Redbridge Central Library
London Borough of Redbridge

Shortlisted 2013 Bookseller Library of the Year Awards

School Library Design Case Study:

Redbridge Central Library

Redbridge Central Library, located just off the main pedestrian precinct in the town, was opened as a purpose-built library in 1986. The project presented many challenges as the building, spread across 4 floors, encompassed Redbridge’s largest and busiest lending libraries for adults and children, a dedicated reference library, local studies and archives centre, the Redbridge Museum, the schools’ library service and public meeting rooms. Having originally been established to address refurbishment of the ground floor and part of the first floor, the scope of the project expanded to include all of the first floor plus improvements to the second floor, a welcoming café in the foyer and an update of the building’s directional signage.

Opening the Book was contracted to deliver an interior design which made the space lighter and brighter, implemented a successful transition from staff-led counter service to self-service via RFID and improved the customer experience for over 500,000 people visiting the library each year.

For me, the quality of your product and how well it displays the book is a million miles ahead of anything else we've seen. The wider consultancy, merchandising and understanding of the book as a product again sets Opening the Book apart from the others.

Gareth Morley
Head of Culture and Libraries

Children’s library

A key part of the brief for the children’s area was to make it flexible enough to accommodate the well-attended programme of events. Mobile shelving can be moved aside to create large areas for temporary seating. An interactive digital forest projection was installed – as children approach coloured lights dance across the screen and follow the child’s movements.

New ways of working

Opening the Book training supported library staff in the shift from being stationed behind large enquiries desks to being out on the floor assisting customers where they need it. One counter spans the transition between children’s and adults on the ground floor and there are walk-to staff points in other areas. Staff also received training in how to merchandise the shelves using the new Opening the Book acrylics to aid display.

Celebrating the architecture

Opening the Book brought a fresh eye to this tired building and planned a layout which brought attention back to impressive original features such as the stained glass window and original globe lighting. The colour scheme and flooring design enhance the feeling of space and light. The shelving layout achieves capacity without blocking any windows and makes the most of the popular original wooden benching built in front of the windows on the ground floor.

Rebalancing distribution of the library offer

Another success of the project has been the space planning which looked at which areas of the library were underused and where there was pressure on capacity. The new design spreads books and PCs across three floors meaning that, for example, the first floor, which rarely had visitors, is now attracting its proper share of footfall.

Hidden Museum

Opening the Book worked with museum staff to integrate objects from their collection directly onto shelves with appropriate stock.

Customers’ eye-view

Our hand-held camera tours you round the reader-friendly layout at Redbridge Central Library.

Walk in from the main entrance to the fiction display wall, then enjoy the views from the atrium. You can see the shapes of the shelving from above, drop in on the teen section and then experience how the curved shelving and desking sweeps you into the space with new views at every turn. On the way you might spot the hidden museum - display cases integrated into the shelving showcase relevant objects from Ilford's past adjacent to the appropriate books. There's a ticket machine in transport, a cocoa tin in cookery .. Back at the entrance, take a different route into the children's library, with a great under-5s area and an enchanted forest for digital projection, films and special events.

More Case Studies

Opening the Book first visited St Mary’s Church, Lichfield, in 2016 to consider the feasibility of the library being part of a larger refurbishment project. The space was not, on first impression, very promising – it was dark, with low ceilings, lots of barriers and huge pillars which had been truncated by the extra floor added into the nave. But then we entered the chapel area with its magnificent stained glass window and suddenly the building opened up. This space really was beautiful – now the question was, could it be a library?

Werneth School in Stockport has been in the fortunate position of being completely relocated into a new purpose-built home on the same site. As part of this, Opening the Book was invited by the Deputy Head, Alyson Littlewood, and School Librarian, Nikki Heath, to put forward a design for the new library.

Transforming the old chapel in a 19th century school into a contemporary, practical library was an exciting challenge for our design team this summer. The brief was to create a highly flexible layout which would accommodate all the usual activities required of the hard-working hub of the school, plus the ability to easily transform the space for large group events.

A dramatic building, a new landscaped development and a council ambitious to change its relationship with its customers – what an opportunity! Opening the Book worked with libraries, Customer Services, architects and contractors to create a completely new kind of experience for Telford residents, whether they come for the library’s new offers or to claim benefits.

A much-loved but derelict cinema was reclaimed and extended as the Library and Customer Services Centre. Opening the Book brought contemporary style mixed with a celebration of cinematic heritage to deliver immediate appeal in the high street location. Upstairs we zoned the space for noisy and quiet activities and designed in a film-projection space for an audience of up to 60.

This market town had campaigned for a new library for 20 years so expectations were high. Residents, councillors and staff all supported our proposal to move to a discovery layout and retail-style presentation in the new library. The results in terms of increased membership, visits and loans have been outstanding.

The 4th floor of Boots has always been the most heavily used computer space in the university – and it showed. Opening the Book used colour and style to create a more pleasant study environment while actually increasing the number of study spaces available. Our unique desk design added student access to power sockets alongside fixed pcs to futureproof.