Major overhaul underway for St Hilda’s College Library

18th September 2023
Aerial view of library extension

St Hilda’s College Library is undergoing a major refit to improve library services and to improve accessibility.

The £0.5 million overhaul, which is expected to be completed in November 2023, will create a new main entrance, a graduate study room, a law library room and a reading room.

The work is being funded with a legacy from Rev. Margaret Mabbs who studied history at St Hilda’s in the 1940s and died last year aged 98.

The overhaul includes a new exit and ramp from the library’s Winslow Room on the river side of the College grounds.

This will become the library’s main entrance for all users regardless of their accessibility needs. Previously wheelchair users and others who found steps challenging had to leave the College grounds and enter from Cowley Place.

The refit will transform the Kathleen Major Library, which houses around 70,000 books across all undergraduate subjects as well as specialised collections for research students. Kathleen Major was a historian and Principal of the College from 1955 to 1965.

The quiet atmosphere of the historic upper library floors, which are popular with students, will be preserved by the works.

Safety and Security

Fire safety will be improved through step-free access and accessible emergency exits.

Aging rolling stacks – a wheeled bookshelf system from the 1980s – will be replaced with safer fixed shelving, and capacity increased.

Easy to use

The new layout will make it easier for students to navigate the library space and security will be improved through a reduction in the number of entrances and routes through the building.

A more welcoming enquiry desk will be created, with improved staff facilities, and the library will be easier to use through the repositioning of the book issue desk and self-service machines.  

New areas

The project will create 22 new study desks and increase the variety of study spaces available to students.

Responding to demand from graduate students, a new shared study area will be provided.

A dedicated room for law students and to house the library’s collections of legal materials, many of which are only for reference, will be created.


The Anne Elliott garden, part of St Hilda’s College grounds, will be redesigned and reinstated around the entrance area to offer a more pleasant outdoor space for students next to the library with views of the gardens and the river Cherwell. Anne Elliot was a Tutor in English and Fellow of the College from 1955-1983.