Image Credit: Bodleian Libraries

Radcliffe Camera fitted with new chairs following alumni donation

New “comfortable” chairs were installed in the upper reading room of the Radcliffe Camera this Wednesday. The social media announcement highlighted the positive change and expressed gratitude for a generous philanthropic donation that made this upgrade possible.

The decision to introduce new seating was made in response to the feedback from the recent Bodleian Libraries Reader Survey, which had indicated a strong desire for more comfortable chairs in the Radcliffe Camera, which is the History faculty library.

Reader surveys are undertaken by the Bodleian Libraries every three years, as a way to “understand the breadth of readers’ views and to feed into [their] strategic planning”.

The most recent survey in 2022 received more than 5,000 responses, with mostly positive ratings. The main improvement points were wifi coverage, comfort of study spaces, opening hours, and borrowing policies. A webpage on the Bodleian Library website details all the changes put in place following the survey.

The refurbishment was made possible through a donation from a couple of anonymous university alumni. 

A spokesperson for the Bodleian Libraries expressed that “The Radcliffe Camera refurbishment was generously funded by a couple who are both alumni and who loved to study and read in the library during their time at the University”.

The couple “were keen to support current and future Oxford University students to have the best possible experience when pursuing their studies in our most popular and iconic reading room”.

In an email to students, the History faculty stated that the aim of the project was to “replace selected chairs in the Upper Camera with heritage-style chairs in keeping with the neoclassical style of the location, whilst significantly improving the comfort of our readers”.

It also stated that the Bodleian Libraries will “continue to look for more appropriate solutions than we currently have” and that “there are also plans to refurbish study desks”. 

The chairs were installed on the night of Tuesday to Wednesday, with the help of Bodleian staff and student helpers, specially recruited for the occasion. The Bodleian Libraries stated “[students] were actively involved in the selection of the new chairs, and this upgrade has already been very well received by our readers”.

To preserve the heritage of the site, the historic chairs alongside the majority of the existing seating have been either retained in situ or re-homed in the Bodleian Library.

History students were informed of the refurbishment in an email only hours before the exceptional closure which was planned to be from Tuesday 5pm to Wednesday 12pm, with the Radcliffe Camera usually closing at 9pm on weekdays. However, the work was completed ahead of schedule, and the library reopened as usual on Wednesday morning.

A History student commented that the new chairs were “very comfy”, and that they were “pleasantly surprised” by how quickly the refurbishment was made.

The iconic Radcliffe Camera was constructed between 1737-48 to a design by James Gibbs. It holds Grade I listed status, and was briefly closed last term after being sprayed by environmental activist group Just Stop Oil with their signature orange paint.

Image Credit: Bodleian Libraries via X

Image Description: the new chairs in the Radcliffe Camera