The Reading Room floor has now been taken up and the beams exposed ready for repair and conservation. These photos show the sheer size of the two main beams, which stretch the entire width of the room and measure over eighteen inches across – effectively two whole mature oak trees. You can also see how the beams have been strengthened in the past with heavy steel plates, as well as the deterioration that has taken place over the centuries.
According to the engineers who have surveyed the beams, it’s possible that earthquakes in the city in recent years may have accelerated the damage to the beams. It’s equally possible that the sheer number of visitors to the Library haven’t done it any good, or it might even be down to the fact that the librarians are getting heavier….