College, Cambridge, has recently completed the building of a new library for
their members. It was a real privilege to be able to come to see this space in
person. We were shown around by College Librarian Sonya Adams.
Library replaces the College’s War Memorial Library. This predecessor was built
in the 1930s but had actually been planned since the 1920s as it took a number
of years to raise the necessary funds. Its name reflected the timing of its
completion. The Bartlam Library has similarly benefitted from donations.
Standing outside the entrance, you can see the names of donors carved into the
bricks and paving stones, tangibly connecting the donors with the fabric of the
Library building is situated in a court designed by Demetri Porphyrios. It
reflects the College’s age and architectural style, and there was always a plan
for a building to go on this spot.
was completed in March 2021 and it opened straightaway as a study space. As any
librarian will tell you, though, you can’t conduct a major book move when your
library users are about to sit exams! It therefore took a little longer, until
July 2021, for the 35,000 books to be moved into the new building. However, work
didn’t stop there for the team behind the project. The material in the Old
Library (rare books, archives, and special collections) was then put into
storage so that building could be refurbished.
A project on
this scale requires a huge amount of planning, and the Librarian was involved
in a lot of the process. It is to the credit of all involved that they were
able to complete the project despite the COVID-19 pandemic happening at a
crucial stage. We heard that some aspects of the planning ended up having to
take place over Microsoft Teams!
Library occupies the first and second floors of the building above a new
auditorium. The first floor is also home to a computer room. They planned for
the lower floor to have some noise while the upper floor would be used for
silent study, but in practice people tend to be quiet throughout!
When you walk
in, the space is bright, modern and welcoming, combining shelving and study
desks with more relaxed areas of sofas, coffee tables, and plants. Eye-catching
displays are also very welcoming, and they allow for different parts of the
collection to be highlighted. The bookcases are all of an easily-accessible
height, making it comfortable to reach books without steps or ladders. The
books are classified according to Dewey.
|Sofas in Selwyn Library
|Book display in Selwyn College Library
Library has increased seating capacity, as well as providing a comfortable
amount of space at each desk. The Library also includes two group study rooms.
The stylish furniture was designed by Luke Hughes.
floor is also where the staff office can be found, as well as a very attractive
common room. Rather pleasingly, the common room is filled with books too,
including a light reading collection, to accompany the squashy sofas and
kitchenette area. We heard that during exam time the area would be home to
jigsaws and welfare boxes from the nurse. We were also able to peek out of the
window to see the lovely terrace that was due to be opened soon.
wonderful to see a library that so beautifully brings something new into the
traditional college environment and to hear how it went from plans to reality.
It is clear in all the details that the students using the Library were kept at
the heart of the design. It would be a wonderful place to read and study and
it’s easy to imagine that all the Selwyn students for generations to come will
love working in there.