Space Planning with CPD25

As we grapple with the refurbishment plans for Level 6 and the decant from West Smithfield library in the coming weeks, this CPD 25 event at the London Mathematical Society in early May was a timely and interesting afternoon spend hearing from colleagues from Brunel, University of East London and the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine about their recent experiences of redeveloping and improving library spaces.

The first speaker was a little different – Caue Capille, a research student at UCL’s Bartlett Faculty of the Built Environment, presented his academic research on spatial culture in public libraries.  Caue had undertaken extensive research in South America on the planning process behind designing learning spaces and public libraries and since taking up his research post at UCL had used Kensington Central Library and Swiss Cottage Library to explore his theories further.

The other speakers were focussed on more everyday matters of how we use and develop spaces in academic libraries.   At Brunel University, institutional changes, including a requirement to develop a dedicated space for Postgraduate Research students, have been the main driver.  The emphasis was on finding better ways to use existing spaces in a building which marked its 40th anniversary in 2013.

The challenges of providing space for more students and addressing demand for communal learning/social space had prompted the library service at Brunel to review how its existing space was being used.  This also had service implications – responding to feedback about how students were using and wanted to use their collections, it was decided to abolish a dedicated Short Loan Collection area and repurpose this space as a café.

The final case study focussed on an exciting new build project in the London H.E sector – University of East London’s new Stratford library which opened in 2013.

We learned how some of the assumptions made at the planning stage were quickly challenged and had to be re-assessed.  For example, signage was going to be kept to a minimum but the early feedback and observations of how students were using the spaces meant this had to be reviewed.  The initial plans were providing 4 floors of library space but that was reduced to 3 during the course of the project consultation.  UEL now face the challenge of another school relocating to Stratford from its Docklands campus, further increasing the number of students seeking to use the study spaces in the new library.

Nevertheless, this new library is a significant enhancement to the student experience at UEL and demonstrates that library spaces are still very much at the core of how students want to learn and work in campus environments.

As ever, this was a very well organised CPD25 event offering a good opportunity to share ideas with colleagues from other Universities and hear interesting case studies on the issues and challenges encountered as libraries seek to meet the demands and expectations of students.

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