This innovative carbon-neutral new space transforms the College’s library provision and allows it to double the available seats for readers and double the shelving space for the collections, along with providing study and seminar rooms, a passively controlled environment for the College’s Special Collections, and spaces for collaborative learning.
During the opening there were speeches from the President of St John's College, Professor Maggie Snowling, as well as Clare Wright of Wright & Wright Architects, who gave an insight into the processes by which the new Library & Study Centre grew from an initial idea to the striking building we see today. Principal Bursar Professor Andrew Parker, who oversaw the project from its conception, thanked everyone who had been involved in the project, including staff, contractors and architects.
In his speech, Sir Keith Burnett spoke on how vital scholarship is to the success of a great university, allowing individual minds to grow and flourish. He went on to remind those present that, until recently, the opportunities and treasures of the University were closed off to women, but that now women are not only an integral part of our community as both students and staff members, but that this community is now truly international – and for the ideas and insights that are generated in these surroundings to reach their true fullness they must be shared back out into the wider world. He concluded that the new Study Centre will not just be a place for students to escape to, but a place for scholars to explore, to struggle, to persist, and to understand.
President Professor Maggie Snowling said: ‘The opening of the new Study Centre marks an historic development for St John’s College, bringing the old and new parts of the College together. One of Oxford’s major new buildings of the 21st century, the Study Centre provides, in a striking environment designed by architects Wright & Wright, a wide range of library services for all students, fellows and scholars. The Study Centre, thanks to many of our generous benefactors, once again positions the library facilities at the heart of the College.’
Guests experienced this remarkable building for themselves, with the opportunity to meet the architects Clare and Sandy Wright and to take a tour of the Study Centre. Also on hand were Susanna Heron, the sculptor of ‘Stone Drawing’, and the glasswork artist Kirsty Brooks, creator of the timeline in the newly reopened Otranto Passage. A new exhibition ‘Special Collections – Today and Tomorrow’, displaying many of the College’s treasures, is open to everyone until 13 December.
Current students gave an enjoyable performance of No Enjoyment Like Reading, a light-hearted celebration of the College Library through the ages and of the great writers who used it. This included an abbreviated version of George Wilde’s play, Love’s Hospital, which was performed on 30 August 1636 for King Charles I and Queen Henrietta Maria as part of the festivities for the opening of the Laudian Library, expertly rewritten in modern English by Professor John Kelly. The Laudian vestments, a remarkable collection of liturgical vestments and ecclesiastical embroidery dating largely from the century before the Reformation, were also on display along with a selection of the College silver.
Throughout the event, afternoon tea was served in the Garden Quad, with College members joining in the celebrations. The Study Centre now begins its purpose as a place in which future generations of students are better able to ‘think, read, reflect and write, and to enjoy’.
The President wishes to offer heartfelt thanks to all who have been involved in bringing this extraordinary project to fruition not least the team who organised an exceptional day.