Nizami Ganjavi

The name of a library is usually an afterthought in the mind of a reader with a deadline – little more than a direction towards the book they need, or a quiet place to study until their next lecture. If they give it any thought at all, then most people when hearing the name “Nizami Ganjavi Library”, assume that Nizami Ganjavi must have been a donor of some significance, perhaps an alumnus of what used to be the Oriental Institute, or a recently-deceased scholar who the University saw fit to memorialise.

In truth, Nizami could not have donated to, taught at, or attended the University – on account of having been dead for nearly nine hundred years.

Since Nizami was not a court poet, the only real source that we have for his personal life is his own writing – which is often lacking in detail and therefore hotly debated by modern scholars. We know that he was born around 1141, likely in Qom in central Iran, or perhaps Ganja, to a Kurdish mother – before being orphaned and raised by his uncle in Ganja, who had him educated in a wide variety of subjects. While it is intuitive that he was well-versed in both Arabic and Persian literary traditions, his knowledge of other topics ranged from astronomy to law to botany – his skills in which make themselves known throughout his poetry.

He was married three times over the course of his life, but each of his wives died young, with each of their deaths coinciding with the completion of one of his romantic poems. He is said to have loved his first wife the most, with whom he had his only son, and who died when he finished Khosrow and Shirin. Some suggest that her name may have been Afaq, but it’s not a definite fact, and history doesn’t record the names of his other wives, who died after he finished his two other romances. Regarding this, he is reported as having exclaimed “God, why is it that for every mathnavi I must sacrifice a wife!”

The twelfth century was a time of great political instability in Persia and the Caucasus, but also of never-before-seen reach for Persian poetry, which is in turn reflected in Nizami’s poems. He had various patrons throughout his career, from several different and sometimes rival dynasties; such as the Seljuqs, Eldiguzids, and Ahmadilis – the influences of these different cultures and their languages make themselves known through his stylistic choices, such as cross-cultural idioms and certain words from the local Pahlavi dialect that spread beyond their traditional range. Nizami mentions several other poems, contemporary and otherwise, which he used as inspirations for his own – but maintains his superiority over his influences.

Nizami is known for his mathnavi poetry – didactic and romantic poems composed of rhyming couplets with a metre of eleven syllables, rarely ten. His most famous work is the Khamsa (خمسه, ‘Quintet’) – an anthology made up of five long narrative poems which he wrote over the course of about forty years:

  • Makhzan-ol-Asrâr (مخزن‌الاسرار, ‘The Treasury of Mysteries’), 1163 (some date it 1176)
  • Khosrow o Shirin (خسرو و شیرین, ‘Khosrow and Shirin’), 1177–1180
  • Leyli o Majnun (لیلی و مجنون, ‘Layla and Majnun’), 1192
  • Eskandar-Nâmeh (اسکندرنامه, ‘The Book of Alexander’), 1194 or 1196–1202
  • Haft Peykar (هفت پیکر, ‘The Seven Beauties’), 1197

He did write other shorter-form lyric poems, mostly ghazals and qasidahs, which were not held in as high regard as the Khamsa in his own time, and only a few of these survive to us.


Influence in Modern Culture

There is no shortage of retellings of the stories in Nizami’s poetry, with varying levels of fidelity to the renditions that appear in the Khamsa as opposed to elsewhere. These retellings have taken the form of both poetry and prose translations of his work, as well as films, stage plays, songs, and even a few ballets. The versions of these stories that remain in the public consciousness are not always exactly the ones Nizami told –there is a lot of overlap with the versions that inspired Nizami – such as those found in the Shahnameh. In other cases, parts of the story are changes to align with current preferences; for example his Majnun is Layla’s uncle, a detail which is often changed in modern accounts. Despite these changes, Nizami’s influence on the most common versions of the story in the modern day is still evident.

Many would say that the most notable interpretation of Nizami’s work, however, was as the inspiration for Derek and the Dominos’ album Layla and Other Assorted Love Songs. The titular song, and centrepiece of the album, Layla, was inspired by the all-consuming love in Nizami’s poem Layla and Majnun, and went on to be ranked at #27 on Rolling Stone’s 2004 list of the greatest songs of all time above A Day in the Life by The Beatles at #28 – most people recognise it almost instantly by the opening riff, if not by the title. Earlier in the album, in the notes for the song I am Yours, singer/guitarist Eric Clapton listed the composer as Nizami as well as himself, because he had used so many of the lines that Majnun sings to Layla in Nizami’s poem that he felt he couldn’t take all of the credit for the lyrics.

Link to the album on youtube:


^Album cover for Layla and Other Assorted Love Songs by Derek and the Dominos


Status as National Poet of Azerbaijan

When Azerbaijan was formed under the Soviet Union in 1936 and had to name a national poet, they chose Nizami due to his widespread influence and having spent most of his life in the area, though not born there. At this time there were no serious claims that Nizami was ethnically Turkic – it was widely accepted that he was Persian but lived in Ganja – and this wasn’t an issue for the citizens of Azerbaijan who loved his poetry anyway, and held an 800-year anniversary of his poetry in order to keep up with the other Soviet countries who were holding celebrations for their own recently-appointed national poets. It seems that the idea of claiming Nizami as a native Azerbaijani poet began with the First Secretary of the Azerbaijan Communist Party, who held deeply-felt anti-Iranian sentiments. The idea was bolstered by the Institute of History of Language and Literature of the Azerbaijani affiliate of the Academy of Sciences of the USSR, who started publishing his poetry, and the magazine Pravda, which mentioned Nizami as specifically Azerbaijani as opposed to Persian.

By 1939, with the involvement of Soviet Orientalists and perhaps even Stalin, the idea spread that Nizami had been forced to write in Persian instead of a supposed native Turkic language, and he was only now being “returned” to his “true heritage”. This statement was usually followed by an assertion of the greatness of the Soviet Union for enabling this to finally happen – feeding into the Soviet nationalist ideology of the period. Despite being based on ethno-territorial assumptions and deliberate misinterpretations of Nizami’s work, the USSR directly benefited from the idea that fascists in Persia and the West had deliberately conspired to steal Nizami from the nation of Azerbaijan. As a consequence, many Orientalists continue to this day to assert that Nizami was not Persian, and there are still serious consequences in Azerbaijan for disagreeing.


Resources at the Bodleian

Many books related to Nizami Ganjavi and his works can be found, intuitively, in the Nizami Ganjavi Library under the shelfmark PK6501, as well as in the Middle East Centre Library, the Weston Library, and elsewhere. We have books of his poetry in the original Persian, as well as translated into several other languages including English, Russian, and Japanese. Additionally, there are several manuscripts of Nizami’s poetry, the earliest dating from the fifteenth century, which have recently been made searchable within various digital archives on the new Marco software.


^illustration of one of the scenes in the Iskandar-Nameh, in a manuscript of the Khamsa linked above


Further Reading

Baum, Wilhelm. Shirin: Christian – Queen – Myth of Love: A Woman of Late Antiquity: Historical Reality and Literary Effect. Gorgias Press, 2004

Berthels, Evgeniĭ Èduardovich, and Edmund Herzig. The Great Azerbaijani Poet, Nizami: Life, Work and Times. Edited by Paul D. Wordsworth, Translated by James White and Maroussia Bednarkiewicz, Gilgamesh Publishing, 2016

Brend, Barbara. Treasures of Herat: Two Manuscripts of the Khamsah of Nizami in the British Library. Gingko Library, 2022

Chelkowski, Peter J., and Niẓāmī Ganjavī. Mirror of the Invisible World: Tales from the Khamseh of Nizami. Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1975

Chelkowski, Peter J., editor. Crafting the Intangible: Persian Literature and Mysticism. University of Utah Press, 2013

Cross, Cameron. “The Many Colors of Love in Niẓāmī’s ’Haft Paykar:’ Beyond the Spectrum”. Interfaces: A Journal of Medieval European Literatures, no. 2 (June 30, 2016): 52–96

Geybullayeva, Rahilya, and van Ruymbeke, Christine, editors. The Interpretation of Nizami’s Cultural Heritage in the Contemporary Period: Shared Past and Cultural Legacy in the Transition from the Prism of National Literature Criteria. Peter Lang, 2020

Nezami, Parviz. Twelve Centuries of Persian Poetry and History: Classics to Modern (8th to 21st Century). Gutinbirg Publishers, 2022

van Ruymbeke, Christine. Science and Poetry in Medieval Persia: The Botany of Nizami’s Khamsa. Cambridge University Press, 2007

van Ruymbeke, Christine, and Johann-Christoph Bürgel. A Key to the Treasure of the Hakim. Leiden University Press, 2011

Rypka, J. “POETS AND PROSE WRITERS OF THE LATE SALJUQ AND MONGOL PERIODS.” The Cambridge History of Iran, vol. 5, Cambridge University Press, 1968, pp. 550–625

Seyed-Gohrab, A. A. (Ali Asghar). Laylī and Majnūn: Love, Madness, and Mystic Longing in Niẓāmī’s Epic Romance. Brill, 2003

Stchoukine, Ivan. Les peintures des manuscrits de la “Khamseh” de Niẓâmî au Topkapi Sarayi Müzesi d’Istanbul. P. Geuthner, 1977

Talattof, Kamran, et al. The Poetry of Nizami Ganjavi: Knowledge, Love, and Rhetoric. Palgrave, 2000

Talattof, Kamran. “Siavash Lornejad: Ali Doostzadeh, On the Modern Politicization of the Persian Poet Nezami Ganjavi (Yerevan Series for Oriental Studies—1), Yerevan: ‘Caucasian Centre for Iranian Studies’, 2012, 215 Pp.” Iran & the Caucasus, vol. 16, no. 3, 2012, pp. 380–83


by Iona Spark

News and holiday announcements

As we begin to say goodbye to everyone at the end of Term, we have a few bits and pieces of news.

Firstly, a reminder that we close for Christmas on the 20th December, re-opening on 2nd January. We will be open tomorrow, Saturday 7th December, from 11-5pm and will open until 7pm next week (9th-13th December), but go back to our vacation opening hours of 9am-5pm, Monday-Friday from Monday 16th December until the start of next Term.

Secondly, vacation loans are now in effect, with books due back on the 21st January (Tuesday of 1st week). We are aware that some readers’ cards expire at the end of the year; if you are a card holder whose card expires during the Christmas closure, please let us know and we will extend your loan and waive any fines incurred once you have renewed your card.

Thirdly, a bit of good news: the Humanities Research Fair, which was cancelled due to strike action in November, is now rescheduled for 27th January. Details can be found here and the booking link is here.

We trust that everyone has had a productive term! There have certainly been some changes here. Three weeks ago we welcomed a new member of staff, Ruchi Srivastava, who is with us in the afternoons and at the Sackler in the mornings. The extra pair of hands has provided a much needed boost to our ability to shelve books promptly and avoid the shelving trolleys getting out of hand.

Readers may have noticed piles of blue crates in amongst the empty shelves round by the staff office – this is part of an ongoing project to move some of our older and more vulnerable collections to the Book Storage Facility, where they will be kept in cooler and more book-friendly conditions. Some of these materials have also been boxed in specially made acid-free boxes to ensure that they stay in the best condition possible. Books which have been moved to the BSF will still be orderable back to OIL, but if they date from before 1920 they will not be borrowable. All items in the collection which are more than 100 years old are confined to the library.

The reclassification has continued during the term, and will be accelerated by more staff-time after Christmas (more news on that in our next post). There may be a minor book-move after the holidays to accommodate the PJ-section, which is becoming slightly clogged again, but Kate says she will decide on that nearer the time.

Finally, we’d like to wish all our readers a Merry Christmas (for those that do) and a Happy New Year (for everyone), and we will see you in 2020!





Welcome to OIL! Michaelmas Term 2018

October is upon us once again (where did September go?!) and we find ourselves at the start of another Academic Year. We are excited to meet all the new students and of course to see all our returning readers again.

What follows is a brief news-report of the summer, and a few reminders of the library rules and general housekeeping so that we can get off to a smooth start.

Summer update

The summer saw the continuation of the building works to change the heating system in the Oriental Institute, and also the installation of new windows on the basement. We were closed for four weeks, during which time our Sackler colleagues facilitated collecting of books from OIL to their reading rooms for our readers (thanks again to them for that!). Unfortunately, a supply problem resulted in the closure not coinciding with the noisiest part of the work, which happened when the shiny new pipes were being installed and caused some disruption. Happily the installation is now complete and the new panels near the ceiling are ready. The new heating system should be much more efficient and less wasteful than the previous (largely uncontrollable) one, so we should not need to have *quite* so many windows open in the middle of winter.

Kate has collated her reclassification data for the 2017-18 academic year; she has reached the last tier of the row which she started last year and has reclassified 645 shelfmarks, amounting to 797 individual books, in the last year.

A minor book-move was carried out over the Vacation. This mostly affects the end of the LC sequence, where the main change is that the PK books now start in the middle section rather than under the windows by the computers. PJ now occupies that space, with space to grow as that is the area currently being reclassified. All the shelves are labelled as accurately as possible (allowing for occasional moves round corners). There are now only two large sections which have similar shelfmarks to the LC collection – PJ and PK. We have noticed a difference over the past few years in the numbers of people asking where things are, which has reduced dramatically as the reclassification has progressed, so we know it is worth doing! If at any time you need a book which is being reclassified, please speak to staff. If it is not a Tuesday or Friday afternoon (the days when Kate is at OIL) then it might be awaiting a label on her trolley, but staff will be able to advise you.

New staff

Excitingly, we have three new members of staff joining the OIL team this term. Ben, who is the Graduate Trainee for the Sackler, will be doing some hours at OIL this year including Tuesday evenings; Katie, who is the Graduate Trainee at the Taylorian, will be working Thursday evenings during the Terms this year, and Jennifer, a new Library Assistant with responsibilities for both Sackler and OIL will be spending some of her time at OIL each week.

We are optimistic that these extra pairs of hands will enable us to deal with problems which have arisen due to our staffing-shortages over the last few years, including the shelving in the basement, which requires a re-organisation of the KSL section for which we have had no time.

General reminders

As it is now Term time, we are now open until 7pm on weekdays and from 11am – 5pm on Saturdays.

Up to 8 books can be borrowed at any one time, the normal loan period is 2 weeks, and they can be renewed online via SOLO up to three times before you need to bring them back to the library. We have longer loan periods during vacations. If you are not able to renew an item it is likely to be because someone else has placed a hold on it; if this is the case, please return the book to the library by its expiry date.

Please leave books for return in the big blue box on the counter just inside the library door or pass them to the library staff member at the desk. Please do not leave returns anywhere else, especially the returns trolleys inside the library, as this may result in them not being checked in properly. If this happens they may stay on your record for longer than necessary, and you could get emails suggesting that they are overdue.

If you have been using a book in the library and are not sure where it came from on the shelves please leave it on the shelving trolleys by the front office or on one of the reshelving areas in the library, rather than putting it back in a random gap. This is especially important for the complex Library of Congress shelfmarks as mis-shelving even a few books away may mean that people cannot then find the book again. If you are not sure, please leave it for us to do. It’s what we’re here for, after all!

As a general rule, books from the BSF cannot be borrowed from the library. Please do not attempt to take them out of the building. They belong to the Bodleian, which has a no-borrowing policy. BSF books can be collected from the library desk – just show us your Bod Card so we can collect it from the back office – and should be returned to the desk after each use so we can put them back in the reserve. BSF books will stay here for one week, and this can be extended using your SOLO account. There are two exceptions to the no-borrowing rule: the Aris Collection of Tibetan Books or the Arabic Literature collection which originated at the Middle East Centre. These books may be borrowed in the normal way. Please do not send books back until you are sure you’ve finished with them completely as they will take up to a week to return if you re-order them. If a book is left on the desk we will usually return it to the reserve rather than sending it back to the BSF for this reason.

Food and drinks other than water are not permitted in the library because they can encourage pests which damage the collections. If you need to eat something, please use the Common Room in the basement.

Water in a bottle with a lid which can be sealed is permitted in the library, but please do not use plastic cups. Keep-cups are not allowed.

PCs for the use of readers are located to the right as you enter the library; four are Library PCs which require a login and the other two are “kiosk” PCs which connect to the internet but have limited functionality for other things. There is also another PC in the basement which is available for readers to use; it is at the far end from the staircase, next to the microfilm reader.

We have a height-adjustable desk, located near the windows by the library computers which is available for anyone who needs to work in a standing position; there is also an adjustable chair which can be used either with the desk or at a normal desk.

If you have any suggestions of books which we should hold but do not, there is a form which can be accessed via SOLO, or you could write something in the Suggestions Book, which is on the counter in the aisle directly opposite the door to the back office, near the photocopiers. We monitor this regularly and are happy to acquire (within budgetary reason) books relevant to the collections.

Finally, if you have any questions, please ask! There will be someone at the desk or shelving nearby most of the time; look out for a note on the front counter.



April News

Welcome back!

We decided to delay the blog post for a couple of weeks after the start of April as we figured that it was better to wait until a time when most people are actually back in Oxford, rather than right at the start of the month when we were all sluggish from too many Easter eggs.

Ahem. We trust you all had a restful break?

New height-adjustable table/chair

We took delivery over the vacation of these new pieces of equipment, a height-adjustable table and a chair which can be configured for various positions for use with the table or elsewhere.

Anyone is welcome to make use of them, but please note that readers with a specific need – such as the need to work at a high desk due to a back problem, for example – will take priority.


Two lectures about Persian books

Readers of Persian may be interested in the above event on May 16th. Bookings may be made through the website. We will mention this again on Facebook nearer the time to remind everyone.


Mundane library matters

Last week we said goodbye to Natalija, who has left OIL to work as a cataloguer for the Bodleian, based at the Osney offices. We would like to wish her the best of luck in her new job – she will be missed by the rest of the team.

The PJ section has been rearranged again over the vacation to make room for the end of the 6000s, which were rather too crowded. We hope this will facilitate the reclassification for some time, although these things are notoriously hard to predict.

Finally, a reminder that we are now back to our Term time opening hours, so will be open from 9 am to 7 pm on weekdays and 11 am to 5 pm on Saturdays.

January News and General Catch-Up

Happy New Year!

Yes, yes, we know it’s a bit late… but we had so little to report straight after Christmas that it seemed better to wait a bit.

2017 recap

Last year saw some interesting changes in the organisation of the library, with our Technical Services moving out of the library and down to the offices at Osney Mead, along with similar moves for the staff at the Sackler and the Taylorian. This is part of a wider initiative to consolidate the Humanities libraries’ workflows.

The main difference for us has been that Natalija and Kenan now work some of their time down at Osney as well as being at the library, which effectively means that we sometimes have fewer staff than we would have previously had on some days. We are working more closely with the Sackler Library to fill in any staffing gaps which we might have as a result of these changes.

The long-term effect of this change is yet to be ascertained, but we welcome any feedback from readers. We hope that the workflows now being implemented at Osney will speed up the processing and enable us to get new books, especially those requested by readers, to the library faster.

The work to improve the heating system has been ongoing throughout the year, with lots of shiny new copper pipes being installed around the Library. We await confirmation of when this will be finished, but are assuming it will be mostly done during the summer months when the library is quietest.

The biggest change seen by everyone has been our reverting to term-time and vacation opening hours. We now open until 7pm during Term only and until 5pm during vacations. We hope that this change has not been detrimental to too many readers, but it was brought in as a necessity due to a lack of staff to cover during the summer last year.

The reclassification has continued, although at a slower pace since Kate’s hours at OIL reduced to two afternoons a week. She is currently in the midst of the PJ sequence, somewhere beyond the dictionaries, and heading towards linguistics. There is currently an impasse in the dictionary section under the windows, so she is avoiding adding to that section for now. A small move to make up space will take place during the Easter vacation, and anything which has not been reclassified will be kept in its former place until this has been done.



Due to the aforementioned staffing changes, we have had some problems finding the time to get all the shelving done in the library, particularly since Term started. This is partly due to the fact that we do not have enough space downstairs and need to do some rearranging, but with all our staff busy with their day-to-day duties when they are here in the library there has been no extra time to do the necessary move, particularly in the Korean Studies Library.

We are working on a solution to this and ask that readers are patient; this mostly affects the shelving for the Lower Ground Floor and anything which should be down there will be on the trolleys by the photocopiers if it is not on the shelves. Readers are welcome to borrow items which are on the reshelving trolleys.

We are still finding that some readers are surprised that they cannot borrow BSF books; possibly this is due to a misunderstanding during their original library inductions. To reiterate once again, if a book which has been ordered from the BSF is *not* part of the OIL Arabic Literature collection or the Aris Collection of Tibetan Studies, then the chances are it cannot be loaned. This includes the vast majority of the Indian Institute collection not concerned with Tibetan, as well as the Bodleian’s collections, which have historically never been loaned.

That’s all for now! Keep an eye on the Facebook Page, as ever, for urgent updates.







October News

Building Works in the basement

As mentioned in the previous post, there will be some work taking place in the basement of the Oriental Institute for the first few weeks of November. We hope that this will not disturb readers, as the contractor intends to do most of the noisy work outside office hours, but wanted to remind people that there might be some disruption in the far end of the basement for a period of time.


Staff News

Following a reorganisation of several Humanities libraries including the Taylorian and Sackler as well as OIL, Kenan and Natalija will be spending some of their time at the offices at Osney. This is part of a drive to consolidate as much as possible all technical services (cataloguing and classification) work in one place. This week (30th October – 3rd November) marks the first week when both Ken and Natalija will be at Osney for part of their time; we hope they find the change of scene enjoyable and productive!


Chicago Manual of Style Trial

This Blog post from our colleagues at the History Faculty Library details the new trial of the 17th edition of the Chicago Manual of Style, which will be available via SOLO and OxLip+ until the end of January. (Meanwhile, the Library has the 16th edition on our open shelves at Z253 CHI 2010 Ref.)


Quick reminders

We have had several questions from new readers over the last few weeks about borrowing books from the BSF. Most of the BSF books cannot be borrowed and must be read in the library. The majority of books kept at the BSF belong to the Bodleian, and are therefore subject to the no-lending policy which is common to all Bodleian materials. A few of our own books which are stored at the BSF can be borrowed; these will either be part of the Arabic Literature collection or the Aris Collection of Tibetan books. Do ask if you are not sure, but it is probably best to assume that most of the stack books cannot be borrowed.

On the subject of the BSF books, please remember to bring those books back to the desk at the end of the day. We would prefer that these materials, which are not our property, be kept in the office when not in use to ensure that they are not accidentally removed from the building. We will only send books back when they have reached the end of their consultation period, so please keep an eye on your patron record and renew any BSF books before they are due to be returned. As long as nobody else has put a hold on them, you should be able to continue to renew BSF books for as long as you need them as there is no upper limit on renewals.

Finally, please remember that food and drink are not permitted in the library, including Keep-Cups, which are permitted in some of the other Bodleian Libraries. Only sealed water bottles are allowed. We have found some food wrappers in waste bins in the library and would request that readers who are desperate for a snack please take them down to the common room.



November News, December Reminders

Goodbye to Jonathan!

Today we said goodbye to Jonathan Acton, who has worked at the Oriental Institute Library since 2010, when he moved here after the closure of the New Bodleian.


Jonathan first started working in the Bodleian Libraries in 2007, in the old Oriental Reading Room, and has spent the past nine years assisting readers of modern Oriental materials. When the reading rooms were re-organised in 2008 he worked in the New Bodleian Reading Room, as well as carrying out book-processing duties behind the scenes, and then moved to OIL along with Kate when the refurbishment started.

We wish him the best of luck in his future endeavours, and lots of fun playing with his grandson! We are sorry to see him go; his dedication to helping the readers has made him a valuable asset to the library, which will be a quieter (and probably less tidy) place without him!

November News

Drinks in the Library (again)

Despite repeated reminders, we are still finding evidence that readers are ignoring the rule that only water in sealed containers such as bottles may be brought into the library. We have found a number of cups containing coffee dregs over the past few weeks but have unfortunately yet to identify the culprit or culprits. Several readers with cups of water have also been spoken to.

We are not doing this to be awkward: the reason we don’t want coffee or other drinks in the library is purely for the protection of the books and equipment. We would politely request that readers respect this rule. We would rather not return to the days when readers were not permitted to take their bags into the library!


In happier news, November saw a milestone in the reclassification project: the end of the “D” section! D (History) has taken Kate since February 2014 to reclassify, with much of the collection moving into comparable sections in the Library of Congress sequence, although there were quite a few geography books which ended up in G!

The vast majority of former “D” shelfmarks – numbering almost 6000 books – are now in the LC sequence, which moves us a step closer to simplifying our shelving scheme and making it easier to find the books.

Since finishing “D”, Kate has also polished of “J” (Political Science) and “M” (Music) and is currently working on the end of “N” (Fine Art), before once again moving the books into the space created over the past few months.

This move is likely to start in the next week and will be finished before the start of Term in January.

Next on the reclassification project: “P”, but Kate says she’s not going to think about those just yet!


A number of periodicals which are currently shelved within the LC sequence are going to be moved into a space near the other periodicals (round the corner past the photocopiers) within the next few weeks. This is partly to free up space and also to rationalise the collection with a view eventually to having all periodicals on the ground floor in the same area. A prefix “Per.” will be added to these items to distinguish them from other materials with similar shelfmarks.

Vacation Loans

Vacation Loans are now in effect! Books borrowed from now on will be due back on January 17th (Tuesday of 1st week). Readers are requested to remember to renew books which were borrowed before this week to avoid a nasty new-year library fine surprise.

December Reminders

The library will be closed from 22nd December to January 3rd inclusive. This is a day earlier than the other Bodleian Libraries, which are open on the 22nd but closed on the 23rd onwards.

We have already noticed the dwindling numbers as many of our readers are leaving for the holidays and would like to wish everyone the best of the season!

2015 retrospective


Happy New Year! Please indulge us while we present a reminder of the exciting year that was 2015…

2015 was a busy year at the Oriental Institute Library, with many changes taking place. Most of these have been behind the scenes so we hope that as far as our readers are concerned things have remained calm and peaceful, but for the staff it has been quite a year!

The move that wasn’t

It was early March when the staff of the Library were told of the proposal to close the Oriental Institute Library and move the collections into the Sackler Library. We were told before any other discussions had taken place, in order that we could field questions if anyone heard rumours. Consultations with staff and students were carried out over the next couple of months, with a great number of people expressing to library staff their disquiet at the idea of removing the Library from the Faculty building.

Various points were made about the practicalities of moving our collection into an already full library and the problems which might arise for both sets of staff – Oxford is an institution with a long memory, and it is not uncommon for people to come back years after they left and be confused by changes which took place in the interim, so it would not be a case of taking a few months to get used to different materials.

We were finally told in June that the proposal had been withdrawn, which was an immense relief to both the staff of the library and our loyal readers – not to mention the Sackler readers and staff who had been as dubious as we were about the idea. We hope to continue for a long while as we are, providing a service which is obviously valuable to the University as a whole.


In June we welcomed Vasiliki Giannopoulou to the Library, initially on Thursdays and Fridays, although her role has now expanded slightly to take on extra hours. Vasiliki had previously worked at the History Faculty Library, so her familiarity with the Library of Congress materials was a definite bonus in terms of shelving. She has now been with us for over six months and has settled into the team well.

The summer saw a couple of announcements; Dawn Vaux, who had been the Deputy Librarian at OIL since 2004 (check this) told us that her husband had been offered a job in Sydney, Australia, and that she would be leaving the Library at the start of September, while Dinah Manisty would be retiring at the end of September.

Dawn’s departure was, naturally, more of a surprise, but we all wished her well and she was given a good send-off at the beginning of September.


Meanwhile Dinah’s interim replacement as Subject Librarian for Middle Eastern and Islamic Collections is Lydia Wright, who worked for a month shadowing Dinah to get up to speed with the work before Dinah’s departure.


As both our senior staff had gone we underwent a bit of restructuring to compensate; Lidio has now taken on more responsibility and Jane Bruder from the Sackler has extended her role to include certain managerial duties at OIL. Both Natalija and Vasiliki have also taken on more hours to increase staffing levels. We hope that readers have not noticed any major change in service provision as a result of these adjustments.


At the end of the summer the staff of the Muller Library at the Hebrew and Jewish Studies centre moved some of the books in our collection over to Walton Street as they were deemed more appropriate to the collection there. Readers who find that books they were expecting to be here have moved are advised to check SOLO for new location information.

Kate has reclassified a total of 2342 books in the last calendar year. Over the 2014-15 academic year she reclassified 1688 shelfmarks, representing a 2223 items in total. During September she moved the books from the end of the LC sequence into the area vacated by the DS section and is currently working her way along the shelves near the computers. As ever, please check SOLO regularly if you are a frequent user of materials in the area which is currently being reclassified as things will move.

Looking Forward to 2016

Now that Term has begun again we look forward to welcoming our returning readers, hoping that everyone has had a relaxing break. At present the only major change of which we are aware is the move of some of our Japanese books to the Bodleian Japanese Library, but at present we have no timetable for that work and will keep the Facebook page and this blog updated when more information comes to light.


September News

(a little belated, with our apologies)

Arrivals and departures

In September the Oriental Institute Library welcomed Lydia Wright to the staff. Lydia is the Arabic Subject Specialist, and will be taking over that aspect of Dinah Manisty’s role, initially for a year. Regular readers will see her around the library, although she will also be working at Osney Mead for part of each week.


Wednesday 30th was Dinah’s last day; with typical modesty she told us she didn’t want a party, so we threw one anyway – albeit a modest affair. Nobody gets out of OIL without a party! Dinah has worked here since 2010 and has been the Librarian in Charge for the last two years. We wish her a long and happy retirement and hope she visits us often.


Leaping into the fray with regards to management will be Jane Bruder, who some readers may know from the Sackler Library. Jane will be taking a more central role at OIL as part of a small restructuring in the wake of Dawn and Dinah’s departures but the core staff of the library and our remit will remain the same.

Book moves

Readers who regularly visit the basement will have noticed activity over the last couple of weeks as our colleagues from the Muller Library have been moving some of our Hebrew collections to their library as part of a re-organisation of collections.

If you are used to finding a particular item at OIL and it appears to have gone, do check with staff who will be able to check as to whether it has been moved.

Meanwhile Kate has been reorganising the Library of Congress books and moving them round into the area which was vacated by the old-sequence DS materials. This has involved a significant relocation of some popular sections; PK and PL are now in the far corner nearest to the Sackler Library and PJ is ranged along under the windows. Do ask if you cannot find anything; it is all still in sequence, just in different places!


Inductions – this Friday!

Finally, don’t forget that the Library Open Day is this Friday, 9th October. Everyone is always welcome, but we especially hope to see lots of new faces keen to find out all there is to know about the Library and its workings.

A fond farewell

September 3rd saw a sad and yet happy event at the Oriental Institute: a farewell party for our lovely Deputy Librarian, Dawn Vaux, who has left us for pastures antipodean. The party was well-attended, a fitting tribute to a popular and sympathetic member of staff who has weathered many library storms over her almost-eleven-year tenure at OIL.



Dawn first came to work at OIL when Martyn Minty was the Librarian, in 2004, and has seen many library colleagues come and go. When the closure of the New Bodleian Library in 2010 necessitated the restructuring of the Oriental provision within the libraries, Dawn was gracious in welcoming the staff (your humble blogger included) who had previously worked in the Oriental Reading Room and the New Bodleian Reading Room, and making us feel a part of the team.

In her own words, Dawn has described the Oriental Institute Library as “the most interesting and diverse library to work in at Oxford” and said that she feels “very lucky to have had such a great experience”, although at times the larger team – which developed due to various job-shares and the addition of Bodleian staff – was sometimes a bit difficult to keep track of!

Dawn has left the Library to move to Sydney, Australia, with her husband, who has accepted a job there. We are variously jealous, sad, and pleased for them to have this wonderful opportunity.