“The advice from Bruynzeel was excellent, providing very detailed plans about how to configure the space to maximise storage.”
Sally McInnes, Head of Unique Collections & Collections Care, National Library of Wales
Established by Royal Charter in 1907 in Aberystwyth, the National Library of Wales holds over 6.5 million books and periodicals, and the largest collections of archives, portraits, maps and photos in Wales. The Library is also home to the national collection of Welsh manuscripts and the National Screen and Sound Archive of Wales. As a national library of legal deposit, the Library will always have pressure on space from its growing collection. The fabric of the Library has continued to expand over time, with additions and variations to the original Sidney Greenslade-designed building, completed in 1915.
In 2014, in a joint initiative with the Royal Commission for the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Wales (RCAHMW), the Library began to explore the potential of creating more storage space by filling in an irregular void in the centre of the building. The so-called ‘Infill’ would form a permanent home for some of the Library’s unique collections, including the bequest of leading Welsh landscape painter Kyffin Williams, plus the National Monuments Record, the archive of the RCAHMW.
“With the flexibility to reconfigure the space to hold different collections over time, we are very satisfied with the results.”
Sally McInnes, National Library of Wales
Six-Storey Infill Topped With Glass
With £3.5m funding in place from the Welsh Government, the Library appointed Darnton B3 architectural designers to create a design to fit the irregular space. The subsequent steel-framed Infill rises six floors to match the surrounding buildings. A glass topped atrium connects the two elements and houses a staircase running up the exterior of the new Infill structure, retaining a sense of separation between new and old. The construction brief went to main contractor WRW. The requirement for the Library to remain open throughout the build meant that all construction materials had to be brought in through a single doorway. In addition to the issue of access, the irregular floor plate of the new build – occupying a courtyard previously used to house gardening equipment – set a number of challenges for our installers.
Awkward, Wedge-shaped Building
Bruynzeel Storage Systems won the tender to supply all the storage requirements for the Infill and worked closely with WRW, Darnton B3 and the Library to design a space-efficient solution to meet the needs of the Library and RCAHMW. “We started with quite an open specification,” said Sally McInnes, Head of Unique Collections and Collections Care at the National Library of Wales. “The Infill is an awkward, wedge-shaped building. We needed to maximise storage within the fairly restrictive parameters, and in the knowledge that two-and-a-half floors were already assigned to RCAHMW.” The brief was complex, with different environmental and storage requirements in different areas of the building.
Bruynzeel utilised its full range of storage options to ensure all the material in the collection could be accommodated, including archive items such as notes, drawings and multimedia files, photographic negatives, plans, framed artworks and artefacts – even rolls of aerial photographs. The storage installation was completed on schedule in February 2016.
“The advice from Bruynzeel was excellent, providing very detailed plans about how to configure the space to maximise the storage,” said McInnes. “It was a responsive process; Bruynzeel’s and the Library’s expertise has resulted in an excellent facility.” Each length of track for the mobile shelving needed to be individually tailored, as every aisle length is unique due to the triangular shape of the Infill. Bruynzeel supplied plan chests with shelving above, shelving for octavo, quarto and folio books, mesh frames to store artwork and roller racking for the storage of archive boxes and materials.
Recycling Cabinets Saved Time and Money
Bruynzeel worked with RCAHMW to come up with a bespoke solution for storing its photographic negatives. “We moved from a converted office space, with a hotchpotch of shelves,” said RCAHMW’s Head of Knowledge and Understanding, Gareth Edwards. However, their existing negative storage, in four-drawer cabinets, was fit for purpose. “They are inert and have specialist hanging bars inside, so after speaking to Bruynzeel, they suggested we incorporate the cabinets into the new mobile shelving. It made moving much easier, as we transferred everything in one go. Bruynzeel even suggested adding in shelving above the cabinets, to make use of all available space. It has been a massive improvement.”
Storage System Allows Viewing of Artworks On Request
The vast collection of artworks bequeathed to the Library by Kyffin Williams was housed on specialist picture racking, freeing up sufficient space to create a viewing area for artworks inside the repository when necessary: “We needed a dedicated space where we could display paintings without taking them out of the stores,” said McInnes. “Putting racks around the walls and on mobile bases freed up usable space to bring out paintings for visitors to view on request, ensuring artworks remain in climate controlled conditions as much as possible.” Bruynzeel mobile shelving provided RCAHMW with modern, efficient storage – ideal for an archive that serves a diverse user base, from architectural historians and lifelong learners to schoolchildren.
Potential to Reconfigure Space
Optimisation of the space was a key aspect of the brief. However, the plan was never to create a fixed, immutable store. With one eye on the future, McInnes and Edwards both required the option for increasing the capacity of the stores and adapt as necessary to meet potential and predicted changes to the collections.
“With the flexibility to reconfigure the space to hold different collections over time, we are very satisfied with the results,” said McInnes.
All photos © Simon Hadley