The John Harvard Library in Southwark has been completely refurbished and extended to provide state of the art facilities for the public. AMA has created a safe and welcoming environment that makes much more effective use of the building by creating more open spaces, with lower, more accessible shelving. By incorporating undercroft spaces that were previously unsafe and abused and removing many of the suspended ceilings, and by installing arge, full height windows, the impression of light and space has been created.
Photograph © 2012 Gavin Jackson
The project has been largely financed by a £1.42m contribution by the Big Lottery Fund. This has enabled Southwark to install new RFID technology, and add a small refreshment area where new books, magazines and local information can be browsed. The children's area adjoins the refreshment facility and a sliding gate provides flexible use of the spaces whilst also ensuring a safe place for small children.
At the launch of the library in December 2009, the Culture minister Margaret Hodge described the facilities as a "stunning exemplar of the sort of practice we would like to see mirrored right across the country of a very welcoming environment, fantastic layout, good facilities for children and great facilities for people to learn".
User numbers have significantly increased since the opening, and the new environment that also includes study areas and a community meeting/ training room. The Local History Library will be completed in the spring of 2010.
One member of the library staff commented "The public reaction to the library has been phenomenal - I've seen people wandering around the library smiling and saying out loud to themselves 'This is fantastic'...and people on the phone to their friends telling them that they have to get down there to see how brilliant it is."
This project was featured in Green Sky Thinking Week 2012. This initiative educates the construction industry and the public about sustainable solutions. For more information click here.