Empty Shelves

Day 28: Radcliffe Science Library

This account is a part of the Summer Adventures ‘17 project, my attempt to try something new every day from June 1st to August 31st, while keeping a record of those experiences. Started as a way to commit the summer to memory, the project has quickly evolved into a visual diary, with a side of research and poorly executed jokes. Knock knock.

The Radcliffe Science Library occupies the corner of Parks Road and South Parks Road (quietly and correctly suggesting that the University Parks are positioned diagonally ‘behind’ the building). Designed by Sir Thomas Jackson, the library was built in 1901 and, although not as spectacular as some of the architect’s other works (the Examination Schools, Hertford College with its Bridge of Sighs, etc.), it is still a very official-looking stone building whose exterior implies a link to the University.

At the moment I have access to the Bodleian Libraries in two capacities: as a reader (an alumna of the University) and as an employee. The former means I have retained the ability to use the Archives and leave my greasy fingerprints on ancient manuscripts; the latter means I can freely access the libraries during term-time. Hooray! Books!

The glorious Taylorian Library is located halfway between work and home, and so I tend to favour it over any other options. Yet, the Radcliffe Science Library is positioned almost as conveniently, and I had been wondering if it would make for a good study space, too. (It is open until 10 at night in term-time, you know.) Today I decided to drop by the RSL and see it in person: Is it nice? Is it spacious? Is it truly made of bound journals propped up by empty coffee cups? Does it smell of wisdom with a tinge of regret?

Radcliffe Science Library
RADCLIFFE SCIENCE LIBRARY. JUNE 28, 2017, 16:11. KOTTONEN / CHANCE & PHYSICS

The results were rather unexpected, as I saw no books at the Radcliffe Science Library. The shelves were bare and desolate, and the rooms felt like unused storage space. That is due to the reorganisation of the print collections, which should be over by the end of summer. For now, the bookcases look like a librarian’s nightmare. Or so I thought, but when I asked my housemates for their definitions of a librarian’s nightmare I did not get ‘All the books have vanished!’ but the following:

  • All the books have been misplaced and there is no system or order to anything.
  • All the books are now Fifty Shades of Grey.

‘Which means they had been misplaced anyway,’ remarked Steve.

Right as he may be, finding no volumes in their rightful spaces was nevertheless disconcerting. Otherwise, the rooms of the Radcliffe Science Library impressed me as most suitable for studying: the desks are wider and more secluded than at the Rad Cam or the Old Bod, and what it lacks in decor in comparison to the Taylorian, the Radcliffe gains in spaciousness.

Should they bring the books back, I might make this library into one of my usual hangouts.


Current album: Sufjan Stevens, Bryce Dessner, Nico Muhly, and James McAlister, Planetarium
Current book: Mark Lawrence, The Red Sister
Current TV series: The Handmaid’s Tale, Series 1 (2017)

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