Radcliffe Science Library

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Radcliffe Science Library
File:Oxford RSL 1.jpg
The library seen from the north
Country England, United Kingdom
Type Academic library
Established 1861
Location Parks Road, Oxford, England
Coordinates 51°45′28″N 1°15′21″W / 51.7579°N 1.2559°W / 51.7579; -1.2559Coordinates: 51°45′28″N 1°15′21″W / 51.7579°N 1.2559°W / 51.7579; -1.2559
Branch of Bodleian Library
Items collected Books and journals in the biological sciences, computing science, experimental psychology, history of science, mathematics, medicine and the physical sciences
Size Around one million items
Legal deposit The library holds the Legal Deposit material in the sciences for Oxford University
Access and use
Access requirements University Card or Bodleian Libraries reader's card
Website www.bodleian.ox.ac.uk/science

The Radcliffe Science Library (RSL) is the main teaching and research science library at the University of Oxford in Oxford, England.

Being officially part of the Bodleian Libraries, although with a completely separate building, the library holds the Legal Deposit material for the sciences and is thus entitled to receive a copy of all British scientific publications. The library holds around a million items, with about a quarter of the holdings on display in the reading rooms and the rest held in storage. It is one of the busiest libraries in Oxford, with just over 120,000 visits by approximately 16,000 individuals, and 272,000 items checked out or renewed, in 2008/9.[citation needed]


The scientific books housed in the Radcliffe Camera were transferred to the Oxford University Museum of Natural History in 1861. On land next to the museum (on the corner of Parks Road and South Parks Road) a new library building opened in 1901, the Radcliffe Library.[1] The library is named after John Radcliffe, a major benefactor of the University, like a number of other buildings in Oxford.

In 1927, the library lost its independence, for financial efficiency becoming part of the Bodleian Library. The library took on its current name, the Radcliffe Science Library, and gained the right as a legal deposit library to receive a copy of all new British scientific publications.[2]

The library has doors with relief wood carvings[3] by Don Potter, undertaken while he was studying with the sculptor Eric Gill.[4]

With the construction of a basement in the 1970s, part of the building was used to form The Hooke Library, a (separate) science lending library for undergraduates.[2] The library was named after Robert Hooke, a major scientist who worked in Oxford. The Hooke Library housed its collection in the Abbot's Kitchen which was originally part of the University Museum and on the staircase at the eastern end of the Jackson Wing of the RSL. The area which housed the Hooke Library collection is now part of the Radcliffe Science Library with the Abbot's Kitchen having been transformed into a refreshment area and a training room.

Until 2007, the library was a reference library rather than a lending library. During 2007 the building and collection of the Hooke Library was integrated into the RSL.[5]

The building

The RSL building consists of three parts, developed as expansion of the library was necessary:

  1. The Jackson Wing, parallel to South Parks Road, is Grade II listed. Designed by Sir Thomas Jackson it opened in 1901. This wing currently houses parts of the RSL and formerly housed part of the Hooke Library on the staircase at its east end. It is arranged over 3 floors, all above ground, with two reading rooms and administration offices.
  2. The Worthington Wing, parallel to Parks Road, was designed as an extension to the Jackson Wing in 1934 by Hubert Worthington. The wing extends to the north of the western end of the Jackson Wing and contains two reading rooms, on the first and second floors, and the library entrance hall on the ground floor.
  3. The Lankester Room and Main Stack, a two storey extension under the lawn of the museum, built 1972-5. The Lankester Room is a large reading room of the library containing the book collection. The stack contains additional storage for library materials - readers do not have direct access to this, but can request items from it.

See also


  1. "University Museum of Natural History" (PDF). Oua.ox.ac.uk. Retrieved 2015-08-27. 
  2. 2.0 2.1 "Radcliffe Science Library | RSL History". Bodleian.ox.ac.uk. Retrieved 2015-08-27. 
  3. "Radcliffe Science Library: Door". Inside Oxford Libraries. WordPress. 26 November 2012. Retrieved 1 February 2016. 
  4. MacCarthy, Fiona (8 June 2004). "Obituary: Donald Potter". The Guardian. UK. Retrieved 2009-08-25. 
  5. "Radcliffe Science Library - RSL and Hooke building works 2007". Web.archive.org. Archived from the original on January 17, 2007. Retrieved 2015-08-27. 

Further reading

External links