In response to student feedback, a ~£4m project to refurbish the main Library took place over summer 2021.
This project focused on Floors 1 & 2 of the main Library building, updating them to create a contemporary, comfortable, work-inspiring environment. The two floors were reconfigured to provide over 10% more study spaces to meet expressed needs at time of peak demand. New spaces were also developed to facilitate new approaches to teaching and learning, and also to support student wellbeing.
On a practical note, toilet facilities on Floors 1 to 5 were also updated and refurbished, and essential maintenance works were carried out throughout the building.
Student feedback from the NSS, PTES, PRES and other surveys, as well as feedback from our Library Associates showed just how important study space and the Library environment is to students at all levels. We worked closely with the Students’ Union throughout the design stages to ensure a student-centred approach.
Chloe Batten, the SU Education Officer (2018/19), agreed this project will help to further meet the pressing needs of today’s students:
“The planned Library refurbishment will provide inclusive spaces not only to support learning in its various forms, it will also support student research and co-creation, enhance student comfort on campus, and assist with student wellbeing too.”
The main Library is Warwick’s most intensively used building. Every year it attracts 1.6 million user visits. It supports all subject disciplines and all levels of study. It is the heart of the academic campus for both students and staff.
The Library is extremely popular and, critically, not just because of its location: students use the space for research, study, connecting and much more. They refer to it as their ‘second home’ and a place where they can be creative and feel inspired. It is the place where students chose to work hard and chill-out. Despite the alternatives of the Learning Grids and other study spaces across campus, the Library remains special and the location of choice.
However, this popularity had taken its toll and the Library needed a refresh to once again become a high-quality space that encourages study and scholarship.
We also wanted to increase study space to meet growing demand. Student feedback from the NSS, PTES, PRES and other surveys, as well as feedback from our Library Associates, always show just how important study space and the Library environment is to students at all levels.
We worked closely with the Students’ Union throughout the design stages to ensure a student-centred approach. Chloe Batten, the SU Education Officer at the time the project was mooted, agreed this project would help to further meet the pressing needs of today’s students:
There were three key drivers for design identified by the initial consultation exercises:
- Greater capacity was needed specifically in relation to study spaces
- Spaces needed to be diverse to support student needs, disciplinary needs and new ways of studying
- We needed to revitalise the spaces to meet the needs and expectations of today’s students for a high-quality physical environment
More study spaces
Through the refurbishment project, the number of study spaces available to students has grown in several ways:
- We have increased the number of spaces by reconfiguring staff offices to release space for students, releasing current Library teaching spaces for study use (such as the Teaching Grid Collaboration area) and opening up further spaces (such as the new Co-creation space) outside of booked events throughout the year
- We have been able to increase the occupancy of study spaces by introducing new, more efficient desk arrangements and changing the type of seating. A review of our group study facilities showed that, typically, group tables were only occupied at around 50% capacity. By introducing new types of furniture with divider systems we hope to increase the efficiency of use of individual spaces. At peak times we believe this will enable an increase in occupancy by at least 25% in these areas
- In addition, during peak times (such as the third term) additional teaching spaces - such as the Teaching Grid Experimental Teaching Space (ETS) - will now be available as study space
This adds c. 170 study spaces all year round, and over 200 study spaces during peak times, in total an increase of over 10% in available study spaces (assuming no other restrictions, such as Covid). .
The creation of new spaces
Several new zones have been created:
- Supporting wellbeing: The refurbished Library has a new re-focus space so students can manage their wellbeing during the day or night. The quiet space will help our students to take time out to relax, re-focus and ultimately be more effective in their studies
- Facilitating ‘co-creation’: We have developed a new and exciting co-creation space, alongside the Teaching Grid facility. This will allow students to work in partnership with academic colleagues, professional services and peers to co-create their educational experience – in line with the Education Strategy. At peak times these spaces can be transformed to increase the number of quiet study spaces
- Term 3 Revision Hubs: Our social learning spaces, co-creation spaces and some of the Teaching Grid can now be reconfigured as revision hubs when we approach exam periods, helping to address a common theme from student feedback
New fittings and fixtures
- The improved entrance area makes the Library more welcoming, supports students with specific needs and increases accessibility
- New furniture has been selected to support the demands of the space
- New carpet across the whole of the first and second floors has introduced a vibrancy to the space and allowed better definition between walkways and study space. In addition, the replacement of the current carpet will support students with neuro-sensory disabilities, as per feedback from Disability Services
- New lighting on Floors 1 and 2 will improve the quality of the environment
- A new Media Wall near the Library entrance will provide useful real time information to students on the availability of study spaces (in the main Library, in other Library spaces and across campus) and other services to improve the student experience
An improved infrastructure
Updates to improve the Library infrastructure have been carried out.
The fire system was replaced throughout the building and fire doors refurbished. In line with the approach with other high-rise buildings on campus, a communication system is to be installed within the fire refuges to enable disabled and limited mobility users to contact the University Security team in an emergency evacuation and obtain guidance.
As the Library is such a high use/high demand building, the toilets need to not only be adequate in number but also to be able to cope with demand. As some users may remember, the facilities within the main building, Floors 1 – 5, were in desperate need of refurbishment and the basic infrastructure was in need of replacement and repair. Essential infrastructure and maintenance works were carried out to sustain and maintain the toilet provision, including the replacement of the soil stacks as well as the hot and cold water supplies to the whole building.
A ‘green’ project
In line with the University’s commitment to environmental sustainability:
- We have provided significant energy savings by replacing the existing poorly controlled fluorescent luminaires to ‘intelligent’ controlled LED lighting in the refurbished areas
- The toilet flush system now includes an environmental dual flush system
- We re-used furniture and equipment – any items not retained were offered for use to other departments on campus, providing the items were in a suitable condition
We hope you like the changes. Do let us know what you think via library at warwick dot ac dot uk.