Books, bags, boxes - behind the scenes at Oxfordshire County Library
Visitors to Oxford’s regenerated Westgate centre have no shortage of retail attractions to feast their eyes on, but anyone looking up at the entrance in recent days might have noticed plenty of activity involving books, shelves and even sofas.
That’s because the council’s staff are busily preparing for the opening of the new Oxfordshire County Library on December 18. The transportation, cataloguing and arrangement of more than 100,000 items has been no mean feat – but is now nearing completion, along with a host of great new features.
With a dedicated community space for digital, arts and crafts learning, a bigger and brighter children’s library and a focus on digital access to council services, it’s a library for the 21st century – and one staff are hoping will make the county’s residents proud.
Operations Manager Jane Mason in the new children's library
Great new features
Library Service Manager, Jillian Southwell, said: “We just can’t wait to get back in here and show our visitors what the library has to offer. We’re using the same general space as the former central Library, so there will be a familiar feel for customers, but they’ll also find a lightness and openness to the place that is really welcoming – not to mention some great new features and services.
“We’re in such a prime spot here at the entrance of the Westgate, and fully integrated as part of the new centre in a way that we weren’t before. It’s going to be a proper community facility for everyone to enjoy.”
‘Makerspace’ and children’s library
The boldest new addition to the library is a large community ‘Makerspace’ – an informal area for groups to carry out digital, art and craft activities, where people can learn new skills and make new connections. With a slightly space-age feel, it is a flexible space that boasts dozens of power points, a 3-D printer and ‘maker’ tables: perfect for group and individual creativity.
An enlarged children’s library, overlooking the hustle and bustle of Queen Street, will be a key attraction for families with young children. With its soft furnishings, ‘book nooks’ and safe internet access, it’s ideal for school visits, book talks and fun activities.
Meanwhile the main library areas have been opened up, with curved shelving to make browsing easier, and plenty of inviting spots to settle down for a comfy read.
Stylish new computer stations
Investment and commitment
The layout, fixtures and fittings are all new, with 70 public computers, information screens and areas for reading, working and learning new skills.
It’s all part of a vision for the County Library to serve as a ‘front door’ for access county council services online, and for visitors to get the support they may need to do this – with staff on hand to assist.
The council’s Cabinet Member for Property and Cultural Services, Lorraine Lindsay-Gale, said: “Unlike other parts of the country, all 43 of Oxfordshire’s branch libraries have remained open and we’re underlining our commitment to libraries by putting them right at the heart of the communities they serve – and the new County Library is for the Oxfordshire community as a whole.
“The new library exemplifies that investment, and we believe it will demonstrate exactly what a 21st Century library should look and feel like. We’re also exploring new ways of linking up with partner organisations, volunteers and community groups to maximise what’s on offer here.”
She added: “Before the old Central Library closed, it was ranked as the third busiest council-run library in the country. Opening the new library gives us a great opportunity to build on that strong support from the community, and welcome more people than ever before. We’re hoping to sign up as many new members as possible and bring some Christmas cheer to our very first visitors later this month.”
An action-packed week of special opening activities and events is planned at the library from 18 December. Full details can be found here.