Level 1 Q+A with Emma Wisher

Tuesday 21 March 2023

The Main Library has been undergoing a transformation over the past year to ensure that we’re providing a world-class facility. Once finished the work will include a complete renovation of Level 1, the new ‘Study Nook’ area on Level 2, an updated heating and ventilation system throughout the building, better toilet provision, and a ‘contemplation space’ on Level 4. We’re nearing completion of the major works for Level 1, meaning we’re able to open on 10 April in time for the revision period, with final upgrades being made in the summer months.

To provide some more information on the new Level 1 space we’ve asked Emma Wisher, Assistant Director (Academic Engagement and Student Experience) for Libraries and Museums a few questions.

Firstly, I know this project has been a long time in the making, and that everyone at the Library is excited about the redevelopment. What can we expect to find on Level 1 when it opens?

Space to study! We know that students really value the Main Library as a place to study, so we’ve devoted level 1 to a variety of high quality environments that we hope will meet different needs. Whether you like to study alone or with friends, or even on your own but alongside others doing the same, there will be an option on level 1 to suit you.

This includes new group study rooms, “railway carriage” booths, individual carrels and desks with and without PCs. There’s also a dedicated postgraduate space at one end of the floor. Overall, we’re adding almost 400 spaces.

We mentioned the new contemplation space on Level 4. Can you tell us a bit about that, and what spaces there are to take a break on the new Level 1?

We know that studying can be stressful and we want to do our part to support student wellbeing so we’ve created a space that anyone can use on a drop-in basis if they need a few quiet moments to themselves. There will also be some more comfortable seating, and a new tea prep area with boiling and chilled water available on level 1.

Of course another top concern is: will there be more toilets?

One of the key elements of the whole redevelopment project has been to increase and improve toilet provision on all levels, including level 1. We hope that we now have the right level of facilities to meet the needs of those using a very busy and well loved building.

There’s also a new Teaching Room, is that right? Will the Library be teaching more classes?

We already do a lot of teaching into programmes and modules at the University, particularly focusing on the resources we provide to support your studies (e.g. books, journals and databases, both print and online) and the skills you need to develop to find what you need. The new teaching room will allow us to deliver our very popular reference management software classes in person. We’ll also be restarting our Library Lunchtime Learning sessions, 15-30 minute sessions open to all students and staff, a quick and easy way to find out more about our resources and services.

It’s a huge undertaking, and a massive change. Who has decided what the space will be like?

We have used feedback generated by our users over many years to identify the key elements of the redevelopment project: the need for more, high quality space, better toilet provision and a building that has the right level of heating throughout at all times of year. We’ve also worked closely throughout the project with our stakeholder board which has representation from students and both academic and professional services staff. We want the new spaces to meet the needs of our users, and we’ll be continuing to seek feedback and make adjustments once the spaces are open.

Level 1 used to be a storage area for books and journals. What’s happened to those collections?

We have moved some of our collections which are not in high demand for teaching and learning to our fantastic facility at Walter Bower House, where they can be consulted by staff and students in the reading room there, as well as requested for delivery to the Main Library if that works better for you. Something our users have let us know strongly in the past is that what makes the Library special is being able to study alongside our amazing collections. So level 1 will include an area of shelving with books from our collections as part of the overall landscape.

I know there’s been a lot of work happening to improve the environmental conditions too. In particular, the Library has on occasion been described as too hot or too cold (and sometimes both at once). Are those days behind us?

I certainly hope so! We have had a brand new heating and ventilation system installed on all floors of the Library which will mean that the whole building will be an ambient temperature at all times of year, wherever you are sitting. We’ve also had new lighting installed. Although level 1 is the basement level of the building, it does have some windows, and the whole floor has been designed to make the most of the natural light coming in.

The opening date for Level 1 is 10th April, which is the start of Revision Week. Will everything be finished on schedule?

Pretty much everything will be in place, but because we are prioritising making the spaces available for revision, we’ll need to close them again temporarily in June to complete the finishing touches. There are a few bits of furniture still to be delivered, and there will inevitably be some small issues to sort out (what’s called snagging) as with any major building project.

I know everyone in the Library is looking forward to seeing the new space. Can people get in touch if they have more questions?

We’re really excited to share the new spaces with our users and to hear what you think about them. The redevelopment represents a much needed increase in capacity and an upgrade to the building to ensure that it remains a great place to study in years to come.

If you have any questions about the redevelopment, we have a dedicated contact at [email protected]




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