The more I think about what I wrote over the weekend, the more I realised what I’d missed out about Swindon Central Library; the diversity of services and range of borrowers reached.
The buzz and the layout of the library remind me more of an FE/HE library with computers in easy accessible location. Along with 4 express terminals on the ground floor, computers line the gangways and staircase of each floor, along with a learning zone on the first floor which can be divided off echoing back to a group study zone at an academic library. It feels very much that computers are the forefront.
Spaces, such as the learning zone and the reading zone on the top floor where periodicals can be found, are used for library events and community outreach in a number of ways. There is not that much free space on the library floor and a majority of free space is used for book displays but the areas set aside for the community are flexible spaces that can be opened up for large audiences whilst still feeling intimate. They also lend themselves to technology, having space in the reading zone for a projector. It is also interesting to note that it is here, in the reading zone, the more traditional part of the central library if you like, that the reference collection can be found. I did question the fact that you have to walk two flights of stairs or go up two floors in a lift for a look at the daily paper but the area set aside is quiet with an interesting view of the Swindon skyline! I wonder if the papers are located there due to the ever present problem of items going “walkies”. This may also reflect the change in use of libraries over the last decade.
The learning zone which I mentioned above is hidden away on the first floor but has a set of ten public network computers along with an interactive whiteboard. This area is used by the community in partnership with the Job Centre and the public are helped with job searching, e-application and email set ups amongst other basic I.T. skills. Just another example of partnership working, bringing those who may not necessarily think the library has anything to offer them, and showing them the library of the modern age.
The library has the benefit of being attached to the old town hall which used to hold the local studies collection but can now be used for large events; anything from local studies meet ups to dance classes. This again helps the library to reach those hard to reach groups who may not necessarily view the library as a place for them but will be brought through the doors to see what the library offers, making the central library a hub of activity and the heart of the community.
Just goes to show that libraries are much more than books... but of course we already knew that!