New look for Homerton College Library

Librarian, Liz Osman, shares her plans for a completely new look to Homerton College Library—including a new self service system—to be introduced in September 2012. This will be the first full refurbishment of the library for at least 15 years (when the library moved in to the then newly built Mary Allan Building in 1997).

Over the summer the Library is being refurbished, the culmination of over two years’ planning, from gaining the agreement of the College Council that work was required, to hammering out the requirements and appointing suppliers.

Ground floor reading area

Ground floor reading area

The current Library suffers in a number of areas, and we hope to be able to improve quite a few things, though the overall design of the building means noise levels in particular can’t be solved.

There were a number of things which the Library needed, and some more which I wanted to include if I could. Some requirements were fairly straightforward: the carpet is reaching the end of its life so will be replaced, and the opportunity to do some painting whilst the Library is closed is obvious.

Some things were perhaps more obvious to staff than students: the shelving is no longer fit for purpose, so is being replaced with a new system that has been specified to fit the space, rather than the current shelves, which were inherited from Homerton’s previous Library building.

New carpeting

New carpeting

A short furniture survey that we ran provided us with information on student likes and dislikes, and showed that not everyone has exactly the same tastes – this has led to us ordering two types of chair to replace the current dining chairs in use on the first floor, in the hope that every student will find one of them is to their liking.

We’re also replacing the tables around the Library, though keeping the study carrels. The new tables will have power integrated into them, so students will be able to plug in their laptops and other devices on top of the desks. There should be no need for students to plug directly into floorboxes, reducing the trip hazard they have become.

On the ground floor the soft furnishing area is expanding, for anyone who wants to look at the papers, or wants to sit and read but doesn’t need a desk. The computer area is also changing, moving from underneath the stairs, to the area where I currently have my desk. This should create a more dedicated, discreet IT area, and improve the appearance of the Library too.

You may be wondering where I will be going? The current workroom is being divided into two work areas, a more compact workroom, and an office space for me and Robin the Deputy Librarian. This should mean a slightly quieter library than at present with us sat in it. It will be easier for us to discuss work and make and receive phone calls. We’re also getting a new enquiry desk, one that will fit with the new design of the Library.

New self service units

New self service units

The other big change from the student point of view is that the self-issue and security system is changing. We currently get quite a lot of alarms going off, and most of these are through user error when checking items out, rather than nefarious activities. Our new system should make user error close to impossible, and will also improve security. If an item sets off the alarm from September, not only will I be alerted that the alarm has gone off, but I will be able to see exactly which item has set it off too! For anyone that uses Cambridge Central Library, the system is similar.

The look and feel of the Library will be somewhat different: the tables will be white, and the shelves will be black! But such an impressive building architecturally can pull off such a design scheme, and I think it will be a refreshing and attractive change.

Anyone involved in Higher Education, whether as staff, student or parent, must know that the cost of that education is increasing for the next academic year, with most Universities charging £9000 tuition fees. Whilst the reality is that this money makes up a funding gap rather than extra cash for institutions, students and parents are only going to expect more for their money, whether it actually gets to us or not. So, I also hope that this refurbishment will make the Library something of an advert for prospective students too, a place they want to come to if they succeed in their application.

Everything will be completed within 13 weeks of work over the summer, in time to welcome the fresh intake of PGCE’s in mid-September, and show off the space to our alumni at the annual Roll Weekend.

NB: The pictures are for illustrative purposes only, and do not necessarily reflect the final colour scheme!

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About homlib

The Library of Homerton College, University of Cambridge.
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