Practical tips for library moves and refurbishments: presentations from the BIALL Conference

When I wrote my initial post about the BIALL Conference 2018,  it was my intention to write a second post shortly afterwards about the practical tips I learned about library moves/ refurbishments.  Clearly, it is never a good idea to try to write a reflective piece 9 months after the event, however – fortunately for me – in the interim period the two BIALL speakers I wanted to write about have published journal articles based on their BIALL presentations. These are referenced at the end of this blog post.

The reason I wanted to write this piece, is that obviously we are preparing for the law library move to Sebastian Street, and I am hoping that some of the things I learned during the BIALL Conference will help with this future move and subsequent evaluation of the Sebastian Street Law Library.

It is informative to learn from experiences of others who have been involved in library builds/refurbishments, and so I was interested to hear what Margaret Watson (Academic Services Librarian at the Bodleian Law Library) had to say about the major refurbishment of that law library.  Some of the practical tips she gave at the Conference (for library staff planning a major work) are:

  • Make sure that everything is in the specification and that you know what is in the specification (otherwise you might want to add something to the snagging list afterwards, and be told ‘oh well, it wasn’t in the specification’!)
  • Future-proof, by ensuring that all the valuable information isn’t in one person’s head! Get other people involved so there is succession planning. Projects can drag on so long that there is a danger that key players will leave, retire, etc. and you will lose access to their valuable knowledge.
  • Build alliances with people (e.g. people on the project group or other stakeholders) who understand what libraries need.

Once a new library building has opened/a major refurbishment has taken place, Karen Latimer (co-editor of the book ‘Post-occupancy evaluation of library buildings‘) stressed at the Conference how important it is to evaluate the new library: what works and what doesn’t work. In her recent Legal Information Management article (Latimer, 2018, p.207-208) she states that “Some questions to address when looking at new, extended or refurbished, library buildings after some years in use include to what extent the requirements of the brief have been delivered, are the right spaces in the required quantity provided, do the adjacencies ensure the building works well, is it easy to navigate.” There is an IFLA Post Occupancy Evaluation questionnaire, which gives useful prompts as to how to evaluate a new library space, but you probably wouldn’t want/need to follow it in its entirety as it is very detailed!

One thing that Karen Latimer recommends doing after a move/refurb, is to consider what three things you would wish for in relation to the building. In her article (Watson, 2018), Margaret Watson also reflects on the top three things she wishes for with hindsight. These are: not to have been in occupation of the library whilst the work was being carried out (not something we have to worry about in relation to Sebastian Street); not to have had the refurbishment work impact students over two academic years (something which is often outside librarians’ control, as works are driven by larger agendas); and not to have had a key part of the project (in the case of the Bodleian Law Library, these were roof works) reserved for a later date.

I found the BIALL Conference sessions very interesting, and was grateful to the speakers for their honest assessments of what can go wrong during a library build/refurbishment, and for their generosity in sharing tips so that others may have an easier experience!


Latimer, K. (2018) ‘2050: a Library Space Odyssey. Planning the Future Library’, Legal Information Management, 18(4), pp. 203-208.

Watson, M. (2018) ‘All Change at the Bodleian Law Library’, Information Professional (November/December), pp. 32-35.

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