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Library Design Case Study: Gateshead Archive

Opening the Book refurbished Gateshead Central Lending Library, including children’s and young adult areas, in 2009 so we were delighted to return to complete the work with a transformation of the computer and reference areas into the new Gateshead Archive.

It was quite a challenge to house the Archive’s fascinating collection, consisting of thousands of books, newspapers, photos and maps, as well as digital resources, microfilm readers, FindMyPast PCs, card catalogues and listening posts for oral history recordings. Space was also need for workshops and volunteers.  The Archive incorporates the main public access computers so it was important to provide plenty of desk space for drop-in users, plus desk-space and power for BYOD.

The solution was to design customised individual study desks with glazed cabinets above for the runs of bound volumes. Each desk has an individual lamp and power source. The finishing touch was decorating the rear panels of the desks with graphics of engravings from the Archive’s Bewick Collection. Our unique museum boxes are used on the standard bookcases to display interesting items such as the Gateshead Petition for the Abolition of Slavery.  Lockable glazed cabinets house the more delicate items while keeping them open to view. 

Our design worked to integrate the physical and digital opportunities to explore history. For example, the touch screen to showcase digital maps is placed next to the large map cabinets which enable customers to spread out a historic map while enlarging the detail on the adjacent smart screen. The surfaces of the map cabinets are covered with adhesive vinyl prints of the two most frequently used maps in the collection.  High quality scans of other maps and images held by the Archive provided material for the graphics used around the space.  This included full-wall reproductions of very early photographs and maps of Gateshead.

The new space allocated was large but had no windows and had to transition smoothly from Gateshead’s library shop which is one of the most successful in the UK.  We worked hard to redesign the layout in this busy transit area which is also the main through route to the café, the lending library and the public toilets as well as Gateshead Archive. All surfaces were kept light and mid-brown wood-effect flooring was used throughout so that there is no obvious border between the two spaces, making both areas feel airy and bright.

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