The OxStu guide to Oxford libraries


Aside from its love of tradition and a collection of overblown tales of raucous drinking societies, libraries are up there with what Oxford is best known for, and chances are, at least some point during your studies, you’ll find yourself manically rushing towards one after realising that a)your essay really is due in THIS Thursday, b) today is this Thursday and c) you haven’t even started the reading. But finding a library to suit your needs amongst the 100 odd that make up the university can at times feel like hunting for a needle in a million-mile bookshelf. Panic not.  We’ve narrowed down some of the best and worst the university has to offer, to get you started on that (ahem) journey of academic and mind-broadening discovery. 

1. Your college library


Obviously, the usefulness of one of these depends entirely upon where you find yourself, but as a general rule these are a great bet when it’s raining/cold/you’re completely hung over and have no desire whatsoever of summoning the energy to leave the college’s confines and face the world outside.

Good for: Staking out the various obscure works written by semi-respected lesser-known fellows of your college. Potato production in Southern Iberia, anyone?

Bad for: Anyone at Magdalen who isn’t a huge fan of camping

2.The Radcliffe Camera

PHOTO/Aurelien Guichard
PHOTO/Aurelien Guichard

Often considered the most beautiful of Oxford libraries, and it isn’t difficult to see why. Home to the history faculty library, this part work space, part social hub is conveniently located in the very centre of town and, as a result, is frequented by anyone and everyone you know all the time.

Good for: Being seen getting stuff done

Bad for: Actually getting anything done. Ever.

3. The Saïd business school


Despite technically being one of the Bodleian libraries, this workspace has deluded itself into believing it’s a high-security MI5 cell. A nigh on impenetrable fortress for anyone but E+M students, those lucky enough to make it in alive are rewarded with airy open spaces conducive to productive work time and amazing food in the cafe downstairs.

Good for: Posing with your free mid-morning coffee while developing a marketing strategy for your 19th start-up.

Bad for: Anyone misguided enough to believe a library should actually contain books.

4.The Bodleian


The Julius Caesar of the library world, this imposing space most famous for its appearances in Harry Potter and the fact that it is entitled to possess a copy of every book published in the country is full to the brim with academics busily researching their latest ground-breaking paper and generally not talking. At all.

Good for: Actually getting stuff done

Bad for: Catching up with your course mate about last night at Park End

5.The Gladstone link

PHOTO/Oxford University
PHOTO/Oxford University

This windowless, underground passage links 2 and 4, is starkly lit by bright white strip lighting and is universally understood to be the most evil invention dreamt up in Oxford’s famously long history.

Good for: Sado-masochists

Bad for: Anyone with a less than perfect sense of direction who just meant to “pop in for a few minutes and see how bad it really was”

6.The Taylorian


The modern languages faculty library is notoriously hard to pin down. Made up of a series of seemingly unconnected rooms, staircases and balconies, the stark contrast between the lavish main reading room and deathly teaching collection embodies the best and worst of Oxford’s interior design scene.

Good for: Cunning tourists keen to take advantage of the lax security at the door

Bad for: Anyone trying to find the lending desk

7.Philosophy and Theology faculties library

PHOTO/Bodleian Libraries
PHOTO/Bodleian Libraries

Don’t be put off by the pretentious Roman-scale water fountain outside; this recently relocated and renovated library is refreshingly down to earth. Alongside regular desks and tables, the comfy armchairs, sofas and window seats make it a great place to get some reading done without sharp wooden angles jutting into your back every time you move.

Good for: Addicts of cheap coffee unable to penetrate the Saïd business school

Bad for: Anyone in a centrally located college who didn’t even know Woodstock road was in Oxford.


PHOTO/Steven Q


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