Oxford University’s Bodleian Library was opened in 1602 and is the University’s main research library. It is one of the oldest libraries in Europe and attracts visitors and scholars from all over the world.  In the UK the Bodleian is second in size only to the British Library and is one of only six legal deposit libraries, which collectively maintain the national published archive of the British Isles.

Client comment

“Chris Lewis Fire & Security’s engineers delivered a first-class service. Their knowledge and experience is unsurpassed and gave us complete confidence in their capabilities. I have also been incredibly impressed with their after-sales service. I know that if there is a problem I can simply call them up and it will be given their immediate attention. I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend them.”

Andrew Macduff, Support Services Manager, Bodleian Library

Project background

At the main entrance to the Bodleian Library is the Proscholium. This had previously included a gift shop and storage for bags and coats, but as part of a major refurbishment project these facilities were being moved and the library was introducing two reception desks and a new display cabinet that would exhibit historic and valuable literary works.

Bodleian Library quad


Within the scope of the refurbishment it was decided to upgrade and improve the Proscholium’s existing security. This included an upgrade of the intruder alarm covering all entry and exit routes, an extensive CCTV system that could be expanded to incorporate other areas of the building in the future, panic buttons on the reception desks and bespoke alarms for the new display cabinet.

Chris Lewis Fire & Security is one of Oxford University’s preferred security companies and, following a comprehensive selection process, it was awarded the contract to design and install the Proscholium’s new security systems.

Andrew Macduff, Support Services Manager at the Bodleian Library commented, “The Bodleian is a Grade 1 listed building. We knew what we required of our security systems, but needed specialist advice on how we could achieve maximum security without compromising the building’s structure or aesthetics. I have worked with Chris Lewis Fire & Security previously and knew they had the relevant experience and technical knowledge. I was also confident that they would deliver a first-class service.”

The solution

Our engineers have considerable experience of working within listed premises and have an extensive understanding of the statutory controls that apply to internal and external alterations of Grade 1 listed buildings. They combined this expertise with their knowledge of security technology to design a comprehensive solution that met the Bodleian Library’s requirements and budget.

The system was designed to minimize the need for local cabling and utilized wireless technology. The panic alarms on the reception desks were linked directly to Oxford University’s Security Services so that in the event of an alarm being activated, professional assistance is immediately summoned.

The design of the bespoke alarm system for the display cabinet required close liaison with a German company commissioned to design and manufacture the cabinets. The alarm needed to be designed so as not to compromise the cabinet’s design so some of the system’s components were sent to Germany to be preinstalled. The system was then completed and commissioned when the cabinet was delivered to the Bodleian.

All the systems were installed and commissioned during a small window of opportunity when the Proscholium’s stone floor was lifted and relaid. All the work was closely co-ordinated with a number of third party contractors involved in the refurbishment to ensure the security installation was completed in the required timeframe and did not impact on their schedules.


The Proscholium’s new CCTV system allows the library to record and monitor footage remotely, and link it to other systems with centralised control capability. Our technical knowledge has enabled the design of a CCTV system that will allow the library to incorporate new cameras in the future, should it wish to expand the security system.

With extensive experience of projects of this size, we made sure that the installation was completed on time, on budget and without impacting other aspects of the refurbishment. Close liaison with other specialist contractors involved in the renovation ensured that the opportunities available to install the cabling were maximised and the security systems were installed and commissioned according to the overall project plan.

Knowledge of the restrictions imposed on listed buildings ensured that the Bodleian Library’s new security system complies with statutory regulations and does not compromise the building in any way. As a result, the library has comprehensive protection for the building, its contents, its visitors and its staff.

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