Report: Visit to Laidlaw Library, University of Leeds, 11 November 2015

The Laidlaw Library at the University of Leeds has bees, ladies and gentlemen, bees. It also has some amazing furniture and study spaces, and a modern and flexible feel but it was the bees that really got me excited.

A small but curious group of us assembled in the foyer of the brand new (opened Spring 2015) Laidlaw Library on Wednesday 11th November for a tour arranged by CILIP Yorkshire and Humberside. As a recent member it was a great opportunity to meet some local library people and have a good nosey round.

The first thing that strikes you is the sculpture outside the library – A Spire by Simon Fujiwara – which sets the tone of the building as bold and inventive. Before you go through the card entry gates, there is an area on the ground floor open to the public, including group study spaces and a Café Nero coffee shop (complete with super long queues). There is also a reception area and through the gates there is a large collection of short loans and holds. One striking feature is the wall dedicated to thanking all the donors, which is a really lovely touch.

For a weekday evening, the library certainly felt busy and it was great to see students taking advantage of all the different types of study spaces available. It might be a quirk particular to librarians but the study furniture was really interesting – tall booths with movable screens, individual pods, colour changing lamps and relaxed seating – as well as a larger teaching classroom that can be divided into two. I was particularly interested to see the Skills@Library office based on the first floor, which offers appointments and a drop in service for students to have one on one sessions – all integrated within the library service and making use of some of the cool study pods.

laidlaw1

The CILIP tour group in the central stairwell of the Laidlaw Library. Photo by Evelyn Webster (used with permission)

 

On a more personal level it was great to hear about how library staff had felt about the move and their pride in the new building was evident. I was surprised that the open roof of the coffee shop didn’t actually impact on the noise levels in the library and instead created a nice quiet buzz – and for those who prefer no noise, there are plenty of separate silent study rooms around the circumference of the library.

But anyway, back to the bees. For those of you who have been past the Laidlaw, the hives are based in a rooftop garden above the main entrance – so on my daily bus journey to work I now find myself saying a little hello as I go past. We were told there was some argy-bargy between the queen bees but this has now been resolved; everyone is getting along well now and keeping as busy as, well, bees. Using a new library space to implement the wider green initiatives of the university is intriguing and the tour overall has certainly given me some useful ideas to take back with me to work.

A big thank you to Evelyn for organising the tour and to Lynne Thompson for being such an enthusiastic guide.

Jennifer Bayjoo (@epicbayj)

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