Living in two worlds: a library split in halves
The idea to redevelop and extend the Templeman Library at the University of Kent had been floating around for quite some time. The project would provide a much needed upgrade on the 1960s building which already saw a number of developments and expansions over the last decades. After consultation with library staff in 2013 the management opted for a solution that would allow the building to remain open and operating for the whole construction period but would also take considerable longer and involve major stock and staff moves. Consequently the Templeman redevelopment project was planned in 3 stages:
- Phase 1: The construction of a brand new extension on the Western end.
- Phase 2: Closure and overhaul of the middle section.
- Phase 3: Partial closure and overhaul of the East wing.
Phase 1 started in the second half of 2013, and of the 3 stages this phase kept disruption to an almost bearable level. Of course construction noises are not ideal for any library, and some silent study areas were wisely moved away to the other end of the building. The various drilling works could put some minor earthquakes put to shame and occasionally made the odd book fell off a shelf. The part near the new extension had to be emptied and closed in preparation for the knock-through. Among other sections the entire core text/short loan collection had to be moved, along with the loan desk and front line staff. We used parts of the library café and a staff kitchen to provide the space needed.
Phase 2 (where we currently are) is were the real disruptions and challenges started. With the closure of the core section of the library we lost our spacious staff room and staff toilets. Again, miles of shelves had to be moved by our stock control team (who suffered the most from the changes and who, as a thank you, got relocated to the basement without natural light and the company of fellow human beings). Among the areas that had to relocate were Special Collections, the British Cartoon Archive, the microfilm reading room plus equipment, our IT help desk and other support services and the library café. The core text collection and the loan desk were moved back to more or less their old location and form now, along with a nice new café, the threshold between the existing and the new part of the library. Our Special Collections and the British Cartoon Archive found a temporary home in the new West wing. The move had to be delayed as we had some serious flooding in the new basement which was about to house our Special Collections archives. Luckily the basement was still empty at that time – or parts of the archive would have been destroyed.
The closure of the middle part means that we are currently running a library in two halves. Instead of one main entrance we have now two separate entrances at opposite ends of the building complete with security gates and welcome desks. The collection is now split in the middle. Therefore sign posts have been put up advising users that classmarks C-H are located in the East half and classmarks A-B and J-Z are held in the West half. Support and shelfing services had to be extended to the East wing which meant recruitment of additional staff. Some teams have moved to the new extension as other teams remained in (or in some cases relocated within) the old part. Some teams like mine are even split in the middle. I am now based in the new extension (as I need access to the loan desk and post room) while the rest of my team stayed behind. That means plenty of physical exercise and planning ahead for meetings and visits as it takes several minutes to walk from one end to the other. Luckily we provide free brollies for users and staff at both exits (hopefully to be returned at the other end) so people can have a dry journey. In order to send books and other items to and fro, our facilities management team run an hourly trolley service between both parts. Ironically our self return/book sorter has (temporarily) been moved into the furthest section of the new extension while there are no physical books in this part of the building. On the other hand this seems to be the only possible space for such a monster, and there are of course books in the adjacent part (the former West wing, remember: classmarks A-B and J-Z, which also houses our core text collection and loan desk) so I suppose it makes sense.
Obviously all this is a small price to pay in exchange for a shiny new extension (and eventually a completely overhauled and refurbished library). We have four floors full of brand new study areas, seminar rooms and offices, exhibition space and a large lecture theatre on the ground floor as you can see for yourself:
We are hoping that work on the central part will be completed by the middle of 2017. After that the East wing will get a complete overhaul: redecoration, refurbishing, new windows etc. It is very likely that staff will again be relocated in order to carry out the necessary work in the office spaces. Also student study and computer facilities will have to be closed during that period. However, by that time alternative spaces will be available in the remaining parts of the library.
I am sure everyone is looking forward to the end of the project (although I have to confess I quite like my brand new temporary office which will at some point be a seminar room). The new West extension with its 500 study spaces is very popular and well used, and we could already do with another one (maybe a North extension?). For the time being, however, we are split in the middle so please bear with us if you have requested anything with classmark C-H as I need to fetch these kind of items from the other side.