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Southwater One Library

Library Design Case Study:

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.

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.

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

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