St John's College Oxford
The Library has always been at the heart of St John’s – both physically and intellectually – serving its scholarly community.

Today, the Laudian Library and the Paddy Room are the principal spaces used by members of the College wishing to read and study, but our library facilities have struggled to keep pace with both the vast increase in student numbers and the changing ways in which young people now study. 

In speaking about the new buildings, the President of College, Professor Maggie Snowling CBE said:

'The Library & Study Centre will be an inspiring space for students and scholars now and for centuries to come – a place to think, read, reflect and write, and to enjoy.  

This beautiful addition to the fabric of St John’s will double the current number of seats available for readers and double the present shelving space for the collections. It will bring the old and new parts of the College together physically and once again position the library facilities at the heart of St John’s.  

It will be a place of learning and quiet reflection, certainly, but it will also be a forum for discussion and collaboration – with informal and formal areas designed to suit an increasingly diverse group of students and their working styles. It will be the first library at St John’s created primarily with the needs of students in mind. 

The Library & Study Centre will also be a place where students, scholars and members of the public will be able to share in the excitement of seeing – and learning about – our Special Collections of printed books and manuscripts. These treasures have been given and bequeathed to the College since its foundation, and we wish to make them as accessible as possible.'

Study Centre

This beautiful building, on four floors, will sit at the centre of the College’s extensive site. It will be linked to the northern end of the Canterbury Quadrangle on both the ground and first floors. New and old buildings will coexist harmoniously within the context of the College’s beautiful grounds. 

Inside, the spaces will be bathed in natural light, thanks to a combination of tall vertical glazing, rooflights and internal windows. The design, by architects Wright & Wright, is an elegant, pared-down conception, which uses a restrained palette of colours and fine materials. 

A building at home in its surroundings
Study CentreThe Library & Study Centre has been designed to have a gentle presence in its setting of the President’s Garden. The full beauty of the building’s exterior will reveal itself on its west side. At the end of the wide lawn there will be a series of tall windows projecting out over a shallow pool of water, giving the interior of the Library & Study Centre a luminous quality.

The artist Susanna Heron will create an abstract sculptural relief in the stone of this wall of the building (pictured). This sculpture will produce an interplay of shadows and reflections in the pool below, helping to generate an ever-changing, rippling effect of light in the informal study area on the ground floor of the building. Read more about this architectural artwork here.

The Library & Study Centre will therefore enclose the President’s Garden, providing a beautiful space for both private relaxation and public events.

Study Centre north elevation

From the east side, where the Great Lawn and the Groves are located, the sense of connection with nature from the first-floor spaces (including the reading room and the seminar room) will be uplifting in any season.

When entering the Library & Study Centre from the north side, you will pass through a wide opening in the stone wall. As you look up, you will see the floor-to-ceiling windows of the seminar room on the left (pictured). There will be a sense of dramatic anticipation as you walk inside the building.

all photos Wright & Wright

The new Library & Study Centre

The ground floor
Library & Study Centre ground floor atriumOn the ground floor there will be a direct route between Canterbury Quad (entered via the Otranto Passage) and Thomas White Quad. Readers will be able to enter and exit the new building from either north or south. Once inside, they will reach a large open-plan, informal study area filled with comfortable sofas and low tables. 

At the centre of the main axis of the building, there will be a welcoming atrium (pictured right) with a reader enquiry point and, outside, a courtyard garden seen through tall windows. From here readers will enter the Library & Study Centre’s ground floor reading room, a double-height space with natural light streaming down from the long roof light above.

Here, readers will be able to sit at a number of large desks, with generous accommodation for each student’s laptop and books. The rest of the space will house open-access shelving and a study room.

The mezzanine floor
Library & Study Centre mezzanine floorThis will be an airy and attractive space for readers to use. On the east side desks will overlook the double-height space of the ground floor reading room (pictured). Looking west, there will be views down onto the informal study area. 

The first floor 
The main reading room on the first floor will be a bright, open and welcoming space. Readers will have the choice of sitting at a bank of desks looking out eastwards onto the Groves and the Great Lawn, or in more informal seating on the west side of the room.

A row of high windows running the full length of both sides of the room will help to flood the space with natural light. Readers will be able to consult the collections housed in the room’s shoulder-height bookshelves.

At the northern end of the first floor there will be a large seminar room and a smaller study room with floor-to-ceiling windows onto the greenery beyond. The seminar room will enable us to hold sessions for undergraduates and postgraduates focusing on the Special Collections and on study skills. It will also accommodate groups of up to 20 people – such as school pupils and other members of the public – allowing them to view temporary displays of the College’s collections in an attractive and comfortable environment.

The basement floor
Library & Study Centre basementThe basement will house two large rooms with rolling shelving for the Special Collections, one of which will have space to allow for the growth in these holdings. They will be highly secure spaces, with sophisticated climate controls to manage heat and humidity levels, and advanced fire-protection technology.

The basement will also house a book stack with rolling shelving for some of the less heavily consulted general collections; this room will be open to all readers. There will be spaces for photographing and digitising the collections, and a photocopying room.

all photos Wright & Wright

A brochure with comprehensive information about the project can be downloaded here.