192R. Harrod to Henry Miers, 10 December 1930 [a]

Replies to 191 R, continues at 197 R. Since Miers agreed that Harrod might have to consult an architect, Harrod would ask the same architect working at Broad Street to work out estimates and a plan for a new library building. [1]

  1. 1. At this point, Harrod was planning to pursue the consequences he drew from his memoranda on "Intake" and on "The Capacity of the Broad St. Site for Stacks", and from the "Addendum" (see note 1 to letter 183 R), and to propose an altogether new building.

    A first draft of Harrod's minority report outlines the main points of dissent from the remainder of the commission and formulates the proposal to build an entirely new library (chap. I, the critical part, is filed in HP VI-85-86/1; chap. II, the constructive part, in HP VI-85-86/4). In order of importance, the reasons why Harrod could not agree with the solution proposed by the majority were 1) the fact that the Broad Street side was both small and confined; the problem was thus bound to recur within 50 years. 2) The division of the library into two parts, one on each side of Broad Street, would make it impossible to provide efficient and convenient library service of the kind to which scholars were becoming accustomed elsewhere. This would be detrimental to the prestige of the University. 3) This would make the Broad Street solution more expensive relatively to the service provided. 4) The Broad Street building would be noisy on two sides. 5) This solution also blocked the best way of solving certain subsidiary but not unimportant problems connected with other Oxford libraries.

    Harrod made clear that by "convenient kind of services" he meant that the library should provide essentially the self-access to shelves for specially qualified readers. In his report he mentioned that this practice was common in continental universities and universal in the United States. He also discussed the related problems of classification, judging however that books acquired after 1883 were already classified by subject in a sufficiently precise manner, while for those acquired before that date re-classification was necessary. Harrod also pointed out that openshelves required that desks (cubicles or carrels, as they were called) were placed adjacent to them.

    Harrod's solution was to build a new library, using the existing buildings for specific purposes--e.g. for providing an undergraduate reading room and a library of incunabola. Harrod did not propose an immense building, but a modest one designed so that it could be further expanded on a site where this was possible. Harrod indicated that such a site was available at less than five minutes' walk from the centre of the city.

    As a second best, to be adopted as an alternative to the majority report if the University was too attached to the existing building and did not feel like renouncing it, Harrod suggested that it would be possible to accept the Broad Street site, but only provided that one-third of the space should be left unoccupied (arranged vertically from floor to roof), so that it could be turned into what would be needed according to the evolution of demand. Harrod's main point of disagreement with the majority's solution was that if the library should be divided at all, the only logical form of division would be between reading room and open shelves: the division of book should not be between the 100,000 most required ones and the others, because this would stultify the readers working at the open shelves without bringing much advantage to the readers in the reading room.

    Harrod's exchange with Miers continued for a while, regarding in particular the procedure to be followed in acquiring new evidence and in the architect's reports. Miers insisted that these should be given before the whole commission (letters of 12 and 16 December, in HP VI-65 and HP VI-67), while Harrod requested that they could be obtained by informal interviews and correspondence (14 December 1930, in HP VI-66). Sisam thought that Harrod was wrong in trying to abandon the regular rules of procedure (17 December 1930, in HP VI-68/2). Harrod meanwhile acquired further information, regarding building restrictions (D. Veale to Harrod, 16 and 19 December 1930, in HP VI-91/8 and HP VI-91/9), the actual rates of intake, cataloguing procedures and so on (letters from Sisam of 22 and 30 December, in HP VI-49, HP VI-32, HP VI-33). A meeting with the architect was arranged for 18 December; Harrod wrote two diary notes, dated 19 and 20 December (in HP VI-69/2 and 3), in which he considered this meeting a success, and regarded the attitude of Miers, Sisam and Kenyon as positively helpful, while the other members--Chambers and G. N. Clark--provided negative assistance by not making interventions.

    Harrod also collected information on other libraries in Oxford and on the practical problems regarding re-cataloguing an re-shelving in view of the proposal of organizing the library in open shelves (see note 1 to letter 192 R): Sisam supplied information regarding the Rhodes House collection (22 December 1930, in HP VI-31 and HP VI-31/1), and discussed the difficulties in placing a million books in open shelves (in 1930, the Bodleian housed about 1.5 million printed books) and in estimating the number of annual new acquisitions (29, 30 and again 30 December 1930, in HP VI-31/1, VI-32 and VI-33). Woodward wrote on the Codrington Library (20 December 1930, in HP VI-38). Later Sisam was also asked to estimate the cost of re-classification of pre-1883 books (Sisam to Harrod, two letters of 30 January, in HP VI-85-86/19 and HP VI-91/10-11).

    1. a. From 51 Campden Hill Square, London # , four pages ALS, in HP VI-64, marked "Copy".

Welcome page

top of page

Return to index of this section

Go to previous page

Go to next page