The library has now been transformed, as I had said it would be; the tired pale yellow walls have been repainted with vibrant colours. As I sit here and look around, there is a bright green wall to my right, a charcoal grey wall to my left, and white walls in front and behind me. The old, tatty and worn carpet has been replaced with mottled grey carpet tiles, with a few squares of green thrown into the mix.
All the library furniture has been replaced; we have new, oak tables for students to work at with built in power sockets and USB charge ports, plush sofas and high backed chairs. The whole place smells like a furniture showroom, and without the students here yet, it looks like one, too.
There is an undeniable new sheen to everything, which has given this outdated library a fresh zest for life. We should be raring to go, ready for the new semester, all reinvigorated and revitalized. And yet…
And yet. All is not what it seems. Yes, the place looks great, but scratch beneath the veneer and cracks start to appear. The new student tables and chairs are wonderful, but some of them aren’t connected to power supplies, which renders their built-in power sockets useless.
Not all of the library spaces received a fresh coat of paint; the group study rooms have new furniture, but the walls remain scuffed and stained, and the whiteboards have yet to be replaced.
Fit for purpose
The new staff furniture, which replaces our old welcome desk, IT help desk, and enquiry desk, is not suitable for the purposes for which it was intended; the help desks are not big enough to accommodate both librarians and IT staff, and the welcome desk is too narrow and too tall, with the cash register perched on top of a counter that some staff cannot comfortably reach.
To be honest, the welcome desk has never looked so unwelcoming.
We know we are very lucky to have received such an overhaul, with fancy furnishings, bright paint and new carpet. However, there was very little interaction between the library staff and the design team throughout the whole process, so although the library looks so much better now, what we have ended up with doesn’t quite meet our needs. Aesthetics appear to be more important than functionality.
The students will return next week, so we’ll see what their reactions are, and indeed, how they use the refurbished spaces. I’ll let you know.