sufficient time for Congregation to study the full business case after it is published.
4. The new depository is one element of a comprehensive library estates strategy that has been developed in successive editions of the OULS five-year strategic plan, the current version of which (Vision for 2010) was published as a Supplement to the 24 June 2005 Gazette and is available electronically.  The estates strategy is just one of a series of systematic and integrated plansfor collection development, electronic delivery, conservation and collection care, and human resourcesthat the creation of an integrated library system has made possible. One of the weaknesses identified by the 1995 Thomas Report  was the absence of any 'single focal point within the [library] sector from which a rounded view of who should provide what service, where and when, can be taken.' The creation of the OULS has changed that, and is allowing the University to take a comprehensive and coordinated approach to the measures required to maintain and enhance the infrastructure for the delivery of library and information services that meet the developing needs of teaching and research.
5. The University's central library services are having to respond to a number of key demands:
What is being proposed in response to these demands is an integrated estates and collections strategy which is expected to take from five to seven years to implement fully. The investment (which would come from a mix of external funding and University resources) will provide significant improvements to the collections and associated services, which can be developed at lower recurrent cost through savings in staff, estate and other operating costs. The new depository is vital to this strategy, because it not only allows for essential and urgently needed growth space for collections, but also provides the decanting space required by some of the other developments. For that reason, this report places the case for the depository in the context of the wider picture. However, it is important to note that:
6. The present proposals set out a programme of works over the next five to seven
which together constitute a major renewal of the University's library estate. The main benefit
will be to the Humanities (whose principal laboratory is to be found in the University's
central libraries and collections), but there are also proposed investments in a new medical
information centre and a refurbished science library, and a major investment in electronic
collections which will renew information support for scientific and other subjects. The cost
of the entire capital programme would, over its five- to seven-year duration, amount to
around £100m, with the funding coming both from the University and from external
sources generated through the continuing Libraries Capital Campaign.
Current situation and issues
7. This building programme is intended to address three major problems with the existing library estate:
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The twentieth-century achievement
8. In the first half of the twentieth century there were two major building developments on what is now the Central Bodleian site to address the problem of rapidly expanding stock: the Radcliffe Camera underground bookstore (1912) and the New Bodleian Library (begun 1937, opened 1940). In terms of the engineering solutions adopted, these book storage projects were innovative in their time. The Camera underground bookstore (c. one million volumes equivalent capacity) introduced one of the first known examples of rolling stack, the design of which is attributed to W.E. Gladstone. Giles Gilbert Scott's New Bodleian combined a core of half-height bookstack floors with perimeter full height reading rooms, and a ziggurat design with 60 per cent of the stack floor area below ground. These floors (like the Camera underground bookstore) had to be tanked to avoid water penetration into the bookstack areas, since, on average, half of the stock held underground is below the surrounding water table at any time. The underground book conveyor, sunk in a new tunnel under Broad Street, linked the New Bodleian stacks, which were built to contain 2.7 million equivalent volumes, with the main reading spaces in the large reading rooms in the Old Bodleian. The conveyor was never extended through to the Camera. An earlier underground trackway, linking the Old Bodleian and the Camera, was removed when the conveyor was installed and was replaced by the system still used today of using book trolleys and manual handling of books up several stairways to deliver material to the large reading rooms in the Camera.
9. This early twentieth-century infrastructure is now in need of renewal. Oxford's main
library has not yet undergone a major upgrade on a scale equivalent to those from which a
number of its peer institutions have benefited over the last 25 years, examples being Harvard,
Cambridge, and Trinity College, Dublin.
A longer-term solution to growth of stock is required than can be provided by piecemeal
enlargement of existing capacity. The book conveyorwhich is crucial to the continuing
use of the reading rooms in the Old Bodleianneeds to be completely overhauled. As
already pointed out, The National Archives has recently given only temporary renewal to the
Bodleian as an approved repository for material held on behalf of the nation because the
conditions for storage and consultation of material in the New Bodleian do not meet modern
standards. It is urgent that the University proceed with the refurbishment of this library so
that its major collections can be properly stored and its Approved Status thereby retained.
New capital investment programme in library buildings
10. The Curators of the University Libraries are making the case for a major capital investment programme with five main objectives:
The estates objectives will be met by a buildings and refurbishment programme consisting of:
The proposed library estates plan
will lead to an estimated net reduction in library space of up to 6,148 square metres through
more condensed storage and more efficient use of library space, but at the same time
delivering improved service levels, with a space cost saving of £154k per annum. Over
a five-year period, staffing costs are also estimated to reduce by up to £2m overall,
with savings made through redeployment, staff turnover and voluntary severance. Such
savings will arise from the more efficient deployment of staff in more modern buildings and
by extensive use of automated storage and retrieval. It is important to stress, though, that
service levels will themselves be enhanced.
Book storage requirements and current provision11. Though the New Bodleian stacks were intended to provide one hundred years' growth, the additional storage lasted only sixty years and in the 1970s a remote store was developed at Nuneham Courtenay, eight miles from Oxford, with the intention of providing up to forty years' expansion. The New Bodleian is now 130 per cent full (currently holding in excess of 3.5 million equivalent volumes), measured against its original design capacity, and the Nuneham Courtenay bookstore (built from 1974 onwards and holding 1.3 million equivalent volumes) also has no expansion space and cannot now be extended because planning permission has been refused for further storage modules.
12. Despite the advent of electronic full text, the growth of the physical collections within the OULS is not reducing. Council has recently (September 2004) examined the costs and benefits of accepting UK copyright material and has reaffirmed the University's commitment to its status as a legal deposit institution.
13. With no space for growth in any of its stores or central library stacks, OULS has
forced over the last year to outhouse collections in temporary commercial storage in
and Cheshire. This can only be a short-term expedient. It is expensive to maintain (of the
order of £110k for 20056 and increasing thereafter at approximately £10k
month by month), and a permanent solution is urgently needed so that a proper new
permanent depository can be developed to house existing lesser-used stock in proper storage
conditions, with capacity for stock growth over the next twenty years, and beyond if
A new depository
14. The early commissioning of a new book depository is fundamental to the smooth day-to-day running of the library system since it will provide for the current shortfall in book storage and allow for future growth to 2026. In recent years lack of space at Nuneham Courtenay led to the accumulation of material in the New Bodleian stack which, in turn, inhibited access to certain parts of the stack for book-fetching. Such serious interruptions to service have only been avoided subsequently by the expensive and short-term measure of transferring material into remote commercial storage. A new depository is also crucial for the decant of stock from the New Bodleian and the RSL/Hooke to allow those libraries to be upgraded and developed.
15. Research into types of library storage systems shows that an Automated Storage and Retrieval System (ASRS) is now the most cost-effective approach. This replaces conventional or rolling stack systems with robotic retrieval from high racking in order to achieve storage of up to ten times more density than conventional shelving, and six times more than rolling stack. It is a proven technology which has been used in storage and distribution for forty years and which has been installed in national and university libraries worldwide since 1991. There are now over fourteen such library systems in operation, with eight more in construction and planning (see the appendix to this report), including an eight-million equivalent volume depository being planned by the British Library at Boston Spa. Sites inspected by OULS and other staff (including staff from the Estates Directorate) are indicated in the appendix.
16. The proposed site for the new library depository is at Osney Mead, where the library service is already basing its support operations (e.g. IT support, and, in the future, Technical Services) in the Osney One Building. The University has land available on the existing site of the office and warehouse building that currently houses the OULS Systems and Electronic Services section (the SERS Building) and around the Osney One Building (formerly Blackwell's Scientific). If required, there is room for future expansion of the depository on an adjacent site also owned by the University. Alternative sites in Oxford and beyond have been sought over a number of years by the University Land Agent and considered, but a careful search has revealed no currently available site capable of housing a depository of the capacity required and close enough to Oxford to ensure an effective and reliable book-delivery service to the reading rooms in central Oxford.
17. The depository, which it is proposed to build on the Osney Mead site using ASRS technology, would have a capacity of at least 8.25 million equivalent volumes, and would provide for the immediate permanent housing of 4.3 million equivalent volumes, with twenty years' growth to 2026. The stock which would be permanently located at Osney is currently stored in the New Bodleian (c. 12 million equivalent volumes out of a total there of 3.5 million, depending on the scope of the New Bodleian project), at Nuneham Courtenay (1.3 million), in the Camera underground bookstore (0.6 million), in the Radcliffe Science Library (0.5 million) and in various other locations (0.4 million). The spare capacity would be used in the interim to decant the whole of the permanent New Bodleian stock to allow for the redevelopment of the stack. The consolidation of stock from the currently fragmented storage would allow reductions in recurrent staff and space costs. The Nuneham Courtenay modules would be released for alternative use, such as storage of secondary museum collections, and the Camera underground store would also be vacated. Space released in the New Bodleian stack will allow remodelling of this building to provide for more open shelf stock and enhanced reader facilities, with greatly improved storage for Special Collections stock.
18. The new depository would use a similar request method to the Automated Stack Request System already in use, with retrieval from the robotic store beginning in a matter of seconds. The current delivery standard of 80 per cent within three hours will be maintained (or in the case of Nuneham Courtenay improved upon). Vans will run from Osney Mead up to twelve times a day to all major library sites. A regular and reliable van service already operates between the central library sites and the OULS and SERS offices at Osney Mead.
19. The new depository designs have already been discussed in outline with the
authorities and there are believed to be no major problems with planning permissions. Most
of the site is already above the designated floodplain (one in a hundred year flood contour),
and engineering measures will be taken to raise the building further so that the risk of flood
damage will be lower than for those levels of the New Bodleian stack and the Camera
underground bookstore where the stock already lies below the water table. Provision will also
be made for alternative power generation in the event of power failure. The depository stock
will be held in a low oxygen environment for fire prevention and improved stock
and will meet the updated BS5454 standards for book storage (expected to be revised in 2006
to take account of ASRS). In short, there will be a much improved and safer environment
any current provision for book storage in central Oxford.
New Bodleian upgrading and development20. Development of the New Bodleian has been recognised for the past ten years as a key objective for the University, and it is a cornerstone of the current Libraries' Capital Campaign. The existing mechanical and electrical systems in the New Bodleian have now passed the age when they can realistically continue to be maintained, and the building needs to be brought up to modern standards for collections storage, fire detection and suppression, and health and safety. Both readers' facilities and staff working conditions need to be greatly improved. In a recent visitation to the Bodleian (February 2005), The National Archives was unable to provide a full period renewal for the Bodleian's licence to hold collections for the nation. However, temporary renewal was approved in recognition of the work that has been done to improve conditions, and in acknowledgement of the fact that there are plans in hand to remedy deficiencies in storage measured against standard BS5454. The National Archives expectation in awarding the temporary renewal is that further significant improvements will be made within the next three years.  In order to refurbish the New Bodleian it will be necessary to remove completely all the stock (3.5 million equivalent volumes) to expose the superstructure. It is planned to use the twenty-year growth space in the new depository to hold this closed access stock for the three-year refurbishment rather than rent commercial storage at what would be a prohibitive cost. Since a proportion of the collection is low-use, this can be left in the depository permanently in improved conditions and without reduction to the current delivery standard.
21. This gives the University the opportunity to upgrade and develop, rather than
refurbish, the New Bodleian, and to provide a research facility based on the University's
Special Collections, with support facilities to rival the best available anywhere in the world.
The vision for the New Bodleian includes a permanent exhibition space to display the
Bodleian's treasures, and a suite of seminar rooms where students can be taught 'hands-on'
using Special Collections materials. Existing Special Collections reading rooms would be
extended, and more open stack provided for direct browsing. Special Collections stock
currently scattered around other libraries and held in inadequate conditions could be brought
together in a more secure and appropriate environment. Offices could be provided for
'Bodleian Visiting Scholars' so that academic exploitation of the collections can be
facilitated. If financially viable, a restaurant for university members and visitors could be
installed on the ground floor, as envisaged in the Broad Street Plan. This remodelling, which
might be phased, has an estimated cost, depending on its scope, of between £25m and
£50m, with £10m already earmarked by the University and with the remainder
in the process of being raised through the Libraries' Capital Campaign and from other
external sources. The refurbishment is expected to take up to five years to complete; so that
if stock decanting and staged reading room improvements were to begin in 20078 the
major building works would be completed by 2012 at the latest. At this stage timing is
necessarily flexible, however, and will depend partly on the completion of the
Humanities/Area Studies Library on the RI site. During the main part of the New Bodleian
works services such as the Oriental reading room, Modern Manuscripts, Maps and Music
would move to alternative locations nearby so that consultation services were not disrupted.
The Old Bodleian will remain substantially as it is at present, devoted to reading rooms in
support of research in the Humanities.
A new Humanities Library on the Radcliffe Infirmary Site22. The University's library provision has grown piecemeal since the Second World War, with numerous departments and faculties creating their own small libraries, largely uncoordinated with the major research collections in the Bodleian Library Group (Central Bodley, Radcliffe Science Library, Rhodes House, Law Library) and the Taylor Institution Library. Though some of these libraries were funded through the Libraries Board, it was not until the establishment of the Oxford University Library Services (OULS) in 2000 that there was a University-wide framework to allow these libraries to be organised as an integrated service for readers. Since 2000, some forty libraries have been merged organisationally into the OULS; and in 2003 the University Council accepted the recommendation of its working party to review the initial period of library integration that it was in the interest of library users overall that this integration process be accelerated and completed by 2007. 
23. Whilst there have recently been some major advances in consolidating collections in new buildings (e.g. Social Science Library, Saïd Business School, Sackler Library), some departmental libraries remain in cramped accommodation lacking expansion for stock and adequate facilities for readers. This is particularly the case for a number of the Humanities/Area Studies departments, where the ambition is to provide a new purpose-built Humanities Library on the Radcliffe Infirmary site, alongside the new Humanities Centre housing the academic departments and teaching accommodation. The maximum advantage for library operations would be achieved if twelve existing Humanities and Area Studies libraries (plus Mathematics which plans to move to the RI site), could be merged into one large library on this site. However, the decision as to which libraries will transfer to the new buildingand thus its sizeis one that will be determined by academic requirements. Nevertheless, the new library will certainly be very much larger than the successful Social Science Library, and will similarly result in an improved service for faculties and students. The site is available in late 2007, and the Humanities Library would take two years to build. Consideration will also need to be given to the refurbishment or upgrading and development of any of the humanities libraries it is eventually decided are not to merge into the Radcliffe Infirmary site library.
24. Decisions yet to be taken on the content of the Humanities Library on the RI site
have implications for the future use of the Radcliffe Camera, which currently houses
for subjects including History, Theology and English. Recognising the Camera's history and
its architectural status, the Curators intend that the building should be retained for library
purposes and its reading rooms as reading rooms. When decisions have been made about the
Humanities Library, the Curators will consult on options for library uses of the Camera.
Science and Medicine provision25. As part of the examination of the University's central library space requirements and information needs a consultative study called ELISO (Electronic Library and Information Service for Oxford) was undertaken with the support of all the academic divisions, and this reported in March 2005.  The finding was that Oxford University was underspending on electronic provision by £1m per annum, and that over a five-year period expenditure on subscriptions should be raised from the current £750k per annum to £1.75m per annum, with an immediate injection of £450k in capital spending to increase the number of electronic journal back-sets. Additional capital investment in IT equipment and in support staff was also found to be required.
26. ELISO proposed a business case to fund electronic expansion by consolidating the existing departmental library system in science, using the Radcliffe Science Library as a major hub. The business plan shows an initial investment balanced by a reduction in space, staff and materials costs over five years, with a break-even point after five years and cost recovery after ten years.
27. Over the next two to three years the Radcliffe Science Library and the Hooke
be combined to create an integrated lending and reference Science Library. The collections
will be rearranged and the building will be altered to cater for this change in function and
to accommodate the collections of those departmental libraries being incorporated. Enhanced
electronic provision and extended opening hours will accompany these changes, which have
been broadly welcomed by the three science divisions. Provision for science will therefore
through a modern centralised library service based on the RSL, backed by delivery of
research material from the new depository and supported by a much enhanced electronic
provision of journals and databases, available twenty-four hours a day across the University
network. Similarly, in medicine, the existing four libraries will be concentrated onto two
the present Cairns Library at the John Radcliffe site and a new Medical Research and
Information Centre on the Old Road site, combining services currently delivered through the
Churchill, Radcliffe Infirmary and Old Road site libraries. The Medical Research and
Information Centre, expected to open in 2008, will cost £1.9m and will be funded
through the Libraries Capital Campaign.
A new Conservation Centre28. The final strand in the OULS estates strategy is to rehouse the library's conservation facilities, currently inadequately accommodated across scattered sites in Central Bodley, Nuneham Courtenay and Osney Mead, into a purpose-built centre. This initiative, funded through the Libraries Capital Campaign, will provide a modern facility for conservation work, including training facilities for staff, apprentices, interns and others.
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Summary of principal capital proposals for the University library estate29. The table below shows the expected capital costs of the four major proposals for the library estate, which total between £80.9m and £115.9m. Part of the funding of these costs (£11.8m) has already been earmarked by the University. The remainder is expected to come from the Libraries Capital Campaign, which is currently underway, and from the Oxford University Press, whose Delegates have agreed in principle that a substantial sum should be transferred to the University over the next five years towards capital projects in the University's libraries and other purposes. With the exception of the depository, costs depend on decisions still to be taken about the size of the developments.
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Conclusion30. This report has set out the case for the new depository in the context of other strategic proposals being developed for the future of the University's library services. As stated earlier, the detailed business case specifically for the depository is due to be considered by Council on 10 October after scrutiny by its Planning and Resource Allocation Committee and will be available on-line  after the meeting of Council. There will be further reports from the Curators to Congregation on the other proposals with respect to particular sites when they have been developed in detail. The development of proposals for the Central Bodleian, the RSL/Hooke, and the Humanities and Area Studies Library will be taken forward in consultation with the representative groups established by the Curators to liaise with divisions and faculties, beginning in Michaelmas Term. Members of Congregation will therefore have opportunity to consider these at a later stage. The only issue for immediate decision concerns the automated depository at Osney Mead.
31. A depository is required urgently to meet immediate storage requirements. It is also the
vital provision which will enable other developments necessary to provide an up-to-date
library service for the University; but it does not dictate their shape or content, on which
detailed planning and consultation will continue. It makes change for the better possible.
Without it, significant improvement is impossible. The Curators hope that members of
Congregation will agree with them that the strategic case for a new automated depository
sited at Osney Mead is persuasive and that its development should be approved.
Library depositories with ASRS installed[Libraries marked with an asterisk have been visited by OULS staff]
CSUN Oviatt Library, Northridge, California*
Bruce T. Halle Library, Eastern Michigan Univ., Ypsilanti, Michigan
Grand Valley State University, Allendale, Michigan*
Sonoma State University, Sonoma, California*
Lied Library, Las Vegas, Nevada*
Mildred Topp Othmer Library, Tokyo, Japan
Meiji University, New central Library, Tokyo, Japan
Kansai-Kan, National Diet Library, Tokyo, Japan
National Library of Norway, Mo - I - Rana, Norway*
Valparaiso University, Valparaiso, Indiana
Merrill Library, Utah State University, Logan, Utah*
Church of the Latter Day Saints Library, Salt Lake City, Utah
National Library of Spain, Barcelona
King County Library System, Preston, Washington (State)*
Libraries currently building ASRS systems
Chicago State University, Chicago, Illinois
Ekstrom Library, Univ. of Louisville, Louisville, Kentucky
Irving K. Barber Learning Centre, British Columbia, Canada
Santa Clara University, Santa Clara, California
Libraries planning ASRS systems
British Library, Boston Spa, England
Simon Fraser University, British Columbia, Canada
Long Beach, California State Univ., Long Beach, California.
National Library of Slovenia
[Footnotes] At http://www.ouls.ox.ac.uk/news/buildings a>.
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Report of Council's Working Party on Senior Library Posts (Supplement (1) to
Gazette No. 4373, 21 September 1995).
 See http://www-h
cl.harvard.edu/news/stories/2005/ala_building_award.html for details of Harvard's
 See http://www.library.yale.edu/ne
ws/smlrenovation.html for details of Yale's upgrade.
 See http://www.colu
mbia.edu/cu/lweb/indiv/butler/renovation/index.html for details of Columbia's
 See http://www.tcd.ie/Library/LIRC/
Photos/Photos.html for details of Trinity College, Dublin's upgrade.
of Council's Working Party to Review the Initial Period of Library Integration (chaired by
Sir Brian Follett). (Supplement (1) to Gazette No. 4650, 26 February 2003http://www.ox.ac.
 See http://www.admin.ox.ac.uk/li
b/oxonly/eliso/eliso.shtml for the report.
Supplement (1) to
Oxford University Gazette No. 4743. Thursday, 22 September 2005.