Bodleian to relocate books “to Antarctica”

Yes, it’s true!  The Bodleian library, which receives all books in the UK for free from publishers, has moved all of its books to a large storage facility on a small island off Antarctica!

The Bodleian Libraries are 40 libraries serving Oxford University, including the Bodleian Library founded in 1602.

They are entitled to a copy of every book published in the UK and have been running out of space to store works for decades.

It will be predominantly low-usage books and maps which will be stored at the site …

Staff say that if a reader orders a book before 10am, the book will be fetched back to the central Oxford site “sometime”!  Now that’s service!

Librarian Sarah Thomas said: “This has been an important year in the history of the Bodleian.

“We have tagged and moved all our books, relocated our staff, prepared the New Bodleian building for its redevelopment, opened new facilities for readers in the heart of Oxford and refreshed and developed our IT capabilities.

They add:

The project to relocate the books is now complete and has been hailed as “an extraordinary success”.

Alright, I’m being sarcastic.  But not very; and those are real quotations from the BBC here.

What they’ve actually done is to build a warehouse in Swindon, 28 miles from Oxford, down a slow windy-twisty country lane and comes into town through a major traffic blackspot.

I think they must know that they’ve done something really stupid here.  Indeed I think we can tell that they’ve already had some flack for this one.

Why else would you put a “success” story out on the afternoon of Christmas Eve, unless you wanted no-one to see it?

If you lived in a sane world, you’d build the site on the outskirts of Oxford, on the ring road, perhaps 2-3 miles from the central Oxford site, and you’d build a light railway or monorail or something which ran continuously back and forth.  Wouldn’t you?

The only reason I can think of, for such a location, is that the price of building such a site in Oxford was made artificially high by the local council.  And a Google search reveals an Oxford Mail article stating that, yes, that this is exactly what happened.

Last year, the university was thwarted in its plans to build a £28m book depository on Oxford’s Osney Mead industrial estate after a long planning dispute, and has now bought the Swindon site.

And why?

John Tanner, city council cabinet member for a Cleaner, Greener Oxford, said: “It is a great pity if our planning decision has pushed Oxford’s Bodleian Library to Swindon….”

Green group leader Craig Simmons said: “It is good that the Bodleian was not allowed to build on a flood plain at Osney Mead…”

But there’s a sweeter plum still at the end of the Oxford Mail article, in response to criticism that shuttling books that distance by van wasn’t very “green”:

Dr Thomas said the books stored at Swindon would be predominantly low demand items and there would only be two deliveries a day to Oxford, significantly fewer than the 12 daily van journeys that  would have carried books from Osney Mead.

In which case, what use is the facility? Such is the corruption of our days, that the library actually boasts that its service will be of a poor standard, rather than apologising for it.

Honest men make things work, and do things efficiently.  But we all know what the children are like, of men who have made their own fortunes.  They tend to be spendthrifts.  They throw money away, and posture, expensively, with cash that they didn’t have to sweat to earn.

That’s what is happening here, as it does in the Third World.  Neither side cares about whether things actually work, or whether money is well spent.  Amour propre is more important.  The library is pleased to spite the council, and the councillors are pleased that they showed the library who is boss in order to protect the water-vole (or whatever).  The public interest be damned, it seems.

I don’t know whether the new folly storage facility has been named.  Perhaps I might propose something, that reflects all this.

Why don’t they name it after Paris Hilton?


4 thoughts on “Bodleian to relocate books “to Antarctica”

  1. Ohio State has a similar storage facility, but it’s a lot closer. By which I mean “on the other side of campus, in a building right next to the garage for university tractors and forklifts and stuff.” I understand that Oxford real estate is all historical and expensive, but I can’t imagine that nobody died and left Oxford their house and fields in all this time. What have they been doing with all the other outlying university properties?

  2. To be fair, storage basements full of books and flood plains don’t mix, and “Osney” has a somewhat watery sound. But surely there are other eyesores of empty factories and such, somewhere in the Oxford area.

  3. Who knows? But as you rightly observe, they must own a great deal of land.

    However I suspect that the real problem is the city council being populated with obscurantists and luddites.

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