Tour of 21st Century Library – Saturday 21 June 2008

On a cold, damp windswept day, a building site on Tyneside is not the place you’d expect to find 10 librarians and the Head of Newcastle City libraries! This is the heart of £40 million public library innovation for the 21st Century. We were here to see work in progress on a guided tour of the new Newcastle City Library. Tony Durcan, Head of Libraries, enthused about the new City Library, that is expected to open in the summer of 2009.

Despite being a building site, it was clear to see that this building would reflect inspirational modern library design from across Europe, notably Malmo in Sweden, the Black Diamond library in Copenhagen, in Denmark, and others.

On the ground floor the building opens up to a spectacular atrium and this floor will serve as a meet and greet space. At the cutting edge of modern library technology, the new library will use RFID and there will be self-issue and self-return points near the entrance, which visitors will be able to view.

One of the main design features is for the building to be functional with flexible areas to cater for the many different functions the building may be used for. Some of these functions include an exhibition space, a performance space, reading areas for story telling for different age groups, and a PC and Mac open access area. Needless to say, there will also be books!

One of the floors will be given over to Newcastle’s Heritage, and will house the local studies and family history centre. What gave me a real wow feeling was a viewing platform on the 5th floor which provides a spectacular panoramic view of Newcastle.

The new library will also feature public art in the form of drawings printed onto the glazed windows. The drawings represent the answers to four questions asked to a cross-section of one thousand people of the Newcastle public: What makes you happy? What would you change? What do you fear? What gives you hope? In this way, the public art piece contributes to making the library a monument to the people of Newcastle.

In an age of concern for the environment, the new library building will be sustainable with solar panels on the roof and rainwater will be recycled for flushing the toilets. Other materials have also been recycled from the old library building, e.g. some of the floor slates.

Tony Durcan, Head of Newcastle Libraries, said that the new library needs to be ‘visible so it can be seen from Greys Monument, and transparent so that people can see inside the building from outside’ and he hopes the building will ‘delight and inspire’ the visitors who come here.

I was excited by this opportunity to visit the new library building in its building phase. I am even more excited at the prospect of coming to visit the new library and will wait with bated breath for my invitation to the opening!

For more information on Newcastle Libraries, follow this link.

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