I have been looking forward to visiting this library, as I had seen pictures of it in other publications, looking new and interesting, with a pool of shimmering water beside of it.
As I have a tendency to do – I walked out of the tube station and charged off round the water only to realise the stairs to the underground were next to the library’s entrance and I was walking the wrong way.
Once I had turned around and gone back I entered through the café which was brimming with people on this cold Monday lunchtime. Adjacent to the café is the ground floor area with an enquiry point, some self-service terminals, some “Quick Choice” books and a security guard.
I immediately saw the central wooden curved stairwell that looked very warm and inviting so up I went. The next level up had a really colourful block carpet which brought the place to life. There was plenty of book-stock, windows, staff, computers and readers.
The next floor up was a mezzanine of study positions around the stairwell/atrium. Most seats were occupied including some by older kids in school uniform. There were chairs with the built-in note-taking arm which were positioned in the windows. There were plenty of meeting rooms on the sides of the library, of various sizes. Several were in use and they must be a really handy facility for the community.
The library’s opening hours are good – opening until 8pm every weekday and opening on Saturdays and Sundays. The theatre is in the same building too.
The whole library was bathed in light but also full of nooks and crannies for people to settle in and study. The children’s library had several children in it, so I couldn’t take pictures, but I was able to take a picture of their boat.
Southwark Libraries don’t designate a central library and Canada Water may not be their largest, but it was well worth the visit! Here’s an interesting article in the Guardian from when it opened in 2011.
Runcorn Library is another library which is off a shopping centre. As I was using Google maps and in a car it took us a while to work out how to actually get into the library. Even when we’d parked the car there were no signs to the library from the multi-storey or the shopping centre so I had to rely on my sense of direction.
The library itself is decorated in a mix of grey and bright areas. It felt very funky. The café looked good although the chair colours looked a bit sci-fi – unfortunately I didn’t have time to test out their hot chocolates.
The library is arranged on at least 3 floors. I got the impression few people make it to the ground floor where the local studies, or ‘community history’, collection is kept as I was pounced on by a surprised Saturday assistant and I didn’t feel I could stay or take pictures.
I like the bookstacks (all on wheels I think). The signage was clear and modern and the use of colour was great.
I really like these chairs and think they are wonderful for making notes or having a quick swivel. I’d like to have some at work but I don’t know how robust they are.
I think Runcorn have done a really good job of making use of – what felt like – left over space.
Before I set off for Bedford Central Library, whilst I was checking the address and map, I came across Google reviews of the Library. I have never bothered to read reviews of a library before as they are always a mixed bag and I believe people are more likely to write a review when they have something to complain about. The first reviewer had been complaining about the fact that there were mothers and babies singing nursery rhymes all the time. So I thought it hilarious that I turned up at exactly the moment baby rhymetime started!
Bedford Central Library is in a pedestrian area and looks very inviting and colourful from the outside. The ground floor has an information desk and a book drop-off point but then you need to get on the rather grubby and drab escalator (or take the lift or stairs). However when you get to the first floor you enter a very big library space with another wraparound mezzanine (or gallery) above. As it is open plan, it is true that you could hear the nursery rhymes throughout. But, as a past frequenter of baby rhymetimes I don’t have a problem with half an hour of singing in a library and I could hear other readers subconsciously singing along to Wheels on the Bus as well.
It was a Thursday morning (on Thursdays the library closes at 1). It was very busy and bustly and felt like a genuine hub of the community. The stock was easy to navigate because it was open plan with clear sections and signs and I saw plenty of helpful looking staff around.
There was a silent study area on the mezzanine which was partially screened off with glass but perhaps it could do with doors too. There were, what looked like, noise reducing panels on the ceiling so I’m presuming noise has been recurring issue for the library. But better a noisy well-used library than an empty quiet one!
I had brought my father along on this visit and as he is an ex-local studies librarian. We spent most of our time in that corner. He found exactly the book he wanted and we had no problem locating and using the photocopier. He grumbled that the local studies material wasn’t very secure but did note that the filing cabinets were at least locked. I noticed lots of helpful leaflets, guides and posters and this one which I thought was a great use of librarian talent:
We sampled the tea and cake in the small café and admired the view which we thought was a church but have now learnt is a shopping centre. We finished off with a short walk along the river and a look around The Higgins – Bedford’s Museum and Art Gallery.