Wednesday, September 1, 2010
The Bodleian library is located in Oxford University, which is the oldest University in England and the 3rd oldest in the world. While Oxford's statutes and chancellor were founded in 1201, the first university was not built until the 15th century, and even then the project took 65 years to fund and build. The first building of Oxford's library was originally an exam hall, but thanks to the donation of books by Duke Humphrey in 1439, Oxford had the foundations of an academic collection, and in 1488 the first library opened. However, the Bodleian Library as we know it today did not begin until 1598 when Thomas Bodley, a fellow at Merton under Elizabeth I, donated his his fortune and collection to Oxford university and its library. In fact, the Bodleian has the 1st Mezzanine level ever built in England, and all the books from Bodley's time are shelved in their original order. Bodley insisted that the library be reference only and no one could borrow materials,so that even Charles I had to use a private reading room. He also said that all scholars should have access to the materials, not just those who attended Oxford. In addition, Bodley also organized the first copyright agreement for the library, which used to receive copies of everything but now only does so on request.
While there have been modern additions to the library, change has been slow in coming in some areas. For example, until 1928 only natural light was used in the library itself, and in 1980 Oxford sent their paper catalogs to an Ohio company to be digitized. In addition they have SOLO, the Search Oxford Library System, as well as glass slides, microfiche and an agreement with Google Books regarding the digitization of materials which has become public domain.