Sally and Edith in Europe

LIANZA Travelling Scholarship

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Birmingham (England)

In 2007 I had the pleasure of spending some very valuable hours with the library arm of the new Central library planning team.  Fay Davis was one of the women I met and I have made contact with her again in the hopes that I can spend some more time with her and see how the last five years have been.  The look of the new library is pretty stunning and something I know the City of Birmingham will be very proud of. 

Rewriting the Book is the title of their new Central library webpage and it makes great reading.  I think we can learn a lot from the great ideas they have come up with to get their community involved in the project.  Having a good seven years to do the planning helps a lot I imagine.  We are on a sprint to deliver our new one in a matter four years.

I am hoping to spend as much time as possible with Fay and her team and hope to get a tour although the library is not open until September 2013.  There is so much we can learn from this project the list is endless…but a taster of what I am thinking about at the moment

  • planning
  • creativity
  • architects
  • community input and consultation
  • community ownership
  • wow factors
  • partnerships

One idea I think is stunning and would love to try in Christchurch is the 26 library ambassadors.  What a fantastic way to get the community involved and to tell our story.

Here is another winner…

I hope I can make this work, if not I will do another post and work it out that way.



Newcastle (England)

First stop on my tour at this stage is Newcastle Central Library in the north of England which opened in June 2009.

Of the libraries I have reviewed so far, this feels the most similar to what I imagine we might deliver in Christchurch if we move down the most tread path.  It looks to me that having secured ourselves a smaller plot of land than we may have planned, we will be building a taller building than we imagined and is desirable.  The Newcastle library looks to have a small footprint with many floors.  Consequently from a buildings perspective I am going to look carefully at

  • active edge – how do people get drawn to the building?
  • entrances, connections and partnerships
  • what is on the ground floor and how do customers know what is happening where in the building?
  • way finding
  • showcasing collections and services

Regarding services there are some interesting facilities and services advertised on the web site, including

  • Performance hall capable of seating 185 people
  • 24 hour loan and returns service via a vending machine
  • Under 5s play provision
  • Creche

Other features that have piqued my interest are

  • public art
  • exhibition space
  • how is the furniture doing, how are people using the library, what isn’t working and what works well…usual stuff…

I also notice that they are moving things around the building so it will be  very interesting to see why that is and also whether the move is seamless and how flexible the spaces actually are.    This is something we librarians say all the time….flexible space…so what does that really mean and do we REALLY achieve that?  I will find out and tell all.  And finally, I am going to ask about public consultation and engagement in the development of the plan and vision.