Ceiling works: Closure of main stairway and western alcove of mezzanine 9th-13th January

[UPDATE: This work has now been completed and the mezzanine and stairway areas are now accessible. Many thanks to our readers for their patience. 19/01/2023] 

The main library stairway and western alcove of the mezzanine (the side furthest from the building foyer), will be CLOSED from 9th -13th January.

This is due to required works on the ceiling in these areas, which will require the installation of internal scaffolding.

The library will remain open during this week. Access to the rest of the mezzanine and upper floors will be maintained via the remaining stairways.

There will be noise disruption in the library from this required work. We recommend sitting on the upper floors and avoiding the mezzanine level. You can ask for ear plugs at the VHL Enquiry Desk.

We apologise for any inconvenience caused. You can find out more background information about the works in our previous blogposts.

If you have any further questions about working in the Vere Harmsworth Library, please ask at the Information Desk, or email vhl@bodleian.ox.ac.uk. For further information about the RAI roof works, email Bethan Davies, VHL Librarian at bethan.davies@bodleian.ox.ac.uk.

What to expect when using the VHL Reading Rooms in Michaelmas Term 2020

If you are planning on booking and using the VHL study spaces, read this blogpost for further information, and advice on how to plan for your visit.

Booking a slot

In line with wider Bodleian policy, readers are required to use a booking system to book spaces at the VHL. Pre-booking is mandatory and walk-in requests for study spaces will be politely rejected by library staff.

A screenshot of the Bodleian Library Space Finder webpage. Note that this example includes our new Browse & Borrow service options – please ensure you select the right option for your visit.









Use this link to book your space at the VHL.

For more information about the wider Bodleian reading room policies, and for further information on the booking service, visit the Bodleian Libraries website on using library reading rooms.

The booking slots for the VHL are:

Weekdays: 9:30 – 13:00; 13:30-17:00; 17:30-21:00

Saturday: 10:00- 12:30: 13:00 – 16:00

Sunday: 11:00 – 13:30: 14:00 – 17:00

You may book for more than one slot across the day if you wish.

Spaces will be available one week in advance of the advertised dates.

You can choose to book a Desk space or a Reader PC space. You cannot book two spaces at the same time, and move between the PC/Desk.

You may use the notes field if you wish to provide further information to the librarians before your slot, such as if you wish to use a microfilm reader.

Please note that study spaces at the VHL, and across the Bodleian Libraries are very heavily booked up, and we are trying to make as many spaces available as safely possible. Do not make a study space booking if you are not intending on using it. Please be considerate of your fellow readers.

Arriving at the VHL for your study slot

You may arrive at any time during your allocated study slot. Please follow all social distancing guidance and signage when entering the building. If there is a queue, may be required to wait in the foyer, or outside the building.

Upon arrival outside the building, please follow the below steps:

  1. Enter the Rothermere American Institute foyer, via the door marked Entrance (on your right as you approach the building – see image below).

The library is through the glass doors door, on the left side of the foyer (see below). Keep to the right hand side as you enter through the doors.




2. Tap your Bodleian card against the card reader on your immediate right, to activate the access gates (see below).

3.  Please enter the library one person at a time. If library staff are busy with an enquiry  at the library desk, you may be asked to wait before the access gates, or in the RAI foyer.

4. Once the library staff member at the desk confirms that they are available to deal with your enquiry, please confirm that you are here for a study space booking.

5. You will be asked to show your Bodleian card, so that the staff member can confirm your place on the Reading Room register. Display your card either through the Perspex screen, or by placing your card on the desk, and then stepping away from the desk area and stand behind the line marked on the floor.

6. The library staff member will confirm your study slot booking, and the times of your registered study slot. They will also inform you of the main guidelines you need to follow whilst using the library. If you are studying for more than one slot, you will then be given a red library ticket (see below for further information on library tickets).

7. If you have a stack request, or Click & Collect material which you need to collect, inform the library staff member, so that they can provide you with your items. If there is a long queue of readers wishing to enter the library for reading room spaces, you may be asked to come back later to collect your material, when the enquiry desk is quieter.

Upon entering the library, you will need to register with library staff at the enquiry desk (pictured above). Please stand behind the line on the floor, when speaking with staff.

Selecting a Desk or PC Study Space

Available spaces within the VHL have been marked out by library staff in advance. Available spaces are socially distanced from other readers, and located to ensure the least amount of contact between readers.

Available spaces are marked with a green tick sign, which reads “You may sit here”. Unavailable seats are marked with a red “Do not sit here” sign.

You may use any available desk or PC Reader space in the VHL, so long as the seat is marked with the green tick sign and there is not a red Library ticket left on the desk.

PC study spaces are available on the Ground Floor only. Desk spaces are available on all floors of the library.

The Reader PCs are located on the Ground Floor. You can sit at any of the PCs with a green tick sign.

Once you have selected your desired space, please use the nearby cleaning materials to wipe down your desk area or reading room equipment before using the space for your studies.

If you are having problems with your chosen study space (such as your PC/electronic plugs are not working), inform the library staff as soon as possible for their assistance. If your study space is found to be unusable, staff may move you to another free space, but we do ask for you to wipe down your previous study space before moving.

Displaying your library ticket 

If you are going to be studying at the VHL for more than one time slot (so for example, a morning & afternoon slot), you will be given a red ticket by a member of staff on your arrival. The ticket is to ensure that other library staff do not incorrectly ask you to leave before your booked slot times have ended, and to avoid them disturbing you when asking other readers to leave. Please keep your red ticket clearly visible on your desk, with the side with text facing upwards.

Staying for more than one time slot? Make sure to keep your red ticket displayed!

You do not need to leave the library in between any of your booked slots, but you may leave the library at any point for meals or other reasons. If you are planning on leaving the library and returning, please leave your red ticket on your desk, to make sure other readers do not use your space in your absence.

When you have finished studying for the day, please return your ticket to the enquiry point when you leave. Do not take your ticket home with you.

Using the reading room during your slot 

Social distancing guidelines and cleaning material 

Any reader using the library study spaces will need to follow the guidelines set out by the VHL. These are created in consultation with the Rothermere American Institute and the wider Bodleian libraries policy.

Readers will be required to wear a mask at all times whilst in the library, and wider RAI building. Readers must also maintain a 2 meter social distance between themselves and others using the building. There is a limit of one person down each library shelving bay.

If you require help from a library staff member, consider using Library Chat or email, instead of speaking 1-1 with a member of staff, to reduce unrequired contact.

There are cleaning materials located around the library on each floor, to allow readers to clean their study spaces and any reading room equipment they use whilst at the VHL. There are also hand sanitisers located near reading room equipment, and in wall dispensers around the building.

If you have any feedback on the social distancing/one way system, or feel that more cleaning material should be made available, please inform library staff by email. We are more than happy to consider your feedback, and reflect on what we can do better.

Moving around the library

A one-way system is in place around the building to encourage social distancing and to avoid unwarranted contact between people using the building.

Upon entering and exiting the RAI foyer, use the separate Entrance and Exit doors. Please keep to your right as you enter or exit the VHL via the glass doors and library access gates.

There is only one staircase which connects the Ground Floor to the Mezzanine level, from which you can access the other floors. Please be aware of other readers using the stairs and give way at the signposted points (pictured below).

If you need to continue to the floors higher than the Mezzanine level, use the stairs immediately on your right (see above image). You should only use these stairs to go up.

To travel to lower floors from the First/Second Floor towards the Mezzanine, please use the stairs located closest to car park, and RAI foyer. These stairs are opposite the stairs you used to enter the building. You should only use these stairs to go down (see below).

On the First and Second Floor, a one way system is in place around the library shelves. To travel towards the area of the building closest to the cark park and where the stairs for travelling downstairs are located, please walk on the side of the floor closest to the Mezzanine and the large glass windows looking onto the garden.

To travel towards the area of the building furthest from the car park and where the stairs for travelling upstairs, please walk on the side of the floor furthest from the Mezzanine, next to the windows facing South Parks Road.

Please limit the number of people down each library shelving bay to one.

In order to exit the building, you will need to go downstairs (using the stairs located closest to the carpark and RAI foyer), and then walk parallel to the Mezzanine study spaces and large glass windows looking onto the garden. Remember that you may need to give way to others before using the staircase which connects the Mezzanine to the Ground Floor.

There is signage clearly displayed around the library, to show readers the correct routes using the one way system, and clarifying where to give way to others.

Please be aware of others as you travel around the building. You may need to stand to the side, or leave a library shelving bay, in order for others to use the building in the safest way possible.

If you have any feedback on the one way system, or feel that more signage should be displayed, please inform library staff by email. We are more than happy to consider your feedback, and reflect on what we can do better.

Bathrooms and breaks

Bathrooms are located on the First Floor of the library, on the side closest to the car park.

The bathrooms include two unisex toilet cubicles (with individual sinks and hand drying facilities) and one disabled bathroom. Please be aware that others may be using the bathrooms, and give way to readers leaving the bathrooms as a priority. Hand sanitiser is available in a wall dispenser next to the toilet entrances.

Readers may leave the library at any point, including for meals. If you are going for a long period of time, you should take your personal belongings with you. If you have been given a red library ticket to show you have more than one study booking, leave the ticket on the desk.

If you are planning on re-entering the library, please inform the library staff as you leave. You will be asked to show your card when you re-enter the library so staff can confirm your slot.


Any reader with a booked reading room slot may browse the open shelves for VHL and RSL material. Please follow the wider social distancing guidelines and visible signage when travelling around the reading room. There is a limit of one person down each library shelving bay.

PCAS machines and other reading room equipment

Any reader with a booked slot may use the PCAS machines for scanning, copying and printing. The two PCAS machines for the VHL readers are located on the Ground Floor, on the side opposite the enquiry desk. Please use the available cleaning material to wipe down the machines before and after you use them.

If you wish to use the microfilm reader, please make a note of this on your booking. The library staff will make sure that the reader is available for you to use. Please use the available cleaning material to wipe down the reader before and after you use it.

The VHL also has accessibility equipment available for readers to use. Please ask at the enquiry desk if you would like to use any of the equipment, and the library staff will sign them out to you. Please use the available cleaning material to wipe down the equipment before and after you use them.

Leaving the VHL at the end of your study slot

You may leave the VHL at any point before the end of your study slot. Library staff will alert relevant readers in the library 15 minutes before the end of each of the allocated time slots. (So for example, staff will warn readers at 12:45 if their booking will end at 13:00). This is to give readers enough time to collect their belongings and clean their study spaces/reading room equipment before leaving.

If you have booked for more than one time slot across the same day, please keep your red ticket clearly visible on your desk, with the side with text facing upwards. Library staff will be checking tickets as they alert readers, and will not disturb you.

When you have finished your reading room slot, or have received a 15 minute warning from library staff, please complete the following steps.

  1. Pack up your belongings.
  2. Use the nearby cleaning materials to wipe down your desk, PC or any other reading room equipment that you have used.
  3. Leave any library materials that you will not be borrowing on your desk, or nearby library trollies.
  4. Bring your red library tickets downstairs with you and leave them on the Enquiry Desk. Please do not take the red tickets with you. 
  5. Leave aside some time if you need to return stack requests or check out books from the enquiry desk.
  6. Leave the library one at a time, keeping to your right, as you go through the security sensors.
  7. Use the card reader on the wall directly in front of you (on your immediate right as you turn to face the library doors) to activate the security gates and exit the library through the library doors.
  8. Exit the RAI foyer via the exit immediately on your right.

When exiting the library, please be aware of your fellow readers and others in the building, and follow social distancing signage and guidance at all times. You may need to wait for others to finish using cleaning material before you can use it. There may be a rush of readers exiting the library, and you may be asked to queue as you leave. If you need to return a stack request or check out books at the enquiry desk, you may be asked to wait until a queue of readers have left, before staff can assist you.

We hope you have a productive and positive experience at our libraryIf you have any questions or feedback about using the VHL reading room, please contact us at: vhl@bodleian.ox.ac.uk.

Using the VHL for Michaelmas Term 2020- Information for new and returning readers

In this blogpost, we will go through the key information you need to know for studying at the VHL in Michaelmas 2020. This information will be useful to any of our new readers, or those returning to the VHL after the lockdown period.

Opening hours

The VHL is now operating in our Term Time opening hours, as of Sunday 11th October. This means that the VHL is now open on evenings and weekends, until Saturday, 13th December. Please note, that you can only come in to the library if you have a pre-booked Click & Collect/Study Space spot, or if you are returning books.

Booking a Study Space

To use the VHL study spaces, readers will need to have pre-booked a Desk or PC study space, via the Bodleian Libraries Reading Room Booking service.

More information on using the central booking service, and Bodleian regulations regarding using Bodleian reading rooms during Michaelmas Term may be found on the Bodleian website. 

The booking slots for a VHL Desk or PC slot are:

Monday-Friday: 9:30 – 13:00; 13:30-17:00; 17:30-21:00

Saturday: 10:00-12:30; 13:00-16:00

Sunday: 11:00 -1:30; 14:00-17:00

Please note that study spaces at the VHL, and across the Bodleian Libraries are in high demand, and spaces are getting booked up very quickly. We are trying to make as many spaces available as safely possible. Do not make a study space booking if you are not intending on using the space. Please be considerate of your fellow readers, who also require study spaces in the library.

For more information on studying in the library, check out our separate blog post on What to expect when you use the VHL Reading Rooms.

Using Browse & Borrow

The VHL is now offering Browse & Borrow services on weekdays and weekends. Browse & Borrow spaces can also be booked via the Bodleian Libraries Reading Room Booking service.

Bookings to use the Browse & Borrow service can be made in between the following times:

Monday – Friday: 10:00 – 12:30; 14:00-16:30; 18:00-20:30

Saturdays: 10:30-12:00; 13:30-15:30

Sundays: 11:30 – 13:00; 14:30-16:30

Browse & Borrow allows Readers to enter the library for a pre-booked timeslot, to browse the open shelves for key titles, and to borrow loanable material. Readers may also use the Quick Search Terminals, PCAS machines to photocopy or scan relevant chapters or pages, in line with copyright guidance.

Readers using the Browse & Borrow service will not be able to use any of the library desks or Reader PCs. If Readers have Stack Requests, which need to be consulted in the library, they will need to book a study space.

More information on the Browse & Borrow service can be found on the Bodleian Libraries website.

Using the Click & Collect Service

Over Michaelmas Term, the VHL will continue to provide a Click & Collect service. Bodleian Readers may select loanable VHL titles via SOLO, by clicking the green “Request” button which is next to the location information.

An example of Click & Collect – press the green Request button.










Once library staff have collected your item, you will receive an automatic email, to book a collection slot. You will only need to book one time slot if you are picking up multiple items.

Collection slots are available from 12:00-1600 on weekdays.

Please book a collection slot before coming to the VHL to collect your title. This is to help library staff to manage collection bookings whilst overseeing our other reading room services.

If you do not attend your collection slot, your title will be kept on the Hold Shelf for 7 days, before being returned to the open shelves, or passed on to the next Hold request.

For more information on how Click & Collect works at the VHL, check out our separate blogpost on What to expect when using Click & Collect at the VHL.

Using BSF Stack Requests

Bodleian book deliveries are now running, allowing for stack requests from the BSF to be re-instated. If you come across a title in SOLO that you would like to read at the VHl, click the green “Request” button next to individual title, and select the VHL Library Desk as the desired collection point. An email will be sent confirming that the book has arrived from the BSF and is available to read.

Please note that BSF materials are non-loanable, and must be consulted in the library.  You must make a reading room booking in order to consult your stack request.

If you are struggling to make a reading room booking, please let our library staff know. We may be able to extend your stack request so that you may consult the title at a later date.

Upon arrival at the VHL, after confirming your Reading Room booking, inform the member of staff on the desk that you have a stack request. You will be asked to show your card. Our library staff will then find your stack request, and check it out to you for the duration of your time in the library for that day. If your selected title is historical material (pre-1920), or particularly fragile, you may be basked to sit on the Ground Floor, in sight of the enquiry desk.

When returning your stack request, you will need to advise the librarian whether you wish to continue keeping the item on the Hold Shelf, or if you have finished with it. The librarian will then either return it to the Hold Shelf, or send it back to the BSF.

Using LibraryScan

The VHL will continue to provide a scanning service, alongside our fellow Bodleian libraries. Scans are currently limited to one request per day. Scans are limited to a chapter, article or 5% of the title, in line with copyright legislation.

Please select the red LibraryScan button at the top of the SOLO record (see image below as an example). You will then be asked to complete further details, such as the required pages/chapter/article and any further details required.

If the same title is available at the BSF, please select the Blue Off-Site scan option, which will be next to the title location details. This is to help manage demand. The BSF have a larger scanning service in operation, and can handle more requests than the individual libraries.

Returning books to the VHL

When returning books at the VHL, readers will be asked to put their items directly into a blue crate. The crate is located immediately on the right as you enter the library, on the ground next to the library desk. Readers do not need to make a reading room booking, or use the access gates in order to return their books.

A blue box, labelled Returns, is on the floor of the library. A set of glass doors are on the right of the image, and the library desk wall on the left.

Our returns crate is next to the library enquiry desk, as you walk through the glass doors.

After a quarantine period of 24 hours, the book will be removed from your account. Bodleian libraries will be extending it’s grace period on library fines from the lockdown period across Michaelmas Term, so the extra period of time on your account will not affect you.

Readers may also return their books via the Returns Hubs based at the Social Science Library in the Manor Road Building, or the Sainsbury Library at the Saïd Business School.

Please note that if you cannot physically return the books yourself, you may ask a friend or family member to return the books for you. If this is not possible, please visit the Bodleian Loans Returns webpage, which provides further information and return options for readers.

****************************************************************************************************If you have any questions about any of the services above, or any general questions about using the VHL, please contact us by email (vhl@bodleian.ox.ac.uk) or by phone (01865 282700). 

Our library staff look forward to seeing you, and wish you a productive Michaelmas Term!

Mezzanine seating reserved week beginning 18th July

The RAI is hosting a summer school for sixth form students next week.  They will be using the library for their own studies in the afternoons, and the mezzanine seating will be reserved for them while they are in the library.  Please use alternative seating on the other floors if you are working in the VHL in the afternoons next week.

Mezzanine reserved week beginning 19th July

The RAI is welcoming the UNIQ History Summer School for sixth-form students in the week beginning 19th July.  During the afternoons the students will be working in the library, and we will be reserving the seating on the mezzanine level for them.  Other readers are welcome to sit there in the mornings, but please move to one of the desks upstairs in the afternoons from Monday-Thursday.   There may also be some low-level discussion, so apologies in advance if there is any disruption for these few hours during the week.

Reserved desks for DPhils

Starting from today, a number of the study carrels on the first floor of the library will be reserved for specific users. This has been requested by the RAI graduate community and fits with the aims of the RAI to provide more dedicated workspace for graduates. Other readers are welcome to sit at the desks if they are not in use, but should be prepared to move if the named user turns up.

We will monitor how this works closely once we get into Trinity Term as use of the library increases. We do not want to disadvantage library users, but also do want to provide as good a service as possible to the RAI/US Studies community.

Trinity Term seating – follow-up

Now that Trinity Term is over it seems a good time to report on the effect of our change of policy towards the first floor study carrels this year. We received various comments and feedback from a variety of library users, and had a good number of votes on the poll we had running here on the blog. Unsurprisingly, feedback was very positive from Americanists, but more surprisingly, there was only one complaint about the new restrictions. The poll showed a more evenly spread response, with 45% voting for Americanists only, 30% for priority to Americanists and 25% for no restrictions whatsoever. From the staff point of view, the most telling indication is that we have not once been asked to intervene or move a non-Americanist, and have not had a single complaint that a reader cannot find anywhere to sit. This is despite the fact that our usage statistics show that we have been about as busy as we were last year, when there were quite a few complaints. We are therefore judging the new system a success! The first floor study carrels are therefore now available to be used on a first-come, first-served basis for most of the year (with priority to Americanists if the library becomes unexpectedly busy), but during Trinity Terms will be reserved for Americanists only.

Finally, a reminder that as of today we revert to summer vacation opening hours – Monday-Friday, 9am-5pm only.

New look for the blog and Trinity Term seating continued

The VHL blog is now just over six months old, and to celebrate I’ve given it a makeover. Hope you all like the new look! If you usually read our news via a feed reader you might want to drop by the actual page and take a look.

Another thing to flag up, for those of you reading our feed, is that we have a quick poll running on the blog at the moment about the Trinity Term seating issue. We’ve had a variety of comments from readers about the new system, both in favour and against, and so are canvassing opinion – if you have feelings about this one way or another, please vote in the sidebar.

Increased use of the library in Trinity Term

Every year we see a marked increase in use of the library in Trinity Term, at times almost up to 100% capacity, due to students throughout the University needing study space in the run-up to exams. The VHL is not the only library that experiences this, but perhaps because for most of the year we are quite quiet it feels like more of a contrast, and leads to complaints every year from Americanists who suddenly struggle to find somewhere to sit and work in the VHL during this period.

In previous years we have tried to balance the conflicting needs of our readers with minimum intervention, by designating the first floor study carrels as priority desks from which non-Americanists may be asked to move if the library reaches capacity and someone needing to use our collections cannot find anywhere to sit. We have seen this as the simplest system for us to manage, and the fairest one to all readers, as intervention is only necessary if there is no alternative free seat. However it hasn’t always worked as well as we might have hoped, and so this year we have decided to try setting aside the first floor study carrels for Americanists only during Trinity Term. During this period therefore, please only use these desks if you are in the library to use our collections.

We understand that our readers have conflicting needs and opinions, and would very much like to hear from you about this. Let us know what you think about the new system as opposed to the old, or any other ideas or views you have about how best to manage our busy time of year. Comment on this blog post, or on the VHL’s page on Facebook, or let us know your thoughts by email or in the comments book at the desk. Hopefully together we’ll be able to make Trinity Term in the VHL more harmonious this year!