Medical School building

The Library in the Life of the User – intermission – visit to the wide open spaces

I mentioned last post that I visited a library while waiting for the conference to start.  I basically invited myself for a self directed tour.

This is a quick run through of what I found when I visited the Galter Health Sciences Library located a few minutes walk from the conference.

Medical School building

Feinberg Medical School

The library is based in a fantastic Gotham style skyscraper with lovely details – it was great to really have the feel of a medical school.

Harvey quote

Got to love a bit of Harvey

While there was no security gate in the library there was a guard on a desk outside for the building more generally and I was issued with a temporary paper ID badge with my photo on it.


Library Map

You will likely be unsurprised to hear that they had loads of space.  The Medical School is somewhat smaller than the one I work with and space felt under no pressure (though it may have been a quiet time).  You arrive though a wide corridor with a run of capacious staff offices on one side with liaison teams in a highly visible location. Self issue was not yet in place.

The first reading room had been renovated but kept in a very traditional style (I didn’t take a picture but you can see it here) it had a club feel, traditional desks, wood, busts of eminent folk and stained glass. I suspect it would maintain a good self policed working atmosphere. It looked a bit like this space on an upper floor but more so:

Study space

Leafy space

Moving round the corner things became more modern. I loved a collection of anatomical learning aids / models that were available on open access and in the catalogue. Flip charts and mobile white boards meant people could shift things to suit their needs.


Anatomy for loan

There were a variety of teaching spaces on the ground floor with a very snug computer room in use when I passed and a much larger space used as open access computing the rest of the time.  There were several sets of group study rooms in different locations with varying levels of equipment (Conference Rooms in their parlance).


Blackboard in study room

Upstairs a whole mezzanine area was boxed off where they had previously stored journals and had not yet decided what to do with the space (did I mention space pressure was low?).

Library interior

Special Collections – displays on left

Special collections had their own space within the library with lots of display cases along corridors. They were not around when I visited.

Along the wide open areas of the top floor they were busily engaged in prototyping new furniture options.  Students were invited to give them a go and provide feedback. Most popular were various combinations of desks with cloth walls creating enclosures for group or individual work.  These were in use despite there being other more spacious options available.

The final gesture in the “we have so much space we hardly know what to do with it” stakes was a display of posters. Spot the careful arrangement to minimize footprint.


Poster display

I just had time for a quick bite of lunch before the previously reported conference session.




A trip to Liverpool (Street)

A little while ago I took the opportunity to visit the new(ish) library of the University of Liverpool in London. I was interested in what a local branch might look like and for ideas of interesting student spaces.


There is a strong grey black white theme which feels a bit hotel / business formal which links to the subjects taught locally and a “London” experience (it was also a dark early evening when I visited).

There is a variety of different furniture broadly split into a casual area, formal desks and computer rooms. A range of informal activities were on offer aimed at relaxation / community building.  It made things feel warmer and a student came over for a chat and a biscuit (and asked some questions while she was there).  The large, low slab type sofas were not terribly comfy (but recent feedback from students was positive and they were used).

I liked some of the finishes – there was a really nice feature wallpaper that raised the overall feel in spaces where it was used a lot. Some corners ended up being a bit dark due to the colour scheme though I could see people liking that (and they were used).  Interview rooms are an interesting place specific arrangement – students and academics can meet in a neutral space with doors into the library one side and academic space on the other.  This is interesting in the light of experiments underway in Bush House (not visible externally) to pilot different ways of bringing staff and students together.  It did have a slight prison / police vibe that I was not too sure about but again tied in to some of the topics taught on site.

Generally there were the kind of regular self serve facilities you would expect.  The laptop charge cupboards were sometimes used as temporary storage lockers which is not something we have noticed in charge boxes but worth keeping an eye out for. I would like to try bringing some of the more tailored hotel vibe back into libraries at work.

From the RSM to the RCN

Royal Society of Medicine

I took a trip with a colleague to the Royal Society of Medicine Library recently. I was interested in the range of services they provide and the kinds of spaces on offer.  The library is spacious with substantial areas dedicated to the extensive collections.  Paper journals are being phased out and this will release space for other purposes. Special collection type materials were presented in a heritage centre.  There are regular temporary exhibitions.

Generally there was a quiet atmosphere that felt generated by the users of the space. It was notable how much space each user had – very much one chair per desk.  Some areas felt like they were due a refresh and it was notable that power sockets were an issue for one user who was struggling to lift a hatch in the floor.

Training sessions were longer than the ones we tend to offer. Potentially this is more acceptable as people are already taking time out to go to the Library where courses closer to work may face more pressure to get back to the ward.

A series of study carrels looked well used and a small flexible group room at the end of this area was nicely presented. Green glass wall mounted panels allowed for note taking and would have good colour contrast.

An area outside the library had some really funky furniture and it would be nice to see some of this move into the Library as they dispose of the journal display furnishings.

Walking back to the tube we dropped into the Royal College of Nursing Library and Heritage Centre.  This was a huge contrast with the RSM Library having been the subject of a major redevelopment in the past few years.  The picture on the front page of their website gives a good idea of the feel.  There is a cafe area open to the public and a very well presented selection of nursing heritage related items.

I liked the fabric sound baffles but suspect that there must be noise issues due to the mezzanine design.  There were a  number of nicely parceled off spaces for small group work and a flexible training space much like the one at the University of Greenwich.  A digital room booking display for this was very clear and allowed immediate on the spot booking which was a nice touch.

Generally there were lots of different working environments in a fairly tight space.  There was a good amount of space required for the book stock.  Shelving was white as were the walls and most of the display type units.  This made things very clean and bright.  Excellent use was made of graphics to make it less overwhelmingly white – there were full colour blow ups of various items from the archives that were attractive and set a good organisation specific feel.  Signage was notably clear.

I loved the finish and feel at the RCN though I suspect if I was going to pick one to study at myself I would likely go to the RSM.

RSM image by PressReleaseFinder (C) Creative Commons


A trip to the pharmacy

Some time ago now I visited the Library at the UCL School of Pharmacy.

After an informative talk we went for the usual poke around.  Access is via a rather narrow space which holds a lot of kit.  There are currently several print systems in operation – a not uncommon complication but unlikely to be helpful for staff or users.  A new self issue system was being put in operation.  The space was rather odd but did serve as a useful noise barrier.

The Library itself is fairly compact and combines white walls with glass accents and red furniture for a bit of colour.

UCL School of Pharmacy Library desks

A range of study spaces are available with a small amount of group study space.  Frosted glass dividers allow light to pass while offering privacy. An area for group work was divided off using large wooden pUCL School of Pharmacy Library group areaanels that were attractive but would be tricky to shift I suspect.






UCL School of Pharmacy Library display case


Some use was made of special collections type materials to give it a more pharmaceutical feel.

UCL School of Pharmacy Refectory

But I could not help wishing they had been able to have the space now used as a refectory that visitors to other libraries of the period (eg Senate House, NIMR at Mill Hill) will recognise as quite clearly designed for library use!

A Wellcome trip

L0023184 The Food Value of the Banana. Boston, 1928

I had the pleasure of visiting the Wellcome Library recently (trip organised by CILIP ARLG L&SE).

While I have visited the revamped Collection spaces on a number of occasions the last time I was in the Library was some moons ago to hear Robert Kiley talk about the Internet and other such new fangled things.

The space very much matches the transformation downstairs.  I loved the shelf end bays that use images from the collection linked to the materials in that area.  There was good use of furniture to create different spaces though the book stock does dominate a lot of areas.

The Reading Room was an unexpected change and one I look forward to returning to.  The mixture of books, exhibits, art, interactives and seating was great.

We had a visit to the scanning mines of the UK Medical History Library project. They are going great guns in digitising large numbers of books including some from my employers special collections. A fascinating resource is being built (though the most viewed items are unsurprising).  I had not seen a foot pedal operated scanner in action so it was good to get an idea of how these work.

We also popped into the more cautious digitisation work where all manner of skills are in place photographing the large collection of early books.

A rich collection and one that I will heartily recommend to all those were it might be of use.

Image Wellcome Images L0023184 The Food Value of the Banana. Boston, 1928

A visit to Stockwell Street

I recently had the opportunity to tour the University of Greenwich Library on Stockwell Street.  It is always interesting to have a poke around someones library – particularly when it is a shiny new one like this (opened September 2014).  I am also involved in lots of discussions about future library spaces at work so it was very helpful to see some of the new style fixtures in operation.

Library Entrance

Library Entrance


Tucked in seating

I was a bit grumpy when I realised that the Library had been built on what was my favourite market in Greenwich. The small consolation is that they were going to build flats on it otherwise.  The entrance is rather nice with a general reception before you reach the library gates.


library lobby

Lobby area


There is plenty of open space on the ground floor.

To the right of this shot is a single person desk for directions and to support use of the self issue kiosks.  The white units hold a few paper titles (architecture students use this site amongst others) and have new books displayed on top.

The interior is all brushed steel and polished concrete with predictable results – note the ceiling mounted baffles.

There are lots of different kinds of seating.  Those below faced the chairs outside and have power and data sockets concealed underneath which is neat but probably not the most convenient.


Bar style seating


Central giant stair case

A set of enormous stairs run through the centre of the building.

Library interior

Social working space

On the other side of the stairs is this rather nice space with a variety of work environments.  The grey soafs on the right face each other over coffee tables providing space for around six people to work together.  The bright chairs are each by a tall window looking outside.


Short loan corner

Short loan is back the other way with self issue inside the gate to control access.


Laptop trolley

Print areas are divided from the rest of the library by mid height walls.  This one down past the big grey sofas housed loan laptops for use in the Library.  I like this idea as it provides flexible access which would be inclusive to all the users of our libraries.


Loads of sofa pods



Looks familiar






There are clusters of group work oriented sofa pods with high backs to provided some privacy and contain noise.

The fixed PCs are generally quite closely packed which is similar to the arrangements we have in place.  It would be nice to be able to offer more space for peoples stuff around PCs.



Enquiry drum


Wandering down into the basement we passed an enquiry point.  These are located around the library rather than having a single desk near the entrance.  Help leaflets are integrated into the furniture.  Not pictured are the archives who are located in the basement with some very fancy rolling stack.


Wheely chair desk thing










Black shelves


Daylight into the basement














Shelving is generally not too high and slinky black.  The dark space in the distance of the left hand picture was in eco motion sensitive lights out mode (it was early when I visited).  There are clusters of desks and PCs scattered around.

training room

Laptops an option in training room

Training room

Looking from the trainers point of view

The training room is highly flexible with all furniture on wheels and capable of multiple layouts. This struck me as a really good idea.  Laptops allow the use of the space for hands on training though there would obviously be an overhead in set up time.

note the double screen

IT Enquiry Drum

IT have enquiry points too (note the double screen ahem).


Standing PC for express use







Printing areas have PCs to allow people to hop on to print something off which is a nice touch.





water fountain

Double water


giant printer

Self serve poster plotters

There are plenty of water points along with toilet facilities.

The needs of the architecture students mean that poster printers are self serve and very economical.





Sofa pod for one to ones with students

The main staff office is on the top floor (plus some palatial quarters behind the book sorter down stairs).


Wide open office





We finished our tour at the staff meeting room which has a rather nice view.  I was impressed with the range of study environments in the library (not pictured are some group study rooms).  The library has a number of roof top gardens with some open for library users.  Thanks to UoG colleagues for the welcome!

Greenwich view

Not a bad view