University of Oxford

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Oxford University Gazette, 14 May 2009: University Agenda

CONGREGATION 2 June 2 p.m.

¶ Members of Congregation are reminded that written notice of any intention to vote against the legislative proposal at item 1 or any of the resolutions at items 2 and 3 below, signed in each case by at least two members of Congregation, must be given to the Registrar by noon on Monday, 25 May (see the note on the conduct of business in Congregation at the end of 'University Agenda').

1 Voting on Legislative Proposal: Statute X: Degrees, Diplomas, and Certificates

Explanatory Note

Following the merger of Westminster College with Oxford Brookes University, the arrangements under which Oxford University validated many of the courses offered by Westminster College ceased for all students admitted on or after 1 April 2000. Under transitional arrangements for students already on course who were admitted to read for an Oxford University qualification, the University continued to validate the relevant courses. As there are no longer any students still on course or awaiting conferral of a degree of Master of Education and Bachelor of Education, the following change amends Statute X to remove these degrees from the list of those conferred by the University.

WHEREAS it is expedient to amend Statute X concerning degrees, diplomas and certificates to remove the degrees of Master of Education and Bachelor of Education from the list of degrees conferred by the University, THE UNIVERSITY ENACTS AS FOLLOWS.

In section 1 of Statute X (Supplement (1) to Gazette No. 4633, 9 October 2002, as amended with effect from 14 June 2005 and 11 October 2005, Gazette Vol. 135, p. 1174, 16 June 2005; Vol.136, p.184, 13 October 2005), delete 'Master of Education' and 'Bachelor of Education'.

2 Voting on Resolutions authorising the use of space for the Oxford University Library Services' Book Storage Facility

Explanatory Note


The University recently completed the purchase of Plot 340, Thornhill Road, South Marston, Swindon for the purpose of constructing a new Book Storage Facility for Oxford University Library Services (OULS). Contracts were exchanged on 13 March 2009 and the acquisition of the site was made public on 17 March 2009. For reasons of commercial confidentiality, before that date, only general information about the site could be issued within the University. The formal approval of Congregation is now being sought for the allocation of part of the site to the Book Storage Facility.


The Book Storage Facility is an enabling element in the Libraries service strategy to improve the overall speed of access to information. Other features of the Libraries' strategy include: the renovation of the New Bodleian Library into a modern special collections library; the consolidation of several humanities libraries into a large, open-stack library; expansion of direct access in other library facilities; electronic delivery of an increasing number of requests; and the creation of an environment conforming to BS5454 for the storage of the Library's heritage collections.

The storage requirements of OULS have evolved over several years. Originally, it had hoped to continue to expand its facility at Nuneham Courtenay, but, when it became clear that it would not receive planning permission to add further modules, it sought other land. On a parallel path with the Libraries' critical space needs, engendered by the high volume intake through legal deposit, is the need to renovate the New Bodleian to provide storage that meets accepted archival standards for the Libraries' invaluable collections. The coincidence of these two needs, plus the availability of land at Osney Mead, led the Libraries to design a storage facility that called for the introduction of ASRS (Automated Storage and Retrieval System). Such systems, though less commonly used in large research libraries, are especially well-suited to mitigate the impact of the removal of browsable high-use collections to closed stacks. The University of Chicago, for example, which has a very large open collection of eight million volumes largely under one roof, chose to construct its ASRS facility as an extension of its Regenstein Library. ASRS makes very efficient use of land because its robotic retrieval enables buildings of heights of eighteen metres or more. When items in collections are expected to be requested frequently, the ASRS can provide more rapid retrieval than manual operations. The British Library is just completing a seven- million-volume ASRS facility in West Yorkshire. It operates a fee-based international document-delivery service where expedited delivery is an option, although the default delivery standard for readers in the British Library is twenty-four hours.

When the University was denied planning permission for a facility at Osney Mead, the Libraries began to re- examine its service strategies to develop an approach that would not lead to deterioration in service if collections needed to be stored at a greater distance. With a decisive transition to electronic access, it is now feasible to locate print collections with digital surrogates outside Oxford. Local experience in the Radcliffe Science Library mirrors that of California libraries where research found that there were few requests for physical items when electronic copies were available.

By deciding to retain valuable, fragile, and more heavily used special collections in the heart of Oxford during the renovation of the New Bodleian, a further reduction in retrievals from the Book Storage Facility will occur. To improve service to readers, the Library will shift high-use collections to current and expanded open-access shelving and transfer lower-use material to the Book Storage Facility. As a consequence, the profile of the facility will be more akin to the typical high-density book storage facility and the number of movements (i.e. the addition of new material and requests for volumes to be consulted) is now calculated to be fewer than 500,000 per annum in contrast to the peak of 1.1m predicted for the Osney Mead Depository.

One important consequence of lower throughput is that the Harvard-style storage facility, or VNA (Very Narrow Aisle) model will be used, rather than the ASRS. This has the advantage of lowering the capital cost of the building significantly as well as eliminating ongoing maintenance payments for the system. The Harvard-style also permits one to staff to demand, whereas the ASRS commitment was a fixed annual cost.


The site in South Marston, Swindon meets the requirements established by the Libraries' strategy. Crucially, it was possible to acquire sufficient land easily and affordably and it is possible to proceed rapidly to construction as the site has existing planning permission for a warehouse that rises to fifteen metres. Other advantages include its situation in an area well-serviced by commercial outlets, public transportation, and a railway line. It is close to a distribution centre, and the local police headquarters are nearby. Twenty-eight miles from the centre of Oxford, the site is located at an interchange of the A420 with a direct route to Oxford.

The site was identified following an extensive review of properties submitted to the University Land Agent as conforming to criteria established by the Project Sponsor Group. In all, eighty-two sites were examined, from which a shortlist of four sites was derived. The South Marston site was the only one to meet all of the Project Sponsor Group's minimum criteria, which were:

1. Outline permission for B8 storage.

2. Unencumbered Freehold title available immediately.

3. Outside 1 in 100 year flood occurrence.

4. Minimum site potential for 10,000 sq.m. with 10 per cent ancillary space.

5. Minimum clear height of 11.75m.

6. Potential for 50 per cent expansion.

7. Level site with full services.

8. Within two hours of Oxford town centre (later refined to one hour).

9. Existing buildings must be new (built within the last eighteen months) and be fully compliant with Part L of Building Regulations. The site, which has an area of 6.07 hectares, was previously agricultural land which had planning permission for a B8 warehouse construction with heights extending to fifteen metres to the ridge line.


The Book Storage Facility envisaged for the site is a high-density storage facility approximately fifteen metres to ridge height that will use the Harvard-style storage that is now the de facto standard for large research libraries. Over sixty facilities in the United States have employed this model, chiefly for low-use collections. As a rule of thumb, such storage facilities operate most economically when requested items represent two to three percent of total volumes housed. With retrievals estimated at fewer than 150,000 annually in 2014, the Book Storage Facility will easily fit this profile.

Typically these facilities are located on low-cost land at some distance from metropolitan areas and offer deliveries once or twice daily. For example, Harvard's Deposit Library, located about thirty- five miles from Cambridge, Massachusetts, now holds almost eight million volumes and advertises same-day delivery for requests received before 6.45 a.m. Columbia, the New York Public Library, and Princeton operate a combined enterprise located on Princeton's Forrestal campus. Deliveries to the New York City Libraries are via courier at 4 a.m. and occur on a next-day cycle.

The Library predicts that the use of materials stored at its facility will be low, and that twice-daily deliveries will meet reasonable demand. This is consistent with, or exceeds best practice of, other research libraries for low-use material, where deliveries often occur on a twenty-four-hour delivery cycle.

Since warehouse-management skills will be needed in the Book Storage Facility's workforce, it is likely that the operation will draw local workers to fill positions, although OULS staff will be eligible to transfer to the Facility if suitably qualified. However, there is sufficient staff turnover in OULS that no difficulty is foreseen in absorbing current staff into other vacant positions in Oxford. It is envisaged that this transition will be managed over a three-year period.

To understand how the Facility will function, it is necessary both to describe the central Oxford University Library Services and the Facility itself. Central Oxford users will meet an increasing number of their information requests through direct access, either from open shelves or from electronic resources. Users downloaded six million articles and other content in 2006, and another 1.4 million items in the collections circulated through borrowing. Requests from closed stores were around 400,000, representing less than five per cent of the measurable use of the collections. As we have seen, the introduction of alternative measures will result in a smaller number of such requests in the future. When the Humanities and Mathematics Library comes on line, we anticipate increased use of the open-stack collections housed there as a result of an increased population having easy access to a wide range of interdisciplinary monographs. Adopting service measures that are popular with users who have experienced them outside of Oxford, the Libraries will increase delivery to the desktop by scanning hard-copy or acquiring it commercially when needs are urgent.

The Libraries will continue to analyse the nature of items requested to locate them optimally for user consultation. It will also study its materials handling processes to reduce the number of times items are handled between request and delivery. The Book Storage Facility will be a highly specialised warehouse operation. When it opens in Michaelmas Term 2010, the Library expects to add more than 150,000 items monthly, building to almost five million items by 2013, after which almost one million items will be withdrawn for rehousing in the renovated New Bodleian, joining the 400,000 that will return from the RSL. New accessions will arrive at the rate of 150,000 annually.

Deliveries from the Book Storage Facility will correlate with demand, but are anticipated to be twice daily on weekdays. The potential for a Saturday morning delivery will also be explored. Current operations are staffed to handle peak loads that accumulate between mid- afternoon on Friday and Monday morning when no fetching occurs. Strategic evening and weekend fetching and a Saturday delivery may reduce this congestion and improve service. It has been estimated that over 40 per cent of all current requests are delivered on the day following their request. The Library's intention is to increase the percentage of requests fulfilled on the same day.

If feasible, the Library will use hybrid or electric vehicles for deliveries to lower its carbon footprint. The Library had intended to make twelve deliveries per day from its Osney Mead facility with a twenty-minute round trip, and an estimated total twenty hours road time weekly. The new plans for the South Marston facility call for twice daily deliveries, plus one Saturday journey, estimated at thirty- three hours' road time weekly.

Like its British Library and American research library counterparts, Oxford will upgrade its services by offering the option of delivery to the desktop of suitable items such as journal articles or book chapters. For readers with urgent needs or who need to consult large runs of journals, there will be a small reading room. Items requested more than once will be reviewed for transfer to open shelving in Oxford. Special arrangements will be made for readers needing to engage intensively with large volumes of materials in Oxford.


At its meeting on 19 February 2009, the Buildings and Estates Subcommittee approved the submission of a detailed planning application for the proposed Facility. It did so having viewed detailed architectural drawings and plans and sufficient information to enable thorough discussion, considering in particular: the process by which the site had been chosen and the reasons it was the favoured site among all of those considered; the distance of the site from Oxford and implications of this; the number of journeys between Oxford and the site planned per day; the forecast level of demand for material in the proposed Facility and how it would be met; the capacity of the proposed Facility and the scope for future expansion; and the cost and carbon footprint of the scheme, both of which were noted to be lower than the Osney Mead scheme.

The Subcommittee noted that the site purchased was the only one to meet every search criterion. At 6.07 hectares, it provides ample space for the construction of the Book Storage Facility, and for its future expansion and for other developments, should those be deemed appropriate by the University. The Subcommittee gave further consideration to the matter at its meeting on 19 March 2009, following which it agreed to recommend that the portion of the site acquired with the intention of constructing the Book Storage Facility be allocated to OULS. The remainder of the site will be held by the Oxford University Estates Directorate until such time as other suitable uses are proposed. The Subcommittee has agreed that any future consideration of allocation of space on the site should take into account the needs of OULS at that time.

Consequential to the allocation of this space is the need to remove the allocation to OULS of part of the Alden Press site at Osney Mead, which was approved by Congregation on 27 June 2006, as the site is no longer needed for the Osney Depository project. The removal of the allocation to OULS of the site of the current SERS Building, approved by Congregation on 15 November 2005, is not sought at this time. The SERS building is being used for the temporary storage of book stock to facilitate the delivery of the Library Strategy, and it is appropriate for this allocation to remain during the implementation of the Strategy.

At its meeting on 27 April 2009, on the recommendation of its Planning and Resource Allocation Committee, Council endorsed the Buildings and Estates Subcommittee's proposal that resolutions be put to Congregation to authorise the use of the space on the Swindon site and release of the part of the former Alden Press site that had previously been allocated to OULS.

Text of Resolutions concerning the OULS Book Storage Facility

(i) That the part of Plot 340, Thornhill Road, South Marston, Swindon (approximately 12,000 sq.m) that the University has acquired with the intention of constructing a new Book Storage Facility be allocated to OULS;

(ii) That the allocation to OULS of part of the former Alden Press site be set aside.

3 Voting on Resolutions authorising the use of space for the Direct Labour Organisation warehouse facilities

Explanatory Note

The Direct Labour Organisation (DLO, part of the Estates Directorate, OUED) currently makes use of a warehouse at Osney Mead. For a variety of operational and safety reasons, and on the advice of the Safety Office and Oxford Mutual Ltd, it is considered that the building is no longer fit for purpose. It is proposed that the DLO facility be relocated to a leased warehouse in Summertown, and the existing warehouse be reallocated to the Land Agent's Office for letting or redevelopment. (Interest has already been expressed in the site)

The DLO would satisfy all its storage requirements in the new location. The facility for departments to hire lockable containers for storage purposes would be lost.

Text of Resolutions

(i) That authorisation to obtain a lease on a warehouse in Summertown of approximately 610 sq.m. of overall floor area be given and its allocation to OUED approved;

(ii) That the release of the Osney Mead warehouse by OUED and its reallocation to the Land Agent's Office for letting or redevelopment be approved.

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