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Library design and European collaboration

Benjamin Meunier10 April 2019

Earlier this year, I was honoured to be invited to join the LIBER Architecture Group (LAG), as the UK representative. I am replacing Karen Latimer, former Librarian of Queen’s University Belfast and an expert in library design and heritage architecture. The group furthers the exchange of experience between librarians and architects throughout Europe and attempts to raise the level of awareness of new projects and trends. This is done through biennial seminars, and via a database of Library Buildings in Europe documenting new buildings, renovations, refurbishments and extensions. The LIBER Architecture Group brings librarians together with building design professionals, and helps to focus concepts and planning processes and to share best practice in the sector. It operates as part of LIBER’s Strategic Direction on Research Infrastructure.

As the UK’s future relationship with the European Union continues to be under question, UCL is committed to maintaining close partnerships with European Higher Education and research organisations. The work we do in Library Services, in many areas across the service, involves work with European partners and I am pleased to be able to play a part in developing links with colleagues in the area of European library architecture.

On Monday, as part of the LIBER Architecture Group’s bi-annual meeting, I visited the National Library of Luxembourg, which is due to open in September 2019. The building is very nearly complete, and the move of collections is due in the coming weeks. It is a monumental building, and much of the construction sites I visited or saw in Luxembourg were on a large scale, reflecting the country’s ambitious plans to develop its knowledge economy.

The view inside the brand new National Library, opening in September

Façade of the National Library of Luxembourg

When it opens, the library will provide 470 study spaces, open to anyone over the age of 14. The library building was designed to meet best practice in sustainable construction, using geothermal energy and thermal mass to maintain stable environmental conditions. Storage space at the back of the building provides shelving for 300,000 items. Where collections are on open access, each shelf is fitted with an LED light strip, creating an almost theatrical feel but also practical way of ensuring that users can see clearly even when browsing the lowest shelves in a building where there is little ceiling lights (for environmental reasons and also to minimise the risk of fire).

Facilities within the library include a music room and family study room, where parents may undertake their research accompanied by young children. The library also has parking spaces for 2 “Bicherbus”, the national library bus, which travels across the country to support users in Luxembourg.

View of Luxembourg Learning Centre, at the centre of Luxembourg University’s new campus on the former steelworks

The Luxembourg Learning Centre is based within an old coal warehouse, at the foot of two huge steelwork chimneys. It is at the heart of the new Science City in Belval, about half an hour from the centre of Luxembourg City. During my visit, I learned that Luxembourg’s economy was severely affected by the loss of the steel industry in the 1970s and had to transform its economy into the financial hub it is today. However, the country is keen to diversify its economy and avoid relying entirely on the finance sector, so it is fast developing its science and innovation sector.

The Belval site is being redeveloped with EUR 1 billion already invested and a further EUR 900 million due to be injected by the government to transform this former industrial plant into a university campus associated with a wider cultural and entrepreneurial district. The industrial past is everywhere to be seen, with the plant and warehouse buildings now listed as monuments.

The Learning Centre is a high-tech library which supports around 7,000 students at the university. With 1,000 study spaces and built at a cost of around EUR 70 million, it is on a scale fit to support further growth of the university. Collections are in English, French and German, reflecting the multilingual nature of the country. Signposts on the campus are in French but all the signage in the library is in English, a decision the Library took to ensure that the majority of users could easily navigate the building. There is a welcome point and self-service RFID equipment, provided by Bibliotheca, at the entrance. The library operates with a relatively small team (24 staff in total), and their Customer Service team work closely with students on various UX projects. The library closes at night and is also closed at weekends, and they are looking at extending these hours in response to demand. For more information, including a video of the impressive building, you can visit the website of the Luxembourg Learning Centre.

The next LIBER Architecture Group seminar will be held in April 2020 and hosted at the Luxembourg Learning Centre. Further details will be circulated later this year.

Futuristic furniture and hi-tech equipment feature throughout the Learning Centre, such as these built-in tablets to provide access to national newspapers

The Learning Centre’s glass walls are wrapped around the original structure of the coal warehouse which fed the steelworks

Student Centre Tours

Jay Woodhouse23 January 2019

The Student Centre tours are now fully booked. Sorry to those staff we have not been able to accommodate in this round of tours.

However, Amad Uddin, Student Centre Manager, will be running more staff tours after the buildings opening on the 18th February. Please look out for dates in blog from Amad following the opening.

Student Centre Tours

Jay Woodhouse21 January 2019

I will be running a series of tours of the Student Centre for Library Staff prior to the building opening on the 18th February. These are open to all Library staff and will last one hour.

The dates are:

Thursday 31st January 10:00 & 14:00

Tuesday 5th February 11:00 & 15:00

Wednesday 6th February 11:00 & 14:00

If you are interested in coming on one of these tours please e-mail the preferred slot to james.woodhouse@ucl.ac.uk . Allocation will be first come, first served.

Cardax access at Senate House Hub

Matthew Rains8 March 2018

Following successful installation the Cardax access system at the entrance to UCL Senate House Hub will become active on Monday 12th March.

UCL staff and students will need to have valid UCL ID cards with them in order to access the Hub.

The Hub remains out of bounds to external library members.

Access times to the Hub will be as follows:

UCL Staff:

07:30 – 19:30 Monday to Thursday

07:30 –  18:30 Fridays

09:30 –   17:30 Saturdays

(Evening and weekend staff who help to manage the space will have extended access)


UCL Students:

09:00 – 21:00 Monday to Thursday

09:00 – 18:30 Fridays

09:45 -17:30 Saturdays

Buildings News

Collette E M Lawrence17 November 2016

Appologies for “Buildings News” being off line, we will be starting our weekly updates from today!

Main Library

Heating – Maintenance are continuing to work to isolate the leaking heating eliments within the second floor ceiling in the History corridor. These works should be completed today and there will be some noise disruption while pipes are cut and capped. Once this work is complete the system will be filled and checked for leaks. If no leaks are found the heating will be turned on and will take a couple of days for the building to reach normal temperature.

Hebrew and Jewish Studies – Shelving has been removed and material moved to the corridor to make room for additional study spaces. The library has been awarded funds for new desks, chairs and power in this room, but is waiting for funds to come through. In the mean time we are intending to fit some older furniture to create extra spaces in the short term.

Lift – On Monday 21st November 2016 the Main Lift will be out of service for its ropes to be replaced. This work will start at 5.00pm and should be completed by 11.00pm. Students who require the lift for access can be assisted via the North Junction Physics Lift. Emergency egress procedures remain unchanged.

Science Library

Lighting Project – The replacement of the Science Library lights with new energy efficient LED units is ongoing.  The team are working down the building and have reached the First Floor. Once all the new units have been fitted the brightness levels and controls will be fine tuned, requiring a repeat visit to most spaces. However this second visit will be quick and not cause as much disruption.These works should be completed by Christmas.

Learning Lab Project – The Second phase of the Learning Lab refurbishment will start on Saturday 26th November 2016. Access to the Computer Clusters and Services will be via the First Floor and rear stairs for the duration of this project. Signage and information flyers have been created and will be available to students. A staff help point along with two Self Service kiosks will be placed on the First Floor to assist students. These works will be completed by the 8th January 2017. Equipment and furniture will be removed from this area in the week before the start of the project i.e. next week.

Roof Repairs – The works to repair the roof are now completed and the scaffold has been struck. The team need to clear out Room 416 and make good, so there will be some disruption for the next two weeks. Redecoration is also required in the Research Grid following a leak created by this project. This will be undertaken out of hours in the next few weeks. Date to follow.

Staff Moves

Further updates with regards to this will follow in next weeks blog.

Library Buildings Team

Jay Woodhouse17 November 2016

The Library Buildings Team is please to announce the addition of Collette Lawrence, Project Support Officer to the team.

The Buildings Team are from left to right: Collette Lawrence, Ricky Estwick, Phil Watson, Jay Woodhouse








Please continue to use the lib-buildings@ucl.ac.uk for all furniture and buildings requests.



Building Team Availability

Jay Woodhouse2 September 2016

Since the re-structure on the 1st April this year the Library Buildings Team have had a working pattern focused on liaising with Estates and contractors. This has meant the team starting early in the morning, at 07:30, to ensure that projects are kept on track and delivery and installation runs smoothly. This is a fairly standard practice within the Construction Industry.

However, this has caused problems with the Buildings Team being unavailable to meet and interact with other Library Staff as they would usually leave at 15:30. This has made organising meetings difficult with limited time in the afternoon to meet before the Buildings Team home time.

From Monday 12th September the Library Buildings Team will be operating to a new schedule with more availability in the afternoons. The new team availability will be 07:15 – 17:15 Monday to Friday. Please continue to contact lib-buildings@ucl.ac.uk as this will be monitored by the Team during the above times, but individual staff may not be available.

The Buildings Team can be available outside of the above times with prior arrangement.

Staff Office Moves – update

Jay Woodhouse2 September 2016

Following the circulation of the initial plan for Post-restructuring staff office moves we have received good feedback from staff and have been reviewing all comments and suggestions. We have highlighted three teams of staff who will have significant changes from the published plan. We have considered changes to be significant if the team was not moving in the original plan or if the team will move to a different building. We will be contacting the managers of the three teams on Monday 5th September to inform them of the proposed changes and these three teams will then have three weeks (ending on the 23rd September) to provide feedback.

We will review the new feedback and then publish a final Staff Office Move Plan. The plan will then be implemented between the end of September and December 2016. A proposed schedule will be circulated to managers at the start of October.

Apologies for the delay in this process. We wanted to ensure the plans would work, rather than rush to undertake staff moves and then find we had to move teams twice. Please bear with us, this is a very complicated move plan with 30 offices and more than 100 staff moving.

Science Library Roof Works

Jay Woodhouse2 September 2016

As some of you may have noticed the Science Library is currently wrapped in scaffolding. This is to provide access for much need roof repair works that will be starting on Monday 5th September. The scaffolding has taken some time to erect as they have only been working at the weekend to minimise disruption to the summer schools and graduations.

As part of the works the contractors, Sykes & Sons, will be applying a roof overlay treatment (liquid plastic) and this can create odours. The new fresh air intake/ AHU unit are located on the roof where the contractors will be working, so there is a potential for the odour to enter the building. The Project Team have reviewed the COSHH data sheets for the product being used and the substance is not harmful. However, if you detect or have reported to you any odour in the Science Library over the next month, please report this immediately to the Buildings Team via lib-buildings@ucl.ac.uk and we will review the way this element of the work is undertaken.

The roof repair works will be completed before the start of term. Some of scaffolding will not be removed until after this date, again the scaffolders will only be working weekends. The scaffold blocking part of the Science Library main entrance will be removed before the start of term.

During the duration of the works the contractors will be accessing the roof via room 416. This is to limit disruption in the reading rooms as the main roof access goes via the Engineering Reading Room. Please ensure that both rooms 417 & 418 are locked after use. Keys are available form Security at the Library entrance.

Wilkins Terrace and new Student Centre construction update – noisy works near Main Library

Sarah Custard18 February 2016

You may be interested in the progress being made on the new UCL Wilkins Terrace project and the construction works expected to cause noise disruption in the Main Library.  If so, please read on. I’m also including a look ahead at the construction of the new Student Centre, which will be starting in close proximity to the Main Library within the next month.

Wilkins Terrace Project

Steelworks for the new terrace – noisy works near Main Library

Installation of the first phase of steel decking for the new terrace is continuing despite some delays and is near to completion. Some noise is anticipated in the Main Library from works to install steel reinforcement mesh, which are to commence shortly.  Construction staff working on site will be walking across the metal decking and laying the metal rebar mesh, which may be noisy.


Installing the steel decking for the new terrace

To form the new floors of the terrace concrete will be pumped onto the steel decking. This potentially noisy work is to begin on February 19.th You may notice that a large concrete pump will appear in the area of the old Physics Yard, which will be serviced by a large number of lorries delivering concrete.



The terrace structure is currently expected to be installed by the end of February.


Tunnel A – noisy works near Main Library

Works on service ‘Tunnel A’ are still on target to complete at the end of February, and the completion of the service tunnel will allow for preparatory works on the site of the new Student Centre.

A section of the works on service ‘Tunnel A’

A section of the works on service ‘Tunnel A’

Removal of remaining ground obstructions is near completion and the pouring of the tunnel’s concrete floor and walls has begun. These works, which are at times noisy, will be continuing near the Main Library throughout the day, and in order to meet the end of February deadline noisy works may occur late into the evening and at weekends.


To mitigate this noise disruption acoustic panels have been installed by the contractor around the Tunnel A works.





New Student Centre construction to start late February

Construction of UCL’s new 1,000 seat Student Centre, set to open to students in 2018, will begin in late February with works to prepare the construction site.

New UCL Student Centre

New UCL Student Centre

Initial works

From 22nd February the ‘Beach site shared welfare cabins’ close to the Gordon Street exit will be removed and the contractors MACE will begin scaffolding the Node in preparation for demolition. This will be in addition to constructing their on-site accommodation.  Demolition of the Node is expected to begin around the 3rd week of March.


Noise and disruption in the Main Library

The demolition works are expected cause disruption in the Main Library due to the noise and vibration created by the demolition process. The contractors will be working closely with UCL to minimise the noise and vibration created during the demolition of the Node, and during later works in the construction phase.  Noise mitigation measures will be similar to those adopted for construction of the Wilkins Terrace.

Gordon Street exit/access

During the works the current access road from Gordon Street will be maintained until a new temporary road is created. The current access road from Gordon Street will be for emergency access.  Discussion is currently taking place regarding delivery and other access.  An update will follow.

Alternative quiet study areas

The where to study pages of the Library website will be providing information about alternative quiet study areas during the construction works.  These pages can assist users find quiet library study space.  The UCL Senate House Hub continues to provide additional study space well away from the construction activities mentioned.