7:00am Friday 16th March 2007
By Chris Koenig
OXFORD University plans to completely revitalise the east end of Broad Street with a £50m scheme to take the New Bodleian Library into the 21st century.
The effect of the plan will be to create a new public square.
Oxford University Library Services has engaged architects Wilkinson Eyre to produce plans that will make the building accessible to the public, with a café and exhibition space on the ground floor inside.
The acting deputy director of OULS, David Perrow, said: "We have been working in close co-operation with the Oxford Preservation Trust. The aim is to make the university less remote to the public."
The building, opened by King George VI in 1940, does not meet modern fire safety regulations and must, therefore, be totally revamped. The New Bodleian will house the university's special collections, consisting in the main of books printed before 1800. OULS estates projects officer Toby Kertley described the present state of Broad Street outside the building as "awful for a major heritage site".
But he said that the new plan did not include an al fresco pavement café outside the building, as originally envisaged by Kim Wilkie Associates in 'Broad Street, A Plan' produced in 2004.
Instead the apron of little-used land outside the building would be lowered to pavement level. Steps would lead up to a new front door. There would also be a ramp for disabled people. The overall effect would be the creation of a new public square.
At present the building has its front door round the corner in Parks Road.
Mr Kertley said: "The widened pavement and the steps would reflect the same arrangement on the other side of the road at the entrance to the Clarendon Building. The opening-up of what are now windows in the ground floor of the listed building will be the most obvious alteration."
OULS officials admit that the scheme could still change in detail, but if the plans get the green light from the University's governing body, Congregation, and from planners, work will start in 2010, with a finishing date of 2013.
Mr Perrow said: "It has still not been approved. But what is clear, in view of the fire safety report, is that things cannot stay as they are."
He added that fundraising was continuing and that The New Bodleian scheme was part of a £120m plan to bring Oxford University's libraries into the 21st century. The university had promised to match pound for pound money raised.
There are now 11m books in Oxford University libraries, of which eight million are in the Bodleian.
But the sheer pressure of adding 200,000 volumes a year to the university's stacks, which means filling three miles of shelving annually, involves sending books for storage to places as far away as Cheshire.
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