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  • Writer's pictureTenley Sablatzky

Who Gets Access and How Much - The Bodleian

Today we took a day-trip to the University of Oxford and saw two of their libraries; the Bodleian and the Christ Church library. Because we saw so much in so little time, this is going to be a two part blog entry, so we'll get to back to Christ Church in the next one.

First, we went to the Bodleian. Which, if you don't know is where the entry hall scenes of Harry Potter were filmed and it's an absolutely gorgeous building and collection.

The Great Hall (with only three tables because stupid muggles can't make their food magically appear and have to set up a buffet line instead)

But once I moved past drooling over Harry Potter film locations, the tour moved onto the library collections. This is where I learned about Duke Humfrey's library. Humfrey was the younger brother of Henry V who once claimed his success in the army was due to his study of classic literature. Due to the copyright restraints of the library, unfortunately have no pictures, so I'll try to describe the collection as best I can:

From the staircase, we entered into a long hallway, wall-to-wall full of antique books with large windows on either end. In front of each section of the bookcases they have a wooden fence, roped off to any but the librarians so that none of Humfrey's collection can be taken or damaged by library visitors or students. When the collection was first displayed, the tour guide informed us, the books were all kept on chains, so that if anyone - including royalty - came in to read they had to do so at the tables right in front of each shelf.

At this point I got to thinking about the issue of access, and how much is necessary, and how much is not enough. Only a select few ever get to see the Bodleian, and even fewer have the opportunity to study and use it for research purposes. Yes, there are some digital resources, but only some. My question is, as information professionals, how are we supposed to decide who has access to what materials? It's complicated question, one that I don't really know the answer to, but I'm glad the Bodleian was able to spark such a interesting chain of thought.

Bodleian entrance hall (also, part of the Harry Potter films)

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