Sunday, October 9, 2016

OXFORD: Looking at Maps at the Bodleian (Tips)

I am researching the maps of the planned German invasion of Britain and was disappointed not to see all the maps at the Bodleian Library that I wanted to during my current visit to Oxford.

I discovered that maps are not usually kept on site and are stored outside of Oxford.

A lesson for the New York Public Library is that its plan to move everything off site creates problems for researchers that may not be fully foreseen. I am therefore glad that this project was abandoned after widespread protest from users. The Bodleian is the world's greatest university library, but the New York Public Library is the world's most heavily used library–by far!

My request for the Oxford invasion maps was interpreted as a request for the maps in East Anglia (where Cambridge is located). Oxford is in the Midlands. If I had understood that there might be this problem, I would have been more careful in specifying which maps I wanted. Unfortunately, by the time I discovered the problem, I had to return to the USA. Mission not accomplished.

There are ways to shorten the time it takes to see maps. The following is from the Bodleian web site, in a place that one would consult once one knows there might be an issue.
The vast majority of the Bodleian's collection– including its maps–is stored off-site in closed stacks. Items are retrieved by request.  
Most orders are available by the next working day (the Library is closed Sundays) for consultation in the Weston Library. Requested maps may be retrieved from the reserve desk in the Mackerras Room on the First Floor. 
Readers who are travelling in from outside of Oxford are kindly requested to contact us by telephone or email a few days in advance to arrange the retrieval of items from storage. 
Readers may enquire about maps by email (, by telephone at +44 (0) 1865 287300, or in person at any of the enquiry desks in the Weston Library. The staff are as helpful as they can be given their separation from the books that they are trying to get for their users.

Where possible, enquiries for maps should specify:
  • The geographic area(s) of interest
  • The date(s) of publication
  • The map's content, i.e. topography, geology, hydrography, transport ...
  • The publisher / creator

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