A major project to refurbish the historic Senior Library in Oriel’s Second Quad has begun in anticipation of our 700th anniversary in 2026. The project is divided into three stages and is due to be completed in eight years.
In the magnificent Grade I listed Senior Library building, even the most basic and essential work is a challenge. Oriel will be working to restore and conserve the library, combining modern and heritage techniques to create a safe home for Oriel’s collection of over 20,000 books.
The structural restoration and refurbishment project will protect the library collection and ensure that the space and the books are more accessible to students, academics, and visiting scholars.
The first phase has already started. It will take from six to eight weeks to conduct an inventory of all the publications.
All the collections of books will be thoroughly inspected by the Library Team. Specialist conservators will be brought in to stabilise those books that might be damaged by the move before each individual item is wrapped in acid-free paper. Any books that have been affected by mould or pests will be quarantined.
The next step involves transportation of the books from the library to an external storage facility, that is environmentally managed, where they will be kept until the 700th anniversary celebrations.
While the Senior Library is empty, the second stage of the project will be to renovate the space to introduce modern environmental controls and provide essential structural repairs to the floor and gallery. New lighting, furniture and other modifications will create an outstanding yet functional rare books library, while retaining all the character of our unique building.
During the third stage of the project, after their return in 2026, each item will be properly catalogued onto Oxford’s online library catalogue, SOLO, making the collections discoverable to researchers from all around the world.
The books will also be thoroughly checked for any conservation needs such as book shoes, boxing and other repairs. This will also provide further details on the provenance and history of the books. It is estimated that this part of the project will take at least five years. The project is going to renew and develop the Senior Library, making it a more ‘user friendly’ space, while maintaining the architectural integrity of the building.