As I was leaving Newcastle in September 2006 the City Library closed its doors to begin a 3 year renovation. Since I’ve left I make an annual pilgimage to my adopted home and I was lucky enough that my latest visit coinsided with the Library’s grand re-opening on Sunday 7th June.
Entering from New Bridge Street West into a hive of activity my first impression was of awe. There were staff everywhere on hand to register new users, help people navigate the new layout, operate the new systems or just to say hi and have a chat about what you thought. I cannot tell you how much the physical space has changed. The old library was demolished and this new one built in its place but there are elements of the space – how it fits between the surrounding buildings that bring back memories of what was here before. The feel of it however is so vastly different – the new library is light, open and even though it covers the same floor space feels so much bigger.
The new layout seems logical giving major sections such as local history a floor to themselves and dividing multiple sections on one floor with the use of colour. The colours carry across to the signage which on first glance can be a little confusing but I think is backed up by the use of the colours in multiple places. Each floor also has a variety of seating so that whatever you’re in the library for there’s an appropriate style of chair.
I imagine the main change for the user is the removal of the loans desk which has been replaced by a bank of self issue/return terminals. There is now no division between staff and the public with traditional enquiry desk being replaced by a number of enquiry points. This makes interaction with the staff a much more equal, friendly and collaborative feeling. During my visit I think I spoke to at least three different members of staff in no more than an hour. One of those conversations led to my registration even though I live over 200 miles away.
There are many other features of the new City Library which deserve comment but I think if I gave them all equal space this post could take you a day to read so here are a few of the other highlights:
- a training and meeting room
- a new programme of courses
- a special collections display
- the 24 hour library, accessible from the street
- the display of community art projects
And last but not least, a personal favourite, the feature displays:
You can see more of my photos of the libraryon Flickr.