Archive for September, 2009

Library of Congress


Currently at the Oriental Institute we have 5 series of books on open shelves- the Arabic / Turkish / Persian / Islamic collection on the ground floor and downstairs the Japanese / Korean, South Asian, Hebrew / Jewish and Minor (Syriac / Ethiopic / Armenian / Georgian) Collections.

Sometime in the next decade we’ll be moving to the new Radcliffe Observator Quarter along with Humanities and Mathematics. At this new super-library all the books will be catalogued using Library of Congress classification system.

To prepare for this we’ve started classifying all incoming books using the Library of Congress Classification System, and shelving them in a combined sequence. We’ve also started re-classifying a few of our existing books. This is obviously a huge task, as eventually it will involve re-classifying the entire library! For now our new Library of Congress Series is a bit thin on the ground, but hopefully it’ll grow over the up-coming academic year.

An outline of the Library of Congress Classification Scheme can be found here: – our collection is obviously strongest in the B, D and P classes.

Meanwhile, our other projects are all going well. The emergency exit building works are finished except for painting; the South Asian retroconversion project has now checked 1,300 books; and the Minor Collections retroconversion project is working on the Armenian vernacular books.


Preparing For The New Bodleian


In 2010 a major refurbishment program will take place at the New Bodleian Library. It will be transformed into the new Weston Library (named for the Garfield Weston Foundation), and will focus increasingly on special collections- with new exhibition spaces and better conservation & curation facilities, as well as rebuilt storage and more reading rooms.
For more information, see:

The New Bodleian Reading Room currently has an Asian and North African Collection that includes around 33 shelves of Arabic books, 16 shelves of Persian books, 16 shelves of Turkish books, 34 shelves of Indian books, 8 shelves of Oriental books and over 80 shelves of periodicals and reference books.
For more information, see:

The plan is that many of these books will come to the Oriental Institute whilst the work is going on. Luckily, we’ve worked out that if we start using the top and bottom shelves of all our bookcases, we’ve just about got room to fit all of the books we need to accomodate. So don’t be surprised if over the next couple of months all the books in our library get shifted around a bit… Hopefully this will end up with our library having even more books, and being even more useful, than it is already!

In other news, the building works in our library are nearing completion. The stairs are in place, and the box around the stairs has been built. They’re currently doing plastering- hopefully they’ll be finished early next week, and the shelves will be back up by the end of next week.

Building Works


If you’ve used the Oriental Institute Library over this Summer Vacation, you’ve probably noticed all the building works. A large piece of our collection has been moved to new shelving, a temporary cabin has been set up, and there’s been lots of noise coming from the cabin. LOTS of noise- our supply of earplugs has proved extremely popular!

So why’s it been going on? What’s happening? Basically, it’s all due to the huge revamp of the Ashmolean Museum, behind our library. Most of the noise has been the builders working on finishing off the Museum, ready for their big re-opening on the 7th November. Once it’s finished, they’ll have double the existing gallery space plus better facilities for education and conservation.

See this page for more details of their big project:

Sadly, the expansion of the Ashmolean meant that the Oriental Institute’s fire escape wasn’t usable any more. And after studying all the options, it became apparent that the new fire escape had to go through our Library’s ceiling. So builders took down some of our shelving, and cut a neat hole down from the floor above.

The works have been going well so far. The staircase itself is now in position, coming down through the ceiling. The final stages will be to build a box around the bottom of stairs, and then to plaster the box. Hopefully this’ll all be done in time for the start of term…

Building Works

Building Works



One of the main projects currently being worked on at OIL is the retro-conversion project. Since 1987, all books entering the library have been electronically catalogued and put into the main Oxford University catalogue- which can be searched online at the SOLO webpage.

However, our older books haven’t all been catalogued electronically. Some have, but most are only searchable using the card catalogue in the library. This obviously isn’t ideal- in a perfect world, all of the books would be searchable online!

The retro-conversion project aims to do just that. At Easter OIL was joined by a new Senior Library Assistant, James Fishwick, a cataloguer who previously worked for the National Trust. His main job is to conduct the retro-conversion project, and thus open up knowledge of our collection.

He’s now finished most of the work on the so-called ‘Minor Collections’. Downstairs at OIL we hold collections of Syriac, Armenian, Georgian and Ethiopic/Ge’ez that have few rivals in the UK- and now they’re (almost) all catalogued and can be searched for via SOLO.

The Minor Collections consist of just under 3,000 items.
1,300 of these were already on our online catalogue before James started.
1,000 had copies at other Oxford libraries, so James just had to add holdings for OIL.
400 were not in any other Oxford libraries, so had to have new records made for them or copied from WorldCat.
Finally, 173 items in the vernacular have not yet been catalogued, as they’ll require a specialist. There are 3 Ethiopic/Ge’ez, 37 Syriac, 2 Georgian, 127 Armenian, and 4 difficult Russian ones. We think we’ve sorted out cataloguing the Russian items, but if anyone can help James with the other languages he’d be delighted to hear from you- please e-mail james.fishwick at!

Now the Minor Collections are finished, James is moving on to the South Asian collection, our Sanskrit-focussed collection that is kept downstairs alongside the Minor Collections. With around 8,000 books, James has a big task ahead of him…

Shelf removed for cataloguing
Shelf removed for cataloguing