Every college library is the home of treasured volumes and cherished nooks in which to study. But there are good reasons why the Somerville library holds a special place in the heart of every Somerville student, past and present.
Built in 1903 to the designs of architect Basil Champneys, it is one of the biggest and best-stocked undergraduate college libraries in the university. Our collection holds almost 120,000 items and is enriched by internationally important special collections, including those bequeathed by the estates of John Stuart Mill and Vera Brittain.
The Somerville library is also beloved for what it represents. The long, narrow building was designed specifically to provide enough storage so that Somerville students would not be disadvantaged by their lack of access to the Bodleian. As such, the airy rooms and elegant corridors where today’s students love to linger also embody the open, aspirational model of learning developed by our founders.
Over the past century, the library has also enjoyed multiple incarnations. The loggia was used for open air dramatic performances and a favourite spot for convalescing officers including Segfried Sassoon and Robert Graves during the First World War. Indira Gandhi also had her room here when the lower floor was given over to (rather draughty) student accommodation.
Today, the Somerville library is lovingly curated by our library and archive team, who work tirelessly to ensure that the library’s resources remain available to every student who wishes to use them.