Stafford Library

Introduction

I visited the new Stafford Library in November 2015.  The older (and larger) library has been closed and the library service transferred to the ground floor of the council headquarters. There have been a lot of cuts to the Staffordshire library service in the last few years but that will not be the subject of this page.  This post is intended to look at the new library in isolation, looking at the innovations used and what is possible in 2015.

The town of Stafford was 68,000 in 2011 so it’s not a huge place and so the library is nowhere near the scale of Liverpool or Manchester but is perhaps nearer the scale of most libraries in the country. By the way, the library has good opening hours and is even open for three hours on a Sunday, which is an increasingly unusual thing nationally.

Entrance

The building is the council HQ, with the library having taken over the ground floor

The building is the council HQ, with the library having taken over the ground floor

Good publicity posters facing into the street, although "more than books" always seems to me like we're denigrating our core product.

Good publicity posters facing into the street, although “more than books” always seems to me like we’re denigrating our core product.

 

Adult library

The thing you notice throughout the library is that it is all new and all properly interior designed. “Opening the Book” got the contact and you can see their influence throughout. The colour scheme chosen – green – is present in all areas, muted in the adult bits but given full forest glory in the children’s section.

These "big ipads" - standing up interactive screens six foot high - look great for advertising events, and had a twitter feed on them too.

These “big ipads” – standing up interactive screens six foot high – look great for advertising events, and had a twitter feed on them too.

One of the more obvious things about the building that marks it out as new is the proliferation of interactive screens (or “whopping great big iPads” as I like to think of them) that are either freestanding or, one smaller scale, fixed to walls.  There’s quite a few games on them and you can have them at an angle or flat.  I see their use more as interactive noticeboards than as anything else but I imagine kids love them – however, the one that is used horizontally in the children’s library, looks like it needs to be a fair bit more rugged long-term. One of the issues is that kids naturally sit on it, which it was never designed for. However, I bet they love them though.  Just being able to play with the digital  jigsaw puzzles or with the virtual air hockey excited me. The smaller versions – they’re all connected to the internet – look far superior to the OPACs that many libraries still have.

The self service machines are contained in all in one units with shelving and exceptions bin.  This is neater in terms of cables but does present a "wall". Indeed the tall shelving means there were a lot of "walls" but this was probably not a huge problem.

The self service machines are contained in all in one units with shelving and exceptions bin. This is neater in terms of cables but does present a “wall”. Indeed the tall shelving means there were a lot of “walls” but this was probably not a huge problem.

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These iPads are on cables so you can sit down with them, which makes them a lot more useful in my eyes than the high-security rigid ones you sometimes see in other new libraries.

Wifi printing: really jealous about this. Good to see it's possible. Wifi is available throughout.

Wifi printing: really jealous about this. Good to see it’s possible. Wifi is available throughout.

The tier guiding has text and a suitable picture, often chosen by library staff and even local in theme.  It's hard to tell how they're going to change the lightbulbs though.

The tier guiding has text and a suitable picture, often chosen by library staff and even local in theme. It’s hard to tell how they’re going to change the lightbulbs though.

While the library is smaller than the one it replaces, there was a lot of books around.  It wasn’t a snazzy tech hub with the books as an afterthought, here they were centre stage. Condition of the books looked good. The library is now on one floor rather than three so fewer staff are needed to cover the floor and there is less “dead space” meaning more can be used for books.

Children’s library

 

This is the storytime area. The greenery of the other areas turns into a fully fledged woodland theme here.

This is the storytime area. The greenery of the other areas turns into a fully fledged woodland theme here.

Tier guiding has descriptive text and a suitable image throughout

Tier guiding has descriptive text and a suitable image throughout

Teenage areas are often a problem. In Stafford, the shelving is notably different to elsewhere and the books are even stacked differently.

Teenage areas are often a problem. In Stafford, the shelving is notably different to elsewhere and the books are even stacked differently.

Good to see a quote by Caitlin Moran on the wall

Good to see a quote by Caitlin Moran on the wall

Innovation suite

There are 23 public access PCs around the building, with many in the “Innovation suite” which is separated from the library proper by a corridor.  In it there are two 3D printers, computer desking and IT related books and a screen to allow for talks. Room hire out to businesses is expected but has not occurred as yet. One of the issues of the 3D printers is they make a bit of noise, which must be distracting to those using the room – as they were today – for quiet study.

There were two 3D printers: they're simpler than the more expensive designs.  Charging is at full cost recovery.

There were two 3D printers: they’re simpler than the more expensive designs. Charging is at full cost recovery.

The interior design here, like everywhere else is by "Opening the Book"

The interior design here, like everywhere else is by “Opening the Book”

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The whole library is clutter-free, with no posters and very few leaflets. One of the solutions is to put posters into neat wall-mounted folders like this one.

Innovation Suite: the desks are in a curved pattern, tailored to ensure a minimum of cabling is exposed. Note the special power points on top.

Innovation Suite: the desks are in a curved pattern, tailored to ensure a minimum of cabling is exposed. Note the special power points on top.

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