HISTORIC books in the Bodleian Library have been left out of reach after a health and safety directive banned ladders from a reading room.

Students wanting to access works on the top shelf in the gallery section of the Duke Humfreys room have been unable to do so due to a low balcony and uneven floors.

The decision was taken two weeks ago by Oxford University’s health and safety officer, although ladders had been used for many years previously.

Last night, Laurence Benson, the library’s director of administration, said: “It is not something we are happy with. We are trying to find a solution to it.

“It is one of those classic Oxford binds, having an incredibly beautiful and special building, which creates many restrictions.

“But we are doing as much as we can to bring it up to modern standards. Most of the material in the books is available elsewhere, either digitally or in later editions.”

One student was reported as saying he would have to travel to London to access an out-of-reach copy of Arthur Johnstone’s Delitif Poetarum Scotorum.

But Mr Benson said: “We believe there is another copy of that book in Oxford and we are checking there aren’t any restrictions on it. It was published in Amsterdam in 1637 so it is very unlikely many students would need to read it.”