There are some libraries that just inspire awe. I’m thinking of the Library of Congress, Trinity College Library in Dublin, and of course, Oxford’s prestigious Bodleian Library. People no longer have to dream about visiting this last library’s famed collections. As the July 10th issue of AL Direct noted, Bodleian Library has created a new website, unveiled July 9, 2015, where anyone can view hard-to-find medieval manuscripts, old maps, ephemera, and more. Called Digital.Bodleian, the site contains over 100,000 digital images of these items online.1 Now members of the general public from all over the world will be able to experience the wealth of the Bodleian’s collections. The effort was begun in order “to support the ‘digital shift’ taking place at the Bodleian Libraries.”2 Prior to this initiative, users needed a Bodleian Library readers’ card to view materials.3 Instead of boarding a flight, folks can experience the Bodleian from the comfort of home or at their local libraries.
The site is easy to navigate and search. The main page summarizes the variety of the collections, and the search bar is easy to use. Some of the collections available include Western and Greek manuscripts, Cobbett’s Parliamentary History, and geological writings from the 17th to the 19th Centuries. Viewing individual items is a little tricky, but part of the fun is exploring the site. The amount of items and their specialized nature is impressive. Where else can you find a Stanford’s Guide map from 1868 showing Great Britain’s political divisions by county? This resource is not only great for historians and scholars, but also for anyone interested in history. Those doing a project for high school or college can benefit from it as well. Librarians can direct users to this wonderful resource for any number of interests, whether it’s art, literature, or simple curiosity. As an added plus, images can be downloaded for educational use. Digital.Bodleian brings together images from separate websites and databases, thereby improving access.4 The items on the site can help support library collections by offering a specialized alternative to print sources. In short, this resource is a very useful tool for a variety of library patrons and library professionals.
Image credit: Wikimedia Commons, Library of Congress, Main Reading Room: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/Library_of_Congress#/media/File:LOC_Main_Reading_Room_Highsmith.jpg
- “Bodleian Libraries invite scholars, teachers and the public to explore its digital collections on new online portal, Digital.Bodleian,” July 9, 2015, Bodleian Libraries.