183R. K. Sisam to Harrod, 17 November 1930 [a]

Sisam sends the agenda for the meeting of 21 November, including the minutes of the meeting of 1 August, and some memoranda--including two by Harrod. [1]

  1. 1. The minutes of the 1 August meeting of the Bodleian Library Commission (on Harrod's participation see note 4 to letter 172 R) record that Harrod was asked to complete a memorandum on "Intake" (which could be one of the memoranda sent by Sisam, which could not be identified) by examining the classified statistics of production in the publisher's circular.

    In his memorandum, Harrod provided an analysis of the annual rate of intake of the Bodleian, and illustrated the general trend. Although (because of the war) the series of data was irregular, Harrod inferred that the pre-war rate of increase of intake had not come to an end, and prospected that there could be a permanent acceleration. Based on an arithmetic progression, Harrod estimates the number of new volumes in 100 years to be about 3.8 million; on a geometric progression (rate 2.3%), it would be about 8.18 million; Harrod suggested to regard the lower figure as a minimum, because the rate of increase was taken from pre-war figures, and deliberate increases in foreign purchases have been neglected. (an Ms copy of the memorandum is in HP VI-10; an extract of this memorandum was inserted as an appendix to Harrod's "Separate Report" 1931:1 , as a result of a discussion with Miers: Miers to Harrod, 21 January 1931, in HP VI-74).

    In a later memorandum on the "Capacity of the Broad St. Site for Stack", Harrod revised his estimate, and suggested that a 5 million volumes library would last less than 100 years. However, he recognized that 100 years is an unduly long period to plan for, so a 5 million storage capacity would be reasonable. The capacity of the Broad Street building would be between 2.88 and 3.22 million volumes, or about 4.4 million if readers' desks were eliminated completely and building extended underground. Given practical difficulties (shelves not completely full due to classification system, etc.), he estimated the maximum theoretical capacity to be 4.05 million books. The new building, being limited by important roads and by Trinity College, could not be significantly expanded. Harrod concluded that the problem would soon emerge again. (This TD is filed in HP VI-48.)

    In an "Addendum" (TD, in HP VI-48), Harrod further remarked that his previous conservative estimate was foolish. New calculations based on the American rate of intake suggested to him that a stack based on 5 million volumes would last something between 63 and 100 years. Harrod concluded that "to build on a closed site is in any event a policy of doubtful wisdom". The building in Broad Street would be able to accommodate 3 million books, that is about 2 million of new ones, i.e. last for 40 to 57 years. If the site has to be closed and expansion impossible or limited, Harrod suggested to plan for 5 million books. But he thought it would be wiser to have a small building to begin with, designed however to be easily expansible. (The memorandum on the Broad Street capacity for stack and the Addendum may have been discussed on 26 November, as in the agenda two memoranda by Harrod are mentioned: Sisam to Harrod, 25 November 1930, in HP VI-9/20.)

    The conclusion Harrod drew from the analysis presented in his memoranda was that a permanent solution of the library problem in Oxford would require a site large enough to allow expansion when further space for books was needed, and an architectural planning such as to make this practicable. However, Harrod was prepared to compromise: see note 1 to letter 184 R.

    1. a. From the Clarendon Press, Oxford # , one page CiTLS, in HP VI-9/19.

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