Developing a library in an historic building

Until I came to WEST most of the libraries I worked in were in modern (i.e. mid-20th century onwards) buildings. Even if the space hadn’t been designed as a library it was generally large and adaptable. WEST however is largely housed in a mid-19th century mansion, and consequently the library has to be accommodated in a series of rooms, requiring a degree of invention in terms of layout and arrangement! Admittedly there are benefits, the rooms have interesting architectural features such as the ceiling details.

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The rooms also boast large south facing windows which ensure plenty of natural light, and the high ceilings give an airy feel. But there is no escaping the fact that these rooms were all originally designed for domestic purposes and consequently there is far more division of the space than is desirable, with odd nooks and crannies affecting the position of shelving, study spaces, etc. The following photographs illustrate how space has been adapted.

Image   Library Reception

Image  General shelving with IT beyond – sometimes the layout gets cosy!

Image                                           Special Collections – On the plus side the division of the space allows the creation of special collection rooms where valuable items can be securely housed these images show the David Wright and Weslyan Collections. Note the antiquated equipment for using microfilm that forms part of these collections.

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More modern parts of the building allow more open arrangement as the newly completed study area demonstrates.

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Lessons learned –

  • Think about function – what do you need to do in the space, storage, access, study, equipment, creative commons (and therefore, power and data requirements)?
  • What does the space force you to do?
  • Traffic flow.
  • Service areas
  • How to make it look attractive?
  • How to make the areas self-policing – particularly important with limited staffing.

Th process is ongoing, exciting, and I’m still learning!

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