Not sure where to study in the SSL? Find out more about our study spaces

A person stood with their finger to their chin and head slanted to one side, looking quizzical. A large question mark is in the air above them.

Not sure where to study in the SSL? We have a variety of study spaces/seating for you to choose from. We also have different volume levels assigned to our study spaces, so you can easily find a silent space or somewhere you can talk. Read on below to discover the different options and then all you have to do is decide what suits you best!

Prefer to study with your friends? Does being surrounded by other people studying help you get down to work?

Our open plan seating might be your best choice. We have two options available:

One of open plan seating areas in the Social Science Library

A large open plan seating area on the Manor Road side of the library. Floor to ceiling windows ensure lots of natural light. The desks are roomy which means you can spread out your study materials. Desks are equipped with devices to lock your laptops to and power sockets (either above or below the desks). This area of the library is designated a Silent Zone (silent study, no conversations)

The open plan seating area in the Social Science Library with partitioned seating

Our second area of open plan seating is located on the river facing side of the library. These desks are partitioned, to allow for a degree of privacy. Again, there is plenty of natural light from the windows adjacent to the seating. Desks are equipped with power sockets. This area of the library is also designated a Silent Zone (silent study, no conversations)

Is being surrounded by others distracting for you? Do you prefer a space where you can be completely on your own or with only a few people nearby?

Our study carrels, individual partitioned seating or individual study desks will be your best choice:

Two of the individual study carrels in the Social Science Library

We have ten study carrels. Two are double carrels and the rest are single. All are sound proofed, have power sockets and Wi-Fi. All have over head lighting and are equipped with desk lamps. The carrels designated for general use operate on a first-come, first served basis. See our guide to study carrel etiquette.

The individual study desks along the west side of the Social Science Library

If the study carrels are all in use, there are individual desks situated on the side of the library facing the St Cross Building, overlooking the car park. These are also helpfully removed from distractions and noise (turn right at the end of the Issue Desk and then go left past the Discussion Rooms to reach this area). Note that these desks do not have power sockets. This area of the library is designated a Silent Zone (silent study, no conversations)

photo (c) John Cairns

The alternative is the study area at the back of the library (running along from in front of the Quiet Study Room towards the Silent Study Room) this is a partitioned seating area for quiet individual study. Half of these seats have been designated a laptop free zone. We request that readers do not use a laptop or a device with an external keyboard at these seats. Tablets and other devices with silent keyboards may still be used. The seats in this area are clearly labelled. All desks in this area have power sockets. This area of the library is designated a Silent Zone (silent study, no conversations)

Looking for a space to have a discussion, give a presentation or engage in group work? Our Discussion Rooms will suit your needs.

A groups of students having a conversation in the Small Discussion Room in the Social Science Library

photo (c) John Cairns

The small room comfortably seats 8 and the larger room seats 16.  Both rooms are equipped with whiteboards and projectors. Marker pens, board rubbers and remote controls for the projectors can be borrowed from the issue desk. Power sockets are also available. Both rooms are equipped with dimmer switches, so you can choose the light level you require. These rooms can be booked in advance by academics and students for academic-related purposes. If they are not booked, please feel free to go in and use them. These 2 rooms have been designated a Discussion Zone: Discussions, presentations, group work and conversations are permitted

Do you want plenty of desk space to spread out? Do you want to be away from the main open plan study areas? Our two Study Rooms at the back of the Library will be a good choice for you.

The Quiet Study Room in the Social Science Library

Our Quiet Study Room is equipped with whiteboards and all desks have power sockets. A Manor Road Building IT printer is also located in it (for use by students attached to Departments in the Manor Road building). The room contains two electronic and one manual height-adjustable desk. Windows along the back wall provide natural light. This room has been designated a Quiet Zone where brief, low volume conversations are permitted.

The Silent Study Room in the Social Science Library

The Silent Study Room contains desks with partitioned seating and power sockets. The room contains a standing desk and an electronic height-adjustable desk. Windows on two sides provide natural light. This room has been designated a silent zone (silent study, no conversations).

The Q-Step Centre Teaching Lab in the Social Science Library

An alternative space is the Q-Step Centre Teaching Lab (located at the back of the library, on the side facing the St Cross Building). This room is used for teaching Quantitative Methods to undergraduate students from 1pm – 6.15pm every weekday of the teaching term (Weeks 1 – 8). Outside these hours the room is accessible to all readers.

Forgotten your laptop or would prefer to work on a proper computer with desk space? Our computer area or Information Skills Training Room will be a good choice.

The main computer area and Data Area in the Social Science Library

Our main computer area is equipped with 23 PCs, this includes a dedicated Data Area with PCs containing specialist software.

The Information Skills Training Room in the Social Science Library

The Information Skills Training Room offers 20 PCs, LCD projector and screen. It is occasionally booked for training sessions but if it is free, you are welcome to use it. This area is normally less busy than our main computer area. All the monitors and keyboard are housed within the desk, so lift the covers of the desks to access them. This room is equipped with a dimmer switch, so you can choose the light level you require.

Prefer to be more relaxed and sit in individual comfy chairs? Our comfortable seating area will suit your needs.

The comfy seating area in the Social Science Library

There are 6 blue comfortable chairs on the side of the library facing the St Cross Building, behind our main computer area. There is plenty of natural daylight in this area. This are is designated a Silent Zone (silent study, no conversations)

We also have a range of ergonomic furniture for you to use:

The Library has 7 height-adjustable desks (5 electronic, 2 manual) and 6 fixed height standing desks in the following locations:

Electronic Height-Adjustable Desks

Two of the height adjustable desks in the Social Science Library


  • 2 are behind the main computer area (also equipped with PCs)
  • 2 in the study area on the river facing side of the Library
  • 1 in the Silent Graduate Study Room



Fixed-Height Standing Desks

One of the fixed height desks in the Social Science Library

  • 3 in the study area on the river facing side of the Library
  • 1 at the end of the partitioned seating area outside the Silent Study Room
  • 1 in the quiet study area by the windows facing the St Cross Building
  • 1 in the Silent Study Room


Manual Height-Adjustable Desks

  • 2 in the Quiet Study Room

Ergonomic Chairs

The Library also has 10 RH Logic ergonomic chairs located around the library. Please feel free to move them to where you would like to sit (or ask staff for assistance with doing this).

Standard adjustable chairs are available in the silent and quiet Study Rooms and at desks equipped with PCs. Library staff will fetch or move these on request.

The back of a person's heads. They are in the process of putting on some headphones

Look out for signage indicating the volume level for a zone:

A speaker with a cross next to it, on a blue backgroundSilent Zone: Silent study, no conversations

Main seating areas & Silent Study Room

Information Skills Training Room & Q-Step Centre Training Lab (when not in use for teaching)


 A speaker with a cross next to it, on a yellow background

Quiet Zone: Brief, low volume conversations permitted.

Quiet Study Room


A speaker with a cross next to it, on a green background

Discussion Zone: Discussions, presentations, group work and conversations are permitted

Large Discussion Room and Small Discussion Room


Air Handling Maintenance, Monday 15 to Friday 19 August

Image of a spanner and a screwdriver with a yellow handle

Essential maintenance work to replace an air handling unit control panel is scheduled for Monday 15 – Friday 19 August 2022.  This means that some areas of the library may feel stuffier than usual during this time.

If you would like advice on alternative work spaces in the library that are unaffected by this work please ask library staff.

We apologise for any inconvenience caused.

Booking a Discussion Room at the SSL

Do you need somewhere for your study group to meet? Do you have an online meeting with your tutor and need somewhere to talk without disturbing others? Then you might want to book a discussion room at the SSL! We have 2 discussion rooms – one large and one small – available to be booked by members of the Social Sciences Division (and students of Economic and Social History) for academic, University of Oxford-related purposes. They are the only places you can undertake a phone call or group study session in the SSL and so are very popular – booking is usually necessary! The small discussion room can be used for groups of up to 4 people, and the large can have groups of up to 10.

How to book a discussion room

To book one of the rooms, you first need to check the booking calendars for the date and time you require. You can do this by scanning the QR code outside the discussion rooms, or visiting the calendars on our website. We have a different calendar for each of our bookable rooms.

Image of the SSL booking calendar as it appears on our website

You can book up to 2 hours before the session, or as far in advance as you would like. Once you’ve checked the room you want to book is available, you can fill out our new online form, also found on our website. It asks for some personal information such as your email address in case we need to contact you regarding your booking, and what department you are from so we can verify you are a member of the Social Sciences department. You then fill in the date and time you require, and there is a link to check the calendars in case you have forgotten or want to double check your slot.

Image of the SSL room booking form. Text says: I have checked the room is free at the requested day and time; What date would you like to book the room for? When would you like the session to start? When would you like the session to finish? What would you like to name the session?If you’re unable to fill out the online form to book the room, you can also email the SSL (, telephone us on 01865 271093, or speak to a member or Library Staff at the issue desk. Please not, your booking is not confirmed until you recieve a confirmation email from the library.

Using the Room

Both rooms have a boardroom layout with a whiteboard and LCD projector, and there are markers and a remote available to borrow from the issue desk. Additionally, they both have power sockets and ethernet points. The large discussion room has a television and video/DVD player in addition to this.

When using the room, the same library rules apply as in our other study spaces.

  • No drinks other than bottled water unless they’re in a Keep Cup
  • If you want to eat something, either visit the cafe upstairs or enjoy a break on one of the picnic benches outside
A photograph of our small discussion room. 3 library users sit around the table with a laptop and books and another library user stands by the whiteboard talking to them.

photo (c) John Cairns

If the room is not in use and there are no bookings on the calendar, then you are free to use the room until the next booking. We ask you to be considerate when using our discussion rooms as staff are not able to clear each group out before the next session, so leaving promptly when your booking is complete or before the next group is due to arrive is much appreciated.

If there are any problems with the discussion rooms, such as faulty equipment or a booking query, staff are more than happy to help! If you have any questions, drop us an email at or come and talk to us at the issue desk.

Accessing the SSL from Monday 6 September

Student sat studying at a desk in the SSL

photo (c) John Cairns

From Monday 6 September, the Bodleian Libraries will be stopping Space Finder and the requirement to book a time slot to use libraries and reading rooms for all readers. No time slots from that date will therefore be available on Space Finder. This change applies to the Social Science Library.

The Click and Collect borrowing service will also be stopping.

We will still:

  • Strongly encourage readers to wear face coverings in our library spaces
  • Request readers scan the NHS Test and Trace QR codes displayed in our entrance area
  • Encourage all library users to limit close contact and respect others
  • Maintain an increased level of cleaning in our library

Visit the Bodleian Libraries Service Updates webpage for all the latest information

What does it mean when you make an Open Plan Desk Booking at the SSL

When you book a study space via Space Finder, you have a number of options you can choose. One of them is for ‘Open Plan Desk Booking‘:

When you choose this option it basically means you can sit at any study space in the library that doesn’t have a PC at it or isn’t a Height Adjustable Desk (see photo below for an example of one of our Height Adjustable Desks):

A photo of a height adjustable desk.

The study spaces you can choose from are listed below:

The seating located around the corner, to the left of our issue desk.

A photo of our open plan seating area to the left of our issue desk. Desks are large tables.

The seating at the back of the library, opposite St Catherine’s College (except the Height Adjustable Desks located in this area).

A photo of the desks at the back of the library. All desk have partitions screens.

The partitioned seating in front of the Central Graduate Study Room.

A photos of the desks in front of the Central Graduate Study Rooms. There are individual spaces in a row and all are partitioned on all sides.

The seats in either of our Graduate Study Rooms (except the Height Adjustable Desks located in these rooms). At the moment these two rooms are open to anyone to use and not just Social Science Graduates.

Photo of desks in the EGSR. Large desks that have a partition down the centre, height adjustable seating.

Photo of desks in the Central Graduate Study Room. Large desks with no partitions.

If they are not booked by a group, you are welcome to use either of our Discussion Rooms.

Photo of our Small Discussion Room, showing students participating in a group study session.

photo (c) John Cairns

There are also some individual desks along the west side of the library, opposite the St Cross Building (though do note they don’t have power sockets).

Photos of individual desks, spaced out along a wall/windows adjacent to the St Cross Building.

You can also use our Study Carrels. Do note that occasionally some of these may be booked but this is clearly displayed on the door to each carrel.

Photo of our study carrels. Small individual study rooms.

Once you’ve chosen the area you want to sit, look out for the ticks in green boxes and red no-entry symbols.

Sit at a desk space with a tick in a green box.

Photo of a notice on a desk, which has a white tick in a green box and the words Please take a seat.

Avoid the red ‘Desk not in use’ spaces. This ensures everyone is adequately spaced apart.

Photo of a sign on a desk which has a red no entry symbol on it and the words Desk no in use.

Finally clean your study space before you start work and also before you leave.

Cleaning stations are located close to all seating areas. Help yourself to the materials located there (returning after use) and do let library staff know if supplies are running low.

Photo of a cleaning station. A table which has cleaning supplies on it for use in the library.


SSL Reading Rooms to open from Monday 17 August

From Monday 17 August, readers will be admitted to the Social Science Library to use our study spaces and consult our onsite collections.

Access to the library is strictly by advance booking only, to ensure the continued safety of our staff and readers.

To book a desk space, including desks with PCs, height-adjustable desks and study carrels, please visit our bookings page, select the category of workspace you would like to use and make a booking for the date(s) you wish to visit the library.

You can book workspaces from a minimum of one day to a maximum of two weeks in advance.

You will be able to book a whole day (currently 10am-4pm), and can arrive and leave at any point during the day.

After submitting your request, you will receive a confirmation email containing important information on the new arrangements in place in our libraries. Please read this carefully.

For more information on the re-opening of Bodleian Libraries Reading Rooms, please visit:


Take a Break

Here at the SSL we would like to encourage all readers to take regular breaks and study in healthy balance and moderation.

Here are our top tips for taking a break!


A walk can help to stimulate your brain, allowing you to study far more effectively. Exercise is proven to improve your mood through the release of endorphins, helping to relieve stress.

The SSL is surrounded by so many green spaces.

From the University Parks, to the Magdalen College Deer Park, to even Holywell Cemetery, there are plenty of nearby green spaces to explore!

We’ve created a map of our favourite lunchtime walks.

Feel free to pick up a map and discover somewhere new during your break.

Or why not recommend your favourite walk to us?


Working at the same desk on the same seat all day can sometimes hinder effective study, so why not switch it up? You’d be surprised how physical perception can affect your perspective on work. Even something as simple as moving to a different desk, or seat, can help!

There are a variety of different study spaces in the SSL.

Why not try the comfy seating area, located to the right of the Issue Desk?

Or why not use your break to travel to a new library? Library hopping is a great way to break up your work and refresh your mind with a new location.


Coordinating breaks with your friends allows for social interaction which will break your own internal monologue and give you a chance to relax and focus on something outside of work.

If you want to chat with your friends and not leave the Manor Road Building, why not use the Manor Road Common Room, located on the first floor just past the Manor Road Cafe?

You can even eat in the Common Room.


Studying while hungry or dehydrated can make it much more difficult to focus and process information. Luckily there are spaces nearby to eat and drink.

Manor Road Café 

Open Monday to Friday 8:00-17:00

Missing Bean Café

(St Cross Building) 

Open Monday to Friday 8:00-16:00

Don’t forget if you use your KeepCup you can bring your drink into the library!

How do you take breaks? Give us your suggestions!

Welfare and Wellbeing

At Oxford we are committed to the mental health and wellbeing of all our students.There are a number of services available which provide support to readers during their studies at the University. Advice is available from your college, department, central University services, fellow students and the Student Union.

Click here to find out more about the support available.

Library PC and WiFi Access Points Upgrade: Work taking place in the Library the week of Mon 9th December

We are planning some improvements to our library PCs and Wi-Fi access points. For the PCs, increased memory and processing power will result in faster loading times and the ability to better handle our diverse range of programmes. They will also be sustainably built, take up less space and have an ergonomic design. New Wi-Fi access points will be mounted on our ceilings to improve the reliability and strength of our Wi-Fi signal.

The PCs in our main computer area will be replaced on Monday 9 to Tuesday 10 December. Work will be carried out to each desk in turn, so there will always be some PCs available for use in this area. Additional PCs can be found in our our Information Skills Training Room.

During this period we will also be replacing the 2 Quick Search PCs in our library entrance area and the 4 adjacent to our journal and statistics shelving.

Also on the week of 9 December, work will be carried out in the library to add new access points to our ceilings to improve the Wi-Fi signal. The work is scheduled to take place from Monday 9th to Wednesday 11th. Disruption should be kept to a minimum as the noisy work will take place outside of library opening hours.


Lighting Testing and PC Upgrade: Work taking place in the Library on Thurs 5 December

Our lighting is being tested on Thursday 5 December from approximately 4.30pm onwards. The work will involve switching off sections of lights for 2-3 minutes at a time. These areas will remain illuminated by emergency lighting at all times, so disruption will be minimal.

The PCs in our Information Skills Training Room will be replaced on 5 December with upgraded models. The room will be inaccessible during the period of work. Alternative PCs can be found in our main computer area (behind our Self Issue machines).