Tuesday, 2 July 2013

Forum for Interlending, Cardiff 2013 :: Day Two :: Tour of Cardiff Library

Day two of the Forum for Inter-lending started with a quick Annual General Meeting, before launching in to a visit to Cardiff Library, which was a short walk from the Maldron Hotel.

The library is instantly impressive, forming part of the St. David's redevelopment in central Cardiff. Opened in 2009 by the Manic Street Preachers, the building won a RIBA award in 2010.

It's hard not to love this library. Six stories of glass and light and colour, it's a purpose built library designed to accommodate the variety of different users. Lots of detail gave this library personality: Bright orange signs clearly indicating a route round the library - along with orange chairs to identify members of staff; a clean, uncluttered look that included dedicated wall space to keep displays to a minimum to increase impact; low level shelving with lots of display features, allowing readers to see across the whole of the library.

Cardiff Library || baby grand piano
The readers were at the heart of this library. Dedicated IT suite, where an Ancestry training session was in progress as we passed; a dedicated space tucked away under the stairs for teen collection, listening pods, individual desks, combined with large study desks, giant chairs dotted around the floors to curl up in and read a book. My personal favourite was the baby grand piano - complete with headphones to allow for individual practice without disturbing other library users. I loved the idea of someone having a 'silent disco' style boogie-woogie on the piano.

The children's library was hidden away on it's own mezzanine floor, visible from the main escalators, but only accessible via it's own staircase. Although smaller than they would have liked, it was a space created to be explored by little hands. Cubby-holes contained hidden collections which were rotated on a regular basis, a curtain created a magical enclosed space for story-time and there were dedicated computer desks that couldn't be used if you were over the age of 16.

What personally struck me whilst I was walking around were the number of staff. We were given the tour by the Children's Librarian who outlined the structure of the staff and the number of specialist staff providing support to readers. Whilst there were self-issue machines, there were no queues to use them, and no staff hanging round to provide support - a very different picture to the self-service set up in Bristol where readers are still acclimatising to the change. Talking to the Children's Librarian, she emphasised that although readers needed support to begin with, most were now happy to use self-service, and it freed staff to do more outreach work in the community. Having worked on a self-issue implementation project at a University over 10 years ago - and remember the trauma of having to empty the book return bin - I admit looking on at the self-return system with a little envy. A complex conveyer-belt system that assigned book to the right floor before being manually transferred to the shelves by staff. I still have some concerns about a library service that forces users to use self-issue in a public library but used in the right way, self-service provides the opportunities to open up access to collections. I'm much more comfortable with the use of self-service in an academic environment where it has more potential when combined with 24 hour access. But that's another issue...

If you're interested in the full set of pictures from the day, along with descriptions, they can be found on Flickr.

I won't be blogging the rest of day two... partly because Jenny Foster has already done a much better job of reflecting on the sessions and collecting tweets from the day... but also because I want to focus on the changes I've made since attending. I'll do that in a separate post shortly.