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The room set aside for the guidance department at Winterdown Comprehensive opened off the school library. It had no windows and was lit by a single strip light.
(The Casual Vacancy, J. K. Rowling)

When the room is opened off the library, does it mean that the room’s door is opened onto the library - opened outward? Or is it contrary - opened inward? Or is it quite different from both mentioned?

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The room set aside for the guidance department at Winterdown Comprehensive opened off the school library. It had no windows and was lit by a single strip light.

Per Jason Patterson's comments, the meaning is

The room set aside for the guidance department at Winterdown Comprehensive had its entrance located in the school library. It had no windows and was lit by a single strip light.

A quote from "Walking Tours of Ancient Rome":

Library: Two rooms open off of the library and are named for their decorative schemes, the Room of the Mausoleum of Hadrian, and the Room of the Festoons.

A quote from "Building Regulations Explained":

The three rooms will open off of a small landing 1.6 m×1.4m.

To illustrate the last quote: a small landing with three rooms opening off (of) it:

enter image description here

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    This isn't quite the right sense of it; if Room A opens off of Room B, then Room A's entrance is in Room B. It would make more sense if we used "opens from," but we don't. – Jason Patterson Nov 6 '14 at 5:27
  • Wow, great, thank you, @JasonPatterson! I did not know that. Will scrap my answer. – CowperKettle Nov 6 '14 at 5:28
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    That explains why the room in the example has no windows; it isn't a normal room built along an outside wall. It's more like a giant closet. – Jason Patterson Nov 6 '14 at 5:29
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    This is a phrase you see a lot in real estate listings, when they are trying to give you a sense of the layout of the house. You could have a porch that opens off of a kitchen, or a bedroom that opens off of the upstairs hallway. – Jason Patterson Nov 6 '14 at 5:33
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    Yes, the "of" is optional. Both versions are commonly used in AmE (I don't know about British English usage with this at all.) I'm no grammarian, but I believe it is still acting as a preposition. It always has an object, and it is describing the position of one location with respect to another. It's more or less synonymous with "from," but we don't say that a room opens from another room. It would be understood, but it's not idiomatic. – Jason Patterson Nov 6 '14 at 5:50

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