Canterbury Christ Church University’s impressive learning resource centre demonstrates how quality library design can improve student participation and development.

Over the past decade, a revolution has taken place in academic library design. The change is evident across HE and FE sectors as well as in schools, and reveals a significant move away from libraries as simple storage facilities, towards the creation of multifunctional spaces that support and encourage student learning. “While some predicted that the advent of e-books and e-journals would mean a downgrading of the status of libraries, it is clear that the reverse is true,” explains Ann Roissiter, Executive Director at SCONUL. “Libraries are at the heart of their institutions and one of their most important functions is the provision of a place and atmosphere for learning.” Through increased use of technology, the addition of larger study and social areas, and improving the availability of natural light, this contemporary approach to library design aims to create a welcoming, nurturing environment for staff and students alike. For all its benefits, the brave new world of the learning resource centre (LRC) comes with its own set of challenges. Additional demands on floor space require inventive design solutions, not least to ensure sufficient space is set aside for the storage of books and resources. Lessons can be learned from the experience of early adoptors, such as the Augustine House LRC at Canterbury Christ Church University, winner of the SCONUL Award for Library Design.

Design at heart of new library
When Canterbury decided to replace its outdated 1970s library, the university’s Head of Library Services, Pete Ryan, chose to integrate a design-led approach from the outset. “Design was at the heart of the new library. The vision for the future was around creating a space that was much more open with clear walkways, clear sightways, so you can see out to the historic parts of Canterbury from the inside of the library,” said Ryan. Ryan ensured the project remained true to the academic and learning priorities of the university, in conjunction with lead architects ADP. One of the most significant challenges he faced was finding enough room to store books and media, without compromising the overall objective of creating an open and accessible centre for learning. “The move to this new building allowed us to take a fresh look at the way our books and journals were displayed and stored,” said Ryan. “We wanted to maximise the amount of space for students to study in. With a collection of over 300,000 items, we needed to avoid ending up with a storehouse for shelving and books.”

High-density mobile shelving
The solution came in the form of high-density mobile shelving, created by Bruynzeel Storage Systems. “The opportunity to introduce mobile shelving that was easy to use and electronically controlled, meant that we could maximise the space for students without diminishing the storage we had for physical resources.” Thanks to Canterbury’s design-led approach, the resulting LRC is a spectacular glass-clad building that delivers on its promise: to provide a flexible and inspiring learning environment that puts the needs of students first. Find out more about Bruynzeel library solutions