Archive for the ‘South Asian Collection’ Category

Cataloguing Continues


Our retro-conversion project, putting all our catalogue online rather than in the old card indexes, is going well- the Islamic Religion (B-BP) section is now complete.

Of the 4380 items, 1621 had been put on OLIS when they arrived and 2598 were done before James started on the section- mainly by Mark & Lidio. So James had an easy job! He’s added 61 holdings to pre-existing records and created 24 new records. There are now 51 Arabic and Persian vernacular items still uncatalogued, and 25 books that seem to be missing so we’re hunting them down…

James is now heading onwards to Islamic History (D, DS & DT). Hopefully that’ll be similarly quick, as Lidio & Mark have already worked through a lot of it.

Meanwhile, Emma at the Indian Institute is working through the South Asian vernacular items for us- thanks Emma!


Retro-converting South Asia


The retro-conversion project at OIL is going well, with the South Asian Collection now close to completion. The retro-conversion project is making sure all books in OIL are on OLIS & SOLO- some books bought before 1987 were previously only catalogued in the card catalogue. It’s being done by James Fishwick, a cataloguer employed specially for this task.

The South Asian Collections (with 500s shelfmarks) are mainly about Sanskrit and Prakrit language & literature, with some Pali, Gujerati, Bengali and so on. There are just under 7,000 items.
4,300 of these were already on our online catalogue before James started.
1,500 had copies at other Oxford libraries, so James just had to add holdings for OIL.
Over 800 were not in any other Oxford libraries, so had to have new records made for them or copied from WorldCat.
Finally, almost 300 items in the vernacular have not yet been catalogued, as they’ll require a specialist. Emma Mathieson of the Bodleian’s South Asian collections has said she’ll help us, thankfully!

Now the South Asian collections are finished, James is moving onto Islamic Religion, the BPs. A preliminary survey of the Bs and BLs suggests that these should be considerably quicker to work on- James looked through 984 books in just two days, as only 15 were not already on our electronic catalogue.

Book Moving


If you come into the OIL today, you’re in for a big surprise…

Today’s the day we’re moving all our books around. The B-BP Islamic section that’s been on temporary shelves at the front of the library during building works is being moved back into sequence, and meanwhile we’re taking the opportunity to compress all our upstairs books & removing empty space. We’ll also hopefully be moving the South Asian and Japan/Korea reference works downstairs, so they’ll be nearer their main sequences. This should leave us lots of empty shelves for when the New Bodleian books get shipped over, as well as leaving us lots of room for our Library of Congress sequence to expand into.

We’re hoping to have new maps of the library ready to show everyone by early next week, but hopefully the new sequence will be fairly intuitive.

Ret-Conning 2


The retro-conversion project discussed last month has continued well, working through the South Asian Collection (India, Sanskrit, Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism and so on). So far James has inspected almost 2300 items- most of these were already on the system, but around 300 books have been added. He thinks he’ll be finished there in two more months, so all of the South Asian Collection should be complete by Christmas.

In other news, the building works in the library are now fully completed and painted- hurrah! Hopefully our library is ready to welcome the new students arriving from next week…

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.



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