I really like the name – Idea store.
The Tower Hamlets website advertises it as “the borough’s flagship library, learning and information service.” It was designed by Sir David Adjaye, opened in 2005 and shortlisted for the RIBA award in 2006.
It was a large square, blue and green glass, box like building but inside the light was nice and the spaces were welcoming. Although there’s a concrete ceiling and concrete pillars the hard-wearing red floor added colour and the wooden bookcases warmth. The building is on five floors which are very accessible with wide spaces, a lift and toilets on every floor. Readers are encouraged the use the stairs and burn 4 calories per floor.
The opening hours are impressive – open till 9pm on Mondays-Thursdays, 6pm Friday, 5pm Saturdays and also open Sundays, 11-5pm.
It was packed with people studying on a February half-term weekday. Many people making use of the Learning Labs on each floor.
I was impressed that there were water coolers on every floor – part of the campaign to allow people to reuse bottles rather than having to keep buying more plastic. I liked the books display such as this valentines one in the picture above.
We stopped and had a snack in the cafe – which has impressive London views, the TV was on Sky News, there were sofas or tables and chairs. There was also a gallery space along one of the walls.
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.
Wood. My first impression was wood. Proper wooden bookcases, wood covered pillars, wood tables, wooden window seats – even the lift is hidden behind wooden doors. It does make the library look quite grand.
The ground floor has the lending library and an area sectioned off for the children’s library. Upstairs is a large reference library, plenty of computers and a local studies area partitioned by a glass wall. There is a third floor which appears to be rented out to 2 companies.
The tub chairs have wheels on them which I’ve never seen before.
I was so comfortable here that I actually joined and used a computer for an hour! The staff were very helpful and patient.