Library spaces as research and cultural infrastructure

Library spaces play an integral role as research and cultural infrastructure within their scholarly, student, and other local communities. They do not only provide access to a variety of special, heritage and other type of collections, but also constitute places of knowledge production and innovation. Moreover, they are increasingly places that support collaboration, social interaction, and community wellbeing. The design of new library buildings and spaces or the refurbishment of existing ones often reflect this multi-faceted role of the modern research library.

This event shows how libraries respond to the challenge of designing or re-developing spaces to provide the infrastructure that supports scholarship and learning, brings communities together, and facilitates encounters with cultural heritage collections. The case studies discuss the requirements for developing such spaces, including the opportunities and barriers relevant projects present.

Opening up space and collections: the Main Library redevelopment at University of St Andrews

In 2021, 50% of the collections kept in the Main Library in central St Andrews were moved to a new purpose-built facility at Guardbridge, 4 miles out of town. From having been in closed stacks in the library basement, all of these collections were then available on open shelves to researchers. The release of space in town paved the way for a redevelopment of the basement level including the creation of 400 additional high quality study spaces. As well as upgrading the fundamental infrastructure of the building, a variety of spaces in which to carry out research and encounter collections were created. The redevelopment was completed in spring 2023 and the new spaces have now been in operation for a year.

Emma Wisher is Assistant Director, Academic Engagement and Student Experience, and Deputy Director of Libraries and Museums at St Andrews. Her interests are in user-centred service and space design and organisational development.

Reimagining the National Library of Ireland

Brian O’Donnell, Deputy Director & Head of Estates at the National Library of Ireland, gives a quick tour of recent developments in a continuing effort to upgrade and expand cultural service spaces and staff support areas at the library.

Brian is a conservation architect, and Fellow of the Royal Institute of Architects of Ireland. He joined the National Library of Ireland (NLI) as Head of Estates in 2019, and member of the NLI Senior Management Team, and is now also the Deputy Director. His role includes Future Planning, Estate Management, Sustainability, Disaster Planning as well as Security within his remit. He is a member of the Consortium of European Research Libraries (CERL) Security Working Group (SWG).

About RLUK’s Space Programme

This meeting is part of RLUK’s Space Programme, a series of events and resources to explore and support its members around spatial redesign and capital-build projects. The programme provides a forum through which colleagues can share their knowledge and experience in a collegiate and supportive environment. Watch previous RLUK Space Programme events here.