In response to student feedback, a ~£4m project to refurbish the main Library took place over summer 2021.
The project focused on Floors 1 & 2 of the main Library building, updating them to create a contemporary, comfortable, work-inspiring environment. The two floors were reconfigured to provide over 10% more study spaces, and completely new spaces were developed to facilitate new approaches to teaching and learning, and support student wellbeing. On a practical note, the toilet facilities on Floors 1 to 5 were also updated and refurbished, and essential maintenance works were carried out throughout the building. Find out why the refurb project was so important, and what improvements have been made…
By Sam Platts, Ant Brewerton, Heather Green
Why did we undertake this project?
The main Library is Warwick’s most intensively used building. Every year it attracts 1.6 million user visits. It supports all subject disciplines and all levels of study. It is the heart of the academic campus for both students and staff (if we do say so ourselves).
The Library is extremely popular and, critically, not just because of its location: students use the space for research, study, connecting and much more. They refer to it as their ‘second home’ and a place where they can be creative and feel inspired. It is the place where students chose to work hard and chill-out. Despite the alternatives of the Library’s Learning Grids and other study spaces across campus, the main Library remains special and the location of choice.
However, this popularity had taken its toll and the Library has looked a bit tired in recent years (it has been working hard for us all). It needed a refresh to once again become the high-quality space that students expect to encourage study and scholarship.
We also wanted to increase study space to meet growing demand. Student feedback from the NSS, PTES, PRES and other surveys, as well as feedback from our Library Associates, always show just how important study space and the Library environment is to students at all levels.
We worked closely with the Students’ Union throughout the design stages to ensure a student-centred approach. Chloe Batten, the SU Education Officer at the time the project was mooted, agreed this project would help to further meet the pressing needs of today’s students:
“The … Library refurbishment will provide inclusive spaces not only to support learning in its various forms, but it will also support student research and co-creation, enhance student comfort on campus, and assist with student wellbeing too.”
What drove the design?
There were three key drivers for design identified by the initial consultation exercises:
- Greater capacity was needed specifically in relation to study spaces.
- Spaces needed to be diverse to support a variety of student needs and new ways of studying.
- We needed to revitalise the spaces to meet the needs and expectations of today’s students for a high-quality physical environment.
What has the refurbishment achieved?
More study spaces
Through the refurbishment project, the number of study spaces available to students has grown in several ways:
- We have increased the number of spaces by reconfiguring staff offices to release space for students, releasing current Library teaching spaces for study use (such as the Teaching Grid Collaboration area) and opening up further spaces (such as the new Co-creation space) outside of booked events throughout the year. We have been able to increase the occupancy of study spaces by introducing new, more efficient desk arrangements and changing the type of seating. A review of our group study facilities showed that, typically, group tables were only occupied at around 50% capacity. By introducing new types of furniture with divider systems we hope to increase the efficiency of use of individual spaces. At peak times we believe this will enable an increase in occupancy by at least 25% in these areas. In addition, during peak times (such as the third term) additional teaching spaces – such as the Teaching Grid Experimental Teaching Space (ETS) – will now be available as study space.
This adds c. 170 study spaces all year round, and over 200 study spaces during peak times, in total an increase of over 10% in available study spaces (assuming no other restrictions, such as Covid).
The creation of new spaces
Several new zones have been created:
- Supporting wellbeing: The refurbished Library has a new re-focus space so students can manage their wellbeing during the day or night. The quiet space will help our students to take time out to relax, re-focus and ultimately be more effective in their studies.
- Facilitating ‘co-creation’: We have developed a new and exciting co-creation space, alongside the Teaching Grid facility. This will allow students to work in partnership with academic colleagues, professional services and peers to co-create their educational experience – in line with the Education Strategy. At peak times these spaces can be transformed to increase the number of quiet study spaces.
- Term 3 Revision Hubs: Our social learning spaces, co-creation spaces and some of the Teaching Grid can now be reconfigured as revision hubs when we approach exam periods (nifty hey?), helping to address a common theme from student feedback.
New fittings and fixtures
- The improved entrance area makes the Library more welcoming, supports students with specific needs and increases accessibility.
- New furniture has been selected to support the demands of the space and different ways of studying.
- New carpet across the whole of the first and second floors has introduced a vibrancy to the space and allowed better definition between walkways and study space. In addition, the replacement of the current carpet will support students with neuro-sensory disabilities, in response to feedback from Disability Services.
- New lighting on Floors 1 and 2 will improve the quality of the environment.
- A new Media Wall near the Library entrance will provide useful real time information to students on the availability of study spaces (in the main Library, in other Library spaces and across campus) and other services to improve the student experience.
An improved infrastructure
Updates to improve the Library infrastructure have been carried out.
The fire system was replaced throughout the building and fire doors refurbished. In line with the approach with other high-rise buildings on campus, a communication system is to be installed within the fire refuges to enable disabled and limited mobility users to contact the University Security team in an emergency evacuation and obtain guidance.
As the Library is such a high use/high demand building, the toilets need to not only be adequate in number but also to be able to cope with demand. As some users may remember, the facilities within the main building, Floors 1 – 5, were in desperate need of refurbishment and the basic infrastructure was in need of replacement and repair (anyone remember the flood during the snowstorm? Eek!). Essential infrastructure and maintenance works were carried out to sustain and maintain the toilet provision, including the replacement of the soil stacks as well as the hot and cold water supplies to the whole building.
A ‘green’ project
In line with the University’s commitment to environmental sustainability:
- We have provided significant energy savings by replacing the existing poorly controlled fluorescent luminaires to ‘intelligent’ controlled LED lighting in the refurbished areas.
- The toilet flush system now includes an environmental dual flush system.
- We re-used furniture and equipment – any items not retained were offered for use to other departments on campus, providing the items were in a suitable condition.
New and Improved Services
As well as the improvements to the physical building, the Library refurbishment project provided an opportunity to introduce some new services, as well as promote and make improvements to some of our existing ones:
- Click & Collect: A new service which sprung up out of necessity due to both the refurb and Covid-19. All current staff and students can now order up to 10 print books via an online form, then pick up their items from the collection point during Library opening hours
- Get it For Me: A free service available to all current Warwick Staff and Students which allows us to:
- Supply an individual scanned copy of one chapter of a monograph, or one article per issue of a journal
- Send Warwick library books to you in the post
- If an item is not held in Warwick stock, we can try and obtain it from another library (other libraries books cannot be posted).
- Freepost returns: All current Warwick staff and students in the UK can now post books back to us, free of charge. Click on the link and add in your email to generate a label.
- Learn and teach remotely: We created new guidance about how the Library supports you to learn and teach from home
- e-resources: A significant investment was made to increase the number of resources available electronically
- Assistive Software: New guidance was created to allow users to access these tools from home
- What’s on (online): A wide range of virtual events for our Library Community were moved online. We continue to offer in-person events too, so there is something for everyone
- Proxy Borrowing: This service allows another student at Warwick to borrow/collect books on your behalf at the Helpdesk
We hope you like the improvements – we certainly do 😊.
Do let us know what you think. Leave a comment below, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org, or tell us what you think via Library Twitter, Instagram or Facebook.