Southwater One Library
A new joint services hub in Telford

Southwater One Library

Telford Council has taken an inspirational approach to town centre development with a stunning community hub at the heart of the new Southwater landscape. Opening the Book was first appointed by Mace to work with the architects, structural engineers, project managers, landscape architects, mechanical and electrical designers at Stages A-E of the planned new building.

12 months' detailed work, through many different versions, resulted in an interior design and a full specification for all furniture and fittings agreed with the client. It was hugely valuable to be in at the early stages of discussion so we could match the interior design to the aspirations of both the council and the dramatic building design. We also influenced some key aspects - for example ensuring a step-free route for buggies into the first floor library from the park.

Six months later the building was going up fast and we were invited to tender for the supply and installation; we were appointed in September 2013 as sub-contractors to Morgan Sindall. Three years on from our first involvement, the building opened in the summer of in 2014 to tremendous acclaim.

Ground floor shared area

The room sets with rugs and sofas create little oases to relax in while the Books to Go displays tempt quick visitors. The space merges with the Costa Coffee and everyone is encouraged to take coffee to other floors if they wish. We integrated theatre brochures in the offer when selling theatre tickets was added to the services provided.

SW1 is a good example of how we continue to work with our customers after a project is completed. We opened with two First Point Advice pods on the ground floor but after a year, the council took a decision to increase the self-service offer. We remodelled to include a self-service pc bar and four private self-service booths. We were able to continue the new-style approach by designing the booths with special LED illuminated panels and hiding all the cables to give a light, floating impression very different from the traditional enclosed booth.

It’s been great working with Opening the Book on this project – we have enjoyed the debate, discussion and creative process and have always felt that we were in the safe hands of a professional team focussed on helping to deliver our vision.

Sharon Smith
Library Service Delivery Manager

Library Floor

  • A mix of print and digital resources - fantastic book displays, computers and tablets, state of the art digi-tables, lots of power to plug in your own devices.
  • Flexible event spaces - sofas for reading groups, wall projections for movies and presentations, space for workshops and a wonderful storytime space. And the library has already programmed a poet and haka dancing on the outside terrace.
  • Areas for different kinds of use - chatting, reflecting, reading.
  • Areas for different audiences - under 5s, 5-11s, teenagers, adults, seniors, families , no hard boundaries, each area flows into the next.

First Point Floor

Is this the most stylish and friendly council customer service ever? Gone are the enclosed booths, the rows of check-in desks , the sense of being corralled and controlled. Instead there is a great airy space with views in all directions. It's easy to see where to go with the clear colour coding.

Instead of enclosing people in, angles in the space are cleverly used to give more privacy. Lovely sofas are positioned to make it pleasant while you wait your turn. Slatted screens give a more open feel to the outside of the advice pods and matching acoustic screens give more privacy between adjacent desks. You can wander through the space with a coffee while you wait, glance up at the screens to see when your turn approaches or listen out for the audio announcements which call you forward.

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 hard-working library with pressures on space was transformed through a major rethink. Capacities were increased through better space planning across several floors but the library feels more open and light because of the skilful layout in relation to the architecture. Opening the Book worked closely with senior managers to plan new approaches to staffing the space.

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.