Saturday 20 December 2014

Bodleian K B Chen China Centre Library Visit

Helen Matthews very kindly wrote up the recent CILIPTV visit to the the Bodleian K B Chen China Centre Library, which appears below- bonus points for being so prompt, especially at this time of year, Helen!:

On 17th December a group of librarians and information specialists visited the Bodleian K B Chen China Centre Library, located in the grounds of St Hugh’s College (one of the colleges of the University of Oxford). The library is inside the Dickson Poon University of Oxford China Centre Building having moved from the Institute for Chinese Studies. The £21m building was funded by a number of benefactors, most notably the Hong Kong philanthropist, Mr Dickson Poon CBE (from whom the building derives its name), who donated £10m. The library is named after the late Mr K B Chen, recognising the gift from his son, Mr Henry Chen, to the college.

Joshua Seufert, the Chinese Studies Librarian, provided the tour of the library and China Centre Building. The Centre is built on what used to be tennis courts. The library is in the basement of the building but has plenty of natural light pouring in as it looks across a garden area that has been lowered from ground floor level, which the building wraps around. The building caters for those with disabilities with wide doorways for easy access and a lift, which the spiral staircase wraps around. Within the building you find images of the Chinese coin and the fleur de lys, the latter of which forms part of the College’s crest. Doors with the Chinese coin on lead to the China Centre areas whilst the doors with fleur de lys on lead you towards college areas.

The building brings together various people and departments of the University involved with Chinese studies into one place, rather than having them scattered around the city. We went into one of the lecture theatres which seats 100 people but can be split in half for two lectures to take place at the same time with fewer people. Some of the Bodleian Library’s Chinese special collections have been reproduced to display on the walls of the Centre, including the Selden map of China, bringing the library out to the rest of the building.

The library is one of the Bodleian Libraries, which offers benefits like being part of the Printing, Copying and Scanning (PCAS) service and offering the opportunity to order material from the Book Storage Facility in Swindon to the library. In fact, the library has seen an increase in library users including members of St Hugh’s College and St Antony’s College who are ordering material from the Book Storage Facility to the library because of its convenient location to them. There is a room dedicated to this material where library users can collect the material they ordered and read it in the library.

The library has 6 carrels, which can be used by readers for more quiet and private study. With these carrels they can book cabinets in which they can keep personal belongings. As well as space for private study there is a group study room with a projector and speakers for people to use as a meeting place.

The library has a special classification system for its material called Harvard-Yenching devised by Alfred Kaiming Chiu for the Harvard-Yenching Institute. Although the classification system has been phased out, the China Centre Library, and a few other libraries, use and update the classification system. New material, however, is being classified using the Library of Congress.

We were particularly intrigued by the library’s journal display, a case which had a panel for each journal title which was lifted to reveal past issues behind it inside a cubby hole. Before moving into the new library, 50m of journals were disposed of as well as 200m of material that had to be disposed of due to last minute ceiling height reductions, which means a loss of shelf space. Joshua explained that the new library has more space for library users to work at, which the previous library did not, which has meant a slight reduction in shelf space.

The tour was followed by a Q&A session as an opportunity for us to find out further information. The visit to the K B Chen China Centre Library was insightful with an great tour guide. It is excellent that the library has been included in the development of the brand new building and the amalgamation of various departments within the University in order to best provide for students and academics of Chinese studies.

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