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Library Design Case Study: Llanrwst Library @ Glasdir

In 2020 Conwy CBC had an opportunity to provide a new community hub for rural Conwy when the building which had been the Glasdir Business and Conference Centre in Llanrwst became available.  The existing library, just across the road, was in a small, outdated building requiring considerable repairs and investment, so the chance of more modern space in a building shared with other organisations made for a good business case.

Opening the Book was initially appointed as consultant to help with the process of deciding how the various spaces in Glasdir could be best used. We provided different options for the council and partners to consider. After the consultation period, Opening the Book successfully tendered to provide full design and fitting services for the new space. The result is an outstanding new facility for the whole of rural Conwy – well worth travelling some distance to visit.

Though modern, the building presented challenges; an awkward main space broken up by pillars, areas without enough light, while the best space was a quite separate large conference room. An early decision was taken to locate children’s here. The challenge to make a cold, formal space feel both friendly and exciting for children was one that was relished by the creative teams at Opening the Book and Conwy Libraries, resulting in some really inspirational and enjoyable discussions.

Opening the Book excel at transforming the customer’s initial ideas and suggestions into a finished result which exceeds all expectations! Our new Llanrwst Library in Glasdir has received unanimous approbation from the community and this is thanks to Opening the Book’s ability to produce the customer’s vision to high specification. They are sensitive to local and cultural environs which was of particular importance to this project. They were extremely flexible and responsive to any adaptations and building problems, ensuring challenges were resolved swiftly and professionally to our satisfaction.

Ann Williams Pennaeth Adain: Diwylliant a Gwybodaeth, Cyngor Bwrdeistref Sirol Conwy Section Head: Culture and Information, Conwy County Borough Council

The ceiling is very high so we designed a large-scale feature for one wall which took a woodland theme from the nearby Gwydir Forest Park. Local author/publisher Myrddin Ap Dafydd generously gave permission for his book The Story of Wales to be used as inspiration, with selected extracts to be used as wall graphics. The book’s illustrator, Dorry Spikes, was commissioned to supply new work especially for the space, as well as giving permission to use of some of the illustrations from the book.

The children’s feature has two hideaways where children can climb in to read or play. The graphics carry the woodland theme with one of the hideaways being a fox den and the other a tree house giving a view to a deer park and ancient manor house. The central area shows a specially commissioned work from Dorry Spikes featuring a variety of animals and insects which children can spot with the help of an I-spy sheet from library staff. The square panels at the front of the section have more graphics and a magnetic Adders and Ladders game produced by Dorry. To take advantage of the high ceilings, Dorry drew a variety of birds which were printed onto adhesive vinyl and these are spread around the space with a Red Kite circling very high on one wall, in reference to Myrddin Ap Dafydd’s poem The Land of the Red Kite.  The birds were also used on the signage headers. Spare bird graphics were dotted around the main library so that adults could also enjoy these beautiful drawings.

An additional feature in children’s is the Big Book which provides an excellent focus for storytimes and other activities.  The text and graphics on the Big Book were taken from The Story of Wales.  All of the bookcases in the children’s library are mobile and easy to move so a large space can be cleared for events whenever required.  Our picturebook and boardbook units are tiered to make book covers visible and to make it easy for very young children to browse for themselves.

Opening the Book successfully converted the reception area to accommodate the main library offer, including a showcase display wall, the public computers and a group meeting area, while also maintaining a shared entrance and reception for other partners in the building. 

The building was quite dark with low ceilings and natural light was restricted by artwork covering the exterior windows. The new layout sought to open-up the space to create a relaxing and welcoming environment and to facilitate flow of both staff and visitors accessing the multiple functions of the centre throughout the building. Colours and finishes were selected to be sympathetic with the natural materials in the building (stone walls and slate floors). The graphics were removed from the windows to let in more light.

I just wanted to say how impressed I was by my visit to Glasdir today. To be honest I was quite overwhelmed by it. The building was so familiar and yet so utterly transformed at the same time. I just love the light, flow and feel of the whole place. It was exciting seeing the children’s library taking shape today – this is going to be a wonderful space. I really think the community are going to love their new library…

….I feel so very proud of it, and so very excited to see it open to residents.

Jane Richardson Cyfarwyddwr Strategol Economi a Lle / Strategic Director Economy & Place Cyngor Bwrdeistref Sirol Conwy/Conwy County Borough Council

I wanted to congratulate you all on the amazing transformation of the ground floor of Glasdir. You’ve managed to change what was a dark, quite sterile space into something that’s somehow simultaneously relaxing and vibrant.

Angela Edwards Rheolwr Busnes / Business Manager Cyngor Bwrdeistref Sirol Conwy/Conwy County Borough Council

The Wellbeing Hub was moved from the old building into a small room leading off the main library space where individuals or small groups can gather away from the main hubbub of the library.  This room houses the library’s impressive collection of wellbeing resources. As well as public computers, there are bring your own device points, and space for the National Library of Wales computer through which all the NLW’s online resources can be accessed. Another alcove to the rear of the library offered a small space for the Advice pod where staff can offer private meetings with users.

The addition of one of our signature showcase walls facing the entrance adds impact and offers staff a great area for stock promotions with front-lit graphic panels drawing visitors through the space to be tempted by the books. A supply of our on-shelf acrylics helps staff to easily merchandise the bookshelves to maximise the promotional opportunities and we were pleased to be able to deliver an on-site training session. Our Training and Schools Co-ordinator, Fiona Edwards, enjoyed her first post-lockdown face-to-face with the lovely Llanrwst staff who made an exceptional job of dressing the library shelves ready for opening.

The relocation was made possible by the Welsh Government’s Transforming Towns investment programme. 

The library opened September 2021 to some great customer feedback:

‘A much more preferable space to look for books’

‘Lovely space, really nice atmosphere’

‘Excellent layout, bright and airy’

‘Have been looking forward so much to the new library and it doesn’t disappoint’


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