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University of Reading announces library redevelopment

The University of Reading has announced a £40 million project to redevelop and refurbish the library at the Whiteknights campus, with work due to start in June.

Originally opened in 1964 and then extended in 1985, the library building has already seen a significant level of work after its study spaces and furniture were revamped in 2013/14.

The next phase of the project will increase the amount of space available for individual and group study and will also improve how space is used on the ground and first floors. In addition, the redevelopment will provide better access and security across the building. Improvements to the building's thermal insulation and ventilation will help to make the library more energy efficient.

As well as significant work on the inside of the library, there will also be improvements to the outside. The exterior will be completely re-clad, resulting in a stunning focal point at the heart of the campus. Replacement windows will also be fit.

Throughout the project, the library will remain fully operational, so that students can still have access to the vital resources inside. Work will cease during exam quiet periods and the project is expected to be completed by the end of 2019.

Benefits of the work will include:

  • Study seating capacity increased by 200
  • Installation of new lifts and a new book lift
  • Improvements to wheelchair accessibility
  • External cladding and fenestration to improve building sustainability and energy saving
  • Upgrades to all roof finishes and thermal insulation
  • Expansion of cafe spaces

It's expected that the work will reduce the library's energy use by around 40 per cent, with carbon emissions reduced by 30 per cent through efficiency improvements.

Commenting on the project, vice chancellor Sir David Bell explained that the library is an important part of the university and the improvements will make a big difference to the students and staff.

"The library has always played a central role in our life and work, with its location at the very heart of the university's Whiteknights campus. We have invested £4.4 million in the top four floors of the library as a first phase of redevelopment and this major new investment of £40 million will complete the project."

Sir David added that the refurbishment work will combine traditional and crucial functions, such as book and journal collections with group study facilities. Improved digital access and multi-purpose spaces will also feature in the project.

"Our library has never been a static, sepulchral space. It has continued to evolve over its 50 year history and as these excellent new facilities become available to students and staff," he said.

Dr Helen Bilton, associate professor of education, agreed, noting that a person's environment can play a big part in learning.

"Where you learn can impact on how well you learn. To be successful, the learning environment has to be a physically and emotionally comfortable place. This is what the University Library will achieve with the refurbishments planned: a learning environment that supports many styles of learning," she said.