The New Library Service – One Year To Go
As we enter the final twelve months of The New Library project at Magdalene, I wanted to take the opportunity to reflect on what the new College Library will mean from the point of view of the Library Service.
The new College Library will provide double the amount of study spaces, this will be enormously important to students particularly in key times of the year such as Easter term. As important as the number of spaces will be the variety of study spaces that will be available. Over the last year we converted Ramsay Hall into an additional study space, providing large six person desks as well as an area with beanbags and sofas. Ramsay Hall study room has proved very popular with students giving them the choice of different environments to work in, allowing students who wouldn’t normally use the Library a place to study in a library environment. The New Library will bring this together in one building, providing single study spaces, large shared desks, comfortable ‘low intensity’ seating, a social space (with tea and coffee facilities!), and perhaps most importantly; a group study room. Having a designated group space for students to be able to work collaboratively, without fear of disturbing their fellow students, will be very popular.
One of the key pieces of feedback we get from our students about the current Library is how much they love being amongst the books, finding nooks and crannies to work in and the studious atmosphere that this helps create. The atmosphere that a successful library provides is indeed crucial. The New Library will, of course, have its own atmosphere, its own personality, but the design is very clever in retaining the close relationship between books and study spaces. The books will not be hidden away to one side of the library; they will be a continuous presence in all the study areas. Students will also be glad to know there will be plenty of individual desks, and nooks and crannies, for those that love that aspect of the current Library.
We have seen book borrowing increase over the last couple of years. Physical books continue to be essential resources for students and continue to be their stated preference over using ebooks. The New Library will give us almost 50% capacity for expansion, allowing us the opportunity to expand the collection without the limitation of also freeing up space first. The College Library collection is particularly important to undergraduates at the start of their studies and finding ways to grow to fit the new space is an exciting challenge for all of us.
Over the last three years the Library team has put in an enormous amount of work in preparing the current collection for this new space. We have felt it very important that the content and organization of the collection live up to the standards of the New Building. As part of this work we have reviewed our classification system and over the last two summers have reclassified and relabeled over a quarter of our stock. Of course, this summer’s project of reclassifying, relabeling and moving 5000 books will pale in comparison to the challenge of next summer, when we will be adding RFID tags to all 30,000 of our books and then moving them over to The New Library!
Finally, I want to focus on perhaps the key aspect of the new building, its accessibility. As Library staff our primary concern is facilitating the access of information. This could be through the provision of a physical book, help navigating the catalogue or it might be ensuring we have functioning wifi so an e-journal can accessed on a student’s laptop. The New Library building will support us in this, the upgraded facilities within will help to break down barriers to accessing material, both physically and digitally. Improved physical accessibility is designed into the building, with a lift to each floor and automated entrances. We will also be installing RFID tags in all books to make issuing books faster and more efficient for students and staff. There will be catalogue terminals, multiple self-issue machines and reprographic facilities on all floors, all of which will improve access to the materials that our student’s need for their studies.
Over the last couple of years the Library staff have pushed hard to get the very best we can out of the current Library facilities whilst preparing our collection and library service for the move to the New Building. It has been challenging at times but also a privilege to work on such an exciting development in the College’s history.
By Mr Tom Sykes
Deputy Librarian (College Library)