Well, I finally visited the newly refurbished Oxfordshire County Library in Oxford city centre.
It reopened just before Christmas, after being closed during the extensive redevelopment of the Westgate shopping centre.
So, what does it look like? Is it an improvement on the old place? Read on to find out!
Let’s start with the entrance.
This is what you see as you approach the Westgate shopping centre. The library isn’t immediately obvious; the entrance to it is that glass fronted bit on the right hand side, with bits of colour on the windows.
It is actually the original entrance to the old library; not much has changed, with the same foyer and the same stairs to climb to reach the library (there’s also a lift for those that need it). At first glance, it looks like everything except the library has changed, with the extensive building work that has gone into enlarging and refurbishing the entire shopping centre.
Once you get inside though, everything feels brighter, and it is obvious that fresh licks of paint have made all the difference.
Let’s take a look inside…
As you reach the top of the stairs, though, once again it looks as if nothing has changed. The children’s library is still in the same place, behind a wall of glass, and the main library floor is also in the same place. The one new feature that was immediately obvious is the addition of a Makerspace where staff offices used to be.
Here’s what the Makerspace actually looks like (it was empty when I visited).
It looks pretty cool, huh? I liked the lime-green sofas, the funky looking chairs and the bright artworks against the plain white walls. I certainly wouldn’t mind using this space sometime. I wonder what people actually do in here, though?
The first floor is also home to the children’s library, which although remaining in the same location as before, it has received a funky update.
It looks so much better to the way it was before; new carpet, fresh paint, new furniture and bright colours have really made this feel like a more inviting library space. I can’t wait to bring my kids here to see what they make of it.
The main area of the library has received similar treatment; new carpet, fresh paint, lots of funky new furniture. The actual layout hasn’t really changed, but it looks so much brighter, feels more open, more modern, more engaging. What a difference to the dark place it was before. This is where you’ll find Art, Biography, DVDs, Fiction, History, Social Sciences, and Travel.
The upper floor has been redecorated in the same way, and also looks amazing. This is where you’ll find books on Languages, Literature, Local & Family History, Music, Religion, and Science.
Throughout both floors there are plenty of public computers and welcoming seating areas.
I liked the quotations that are dotted around the library, like the one below.
So overall I was very impressed with the refurbished library. I was there on a Tuesday morning, when it wasn’t particularly busy, but the people I saw looked happy and were making use of most of the spaces.
The old library was in need of an update, and now it can better serve the community of Oxford. I’m certainly going to be using it more regularly.