Modern library at the heart of the campus
“Mobile shelving was essential to create flexibility in the space.”
Julian Roland, Head of Customer Experience, Library Services, University of West London
Sited over four levels and featuring a group study pavilion, silent floor and 2km of shelving, the new University of West London Library is the centrepiece of the institution’s £50m campus development. Completed in September 2015, the Paul Hamlyn Library was designed by UK architects Bond Bryan. It is part refurbishment, part newbuild, with its modern glass-clad extension overlooking an internal atrium.
In order to achieve its ambition to create a modern, flexible library space at the heart of the campus, the university required a sophisticated storage solution for its stock. Julian Roland, Head of Customer Experience Library Services at University of West London, was a key member of the team tasked with development of the library. “One of the first things I did was look at the capacity and plan for the shelving,” he said. Roland and the project team – made up of academic librarians familiar with the university’s stock – considered how to fit the books they had into the available linear measurement. The stock was planned in using the Dewey Decimal System, the accepted standard for library book classification. “Basically we went very systematically, every shelf in turn, working out what we would be able to fit on it.”
“We knew we needed a trusted academic library supplier. Bruynzeel’s experience and expertise were key factors in our decision to appoint them.”
Tim Wales, Director of Library Services, University of West London
Roland and his team started with the floor area and matched these calculations with the space required for each Dewey number, ensuring there were natural, logical breaks between the floors. “We also included planning for expansion – aiming to fill to 75% capacity. It was really quite a tight deadline. Building work was going on around us and we were putting books on shelves with gloves on, high-visibility jackets and hard hats, right up to the last minute. Despite some worries towards the end, the calculations we’d done were pretty much spot on.”
Tim Wales, Director of Library Services, had joined the university mid project, after construction had already begun. “However, the library layouts had yet to be finalised,” he said. “There was therefore a natural opportunity for review, including revisiting ideas from a student experience perspective.”
Wales enlisted the help of Glasgow based planners Nomad RDC, who conducted a student consultation exercise and used the feedback – alongside their wider design experience – to inform recommendations for the library interior.
Mix of Study Spaces
“What became quite clear early on was the need for a mix of spaces,” said Roland. “It was good to have this reiterated by the students themselves in the research – a desire for a mix of social and quiet spaces within the library setting.”
Nomad’s plan to include different areas in the library for different types of study was realised by theming the three study floors: water, mountain and forest. “The idea is that it starts with the noisiest floor on level one and gets quieter as you go up the building,” said Roland. “The expectation of behaviour – and the function – on each floor is clearly communicated through the shelving, furniture and signage.”
Central to the space planning was a requirement to increase stock capacity without compromising the overall design and the need for student study spaces. “We always knew we would need mobile shelving to increase capacity,” said Roland. “The mobile shelving was essential to create flexibility in the space.”
Mobile Shelving for Flexibility
Bruynzeel supplied Compactus electronic mobile shelving, which is situated in the public areas and can be operated by students and staff. The mobile shelving stores 100 per cent more stock than the equivalent static shelving in the same footprint.
“As soon as we added in mobile shelving to help zone the spaces and increase room for study desk provision, we knew we would need to get a trusted academic library supplier of static and mobile shelving on board,” said Wales. In total, Bruynzeel supplied over 2km of shelving: 680m of mobile shelving and 1,990m of static shelving, all featuring bespoke graphic end panels created by Nomad.
The storage systems have helped the University of West London achieve its ambition to create a modern library that meets the needs of today’s students. With the addition of high density storage, the library now has room for 780 study spaces, three PC training labs and 155 fixed PCs. “What I really like is the sense that the library is not restricted by its walls,” said Roland. “It’s the feeling that the students can move around freely and there aren’t barriers in their way – extending the study environment into other areas.” With plans to create a formal Archives Service within the University’s existing Library Services, and with 24-hour opening already in place, the future for the Paul Hamlyn Library looks assured.