Oxford Library Crawl: where would you choose to work?


Pub crawls are as nauseatingly laddish as they are prohibitively pricy and staggeringly dull. The only institutions in this fine city worth traversing are its libraries. Here are my finest bookworm burrowing holes:


Ah, the Gladstone Link: the tunnel of lost hours, where dreams go to die, and where zombie apocalypse survivors will hide out (probs).This impenetrable tunnel has the plus of bright white lights and white washed walls giving you the impression that you’re in a sanatorium instead of underneath Oxford’s dreaming spires. However, it gains library points for being relatively relaxed: it’s where there’ll be the highest number of students padding about in their socks, or curled up on a sofa lazily refreshing SOLO.


The EFL is worthy of a design award… if the task set was ‘who could come up with the best replica WW2  air-raid shelter’.  Despite the BBC declaring Oxford’s English department’s as the best place in the world, and despite the opening up of the Radcliffe Observatory buildings, not only do the English students have Ulysses pushed upon them, but also the worst architectural feat of a concrete slab. You know an architect has gone for “minimalism” (read: lack of budget and ideas) when the liveliest the library gets is at Christmas when the statue of Tolkien gets decorated with tinsel. When the Bod is your competition, and even Wadham’s 1970s glass building maintains a bit of kookiness, you gotta up your game.


If the libraries of Oxford were mapped out on a monopoly board, the Fellow’s Library at Jesus College would be up there with Oxford Street. However, the Oxford Union library is the Mayfair of this tangible board game analogy. The downside (as well as the inevitable £229 for a Union membership) is the limited seating, the positive is its Gatsby worthy green lamps and Pre-Raphelite claim to fame of the mural ceiling.

Oxford Union Library.
Oxford Union Library.


Meanwhile, the Rothermere American Institute has fancy switches for the lamps and blinds as Oxford slowly but surely learns the technological advancements of the 21st century. It would be wise for the Rad Cam to remember that no one uses the holes in the 18th century desks because not even the most retro of hipsters require a quill and ink pot holder.


The Rad Cam wins hands down. Without wanting to get all scientific about every English student’s favourite library, there’s a direct correlation between Radders and the ratio of jumper-clad hotties. The Historians have got it going on. The exasperated sigh of hitting an essay wall, or the jubilant air punch (albeit silent, please) of meeting a deadline will be tolerated by this handsome but serious bunch. But accidentally play Daft Punk through your laptop’s speakers instead of the headphones? Get ready for the echoing wrath of the golden embellished dome to turn on you.

Radcliffe Camera
Radcliffe Camera


Not only is the Taylorean a fit library of gold chandeliers and oval tables, its high percentage of multilingual international students mean that this is library is a gamechanger. Just make sure you take heed and learn from my mistakes: don’t be so engrossed in the Spanish student across the corridor that while you make your way down the already precariously creaky spiral staircase, you nearly faceplant in front of all the pretty postgrads.   



The Bodleian is more precious than pretentious. Home of The Divinity School, Bodleian Library’, AKA the hospital wing from Harry Potter, as well as Duke Humfrey’s library is like going around to a friend’s house and having to take your shoes off before you hit their cream carpet. This place is so posh you’ve got to leave all your belongings at the entrance. Including your pen and pencil. This is a place for looking at, not learning in, plebs.

Divinity School, Bodleian


The Codrington Library, All Souls is a bit like fancying your tutor. You know that they’re fit, but they’ll never go for you and your cobbled together at 3am essays. To get into this fabled land of geometrical polychromic tiles and busts of infamous colonisers you need an admission form, a supervisor’s recommendation letter, a code number and then your own swanky card. In this pièce de résistance your Bod card complete with pixellated mug shot isn’t enough so I can only assume these mythical cards contain Michaelangelo worthy commissioned portraits, painted by hand onto each swipe card, your name engraved in Latin, your expiry date embossed with Roman numerals.

With these competitive rankings in mind, I return to my trusty corner desk in the 24 hour library haven of St Anne’s. It’s not got much in terms of marbled busts, Renaissance paintings, or elaborate architecture, but it’s still home.


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