Our library had a big makeover during the summer; you know, refurbishment equivalents of botox, implants, hormone injections and even a full facelift. There are no wrinkles left on this library’s forehead; it has a smooth, youthful complexion. The bones are still old, but hey, the make-up looks amazing.

I have touched upon this before, about how the library looks wonderfully refreshed, but there are definite cracks behind the veneer.

The whole process of the refurbishment has been a long and frustrating one, and I now feel ready to pull back the curtains and show you what’s been going on behind the scenes.

Almost three years ago it was announced that our satellite campus would be closing within ten years. All the various departments would gradually be relocated to different campuses, and eventually, our site would be sold off.

Actually, this news came out during my very first week in my job, so I have always known that this campus is a dying one. Therefore, I made a concerted effort to get to know library colleagues at the other campus libraries, to network and get my name out there so that, when the time comes, people would know me and, hopefully, it might be easier to find another job within this institution.

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I like to think that when a company decides to refurbish a given space they would ask their employees (i.e. the people who work in that space) what they use the space for, how they use the space, and what requirements they have in order to perform their job to the best of their ability.

I even attended a course, hosted by my employer,  on how to evaluate the User Experience to best inform change; i.e. the users of a given space are the best people to talk to in order to make changes to that space; find out how they use it before you change anything. Changes should be made to meet the habits of the users; let them inform you.

In our case, all the decisions about the library refurbishment were Top Down; we, the library employees, were not asked or consulted at any point. The refurbishment team came along, decided what they were going to do and implemented it. There was no input from library staff whatsoever.

The result is that staff moral plummeted during the past twelve months; we were kept in the dark about how, when and what was going to happen. Our management team tried in vain to get hold of any solid information. We only found out a matter of weeks in advance, for example, that the library would be closing during the summer. There was no time for us to inform library users about this, because we didn’t know until it was too late.

The library refurbishment is more or less finished now. One of my colleagues lost their office and had nowhere to work; there weren’t enough desks. Eventually, after complaining, they were finally given a desk and a spare room was converted into an office.

Similarly, when we consulted students last year about where they like to study, there was a clear indication that the silent study areas were highly favoured. There are no silent study areas now; there was supposed to be one, but apparently there wasn’t enough money left to build the necessary wall.

A bespoke piece of furniture was made to be used as our welcome desk, but it is not fit for purpose; no-one asked what we needed the welcome desk for, and so they made something based upon their assumptions rather than how we actually use it. The result is that now we have to somehow find an alternative piece of furniture that better meets our needs, and this expensive bespoke piece will have to be put somewhere else.

I could go on, listing lots of annoying things, but I will refrain.

Don’t get me wrong, I am thankful that the library got a facelift; it really, really needed one, and the space does look so much better, with a lick of paint, new carpeting, and new furniture. I just wish that library staff had been better informed and involved during the whole process.