Thursday 14 January 2016

Visit to the new Oxford Brookes University Library

Our last visit of 2015 was to the new Oxford Brookes University Library - many thanks to Emily Green for writing the following summary of the visit. Thanks too to the staff at Brookes for being so accommodating! 

On a rainy afternoon in November, librarians from the Thames Valley and beyond, made their way through the vast John Henry Brookes Building to the new Oxford Brookes University Library. Upon arrival, we were greeted with generous servings of coffee and cake, and a warm welcome from Helen Workman, Director of Learning Resources at Brookes.

Helen began by admitting that her and her staff were still very proud to show off their new library which opened in February 2014. After telling us a little about the history of the University, she outlined some of the key issues involved in planning and designing the new library and the building in which it sits.

With planning permission sought in 2007, the award-winning building took seven years to complete. Alongside the library, it now houses student services including the Students’ Union, the Careers Service, and numerous teaching and social spaces.

The library itself is designed around several key requirements identified by staff and students. Thus it is IT compliant, easy to navigate, welcoming and secure, and incorporates a range of study and social spaces, as well as staffed and non-staffed services.

Having polished off our coffee and cake, we now had the chance to see all of this first hand. Our thanks go to Helen Whittaker (Academic Liaison Development Team Leader), Vicki Gledhill (Metadata Librarian), and Dave Nolan (Planning and Communications Team Leader) for being our tour guides for the afternoon.

The first stop on my tour was the new Special Collections Reading Room. After showing us around, Archivist Eleanor Possart explained a little about Brookes’ main collections, and showed us some of their particular treasures. I particularly enjoyed learning more about the history of the university and about the publishing and literary prizes collection. I was also struck by the warm welcome we received and was pleased to hear that everyone is welcome to use the collections, whether or not they are academics or members of the University.

Our tour then proceeded to the rest of the library. With many questions along the way, we wound our way through staff offices, book stacks, and study spaces; marvelling at the size of the building, and pausing to consider interesting features. Everywhere we went, there was an obvious focus on the design of different spaces for different purposes and I really liked this aspect of the library. Whilst individual areas feel self-contained and have clearly been designed with specific purposes in mind, the library as a whole feels open, flexible, and engaging, and its students and staff seem to be thoroughly enjoying it. Helen and her team are rightly proud of this library and I hope to revisit as a reader in the future.

Emily Green – Assistant Librarian, University College, Oxford.

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