Centred on People – Macquarie University’s new Library
“We didn’t quite have to pull a rabbit out of a hat” said University Librarian Maxine Brodie. “The solution lay in building a library that was people-centred rather than collection-centred.”
By putting physical resources into an Automated Storage and Retrieval System (ASRS), the first in an Australian library, the library was able to free up space for a growing student population. “Our research showed that just 20% of our collection satisfied 80% of loans,” said Ms Brodie. “So it made sense to locate the lesser used items in an Automated Storage and Retrieval System.”
The ASRS consists of a climate-controlled vault with metal bins stored along aisles of industrial racking, with each aisle served by a robotic crane. It is high density - material is held in just one seventh the floor space taken up by typical library shelving.
Library users can browse ‘virtual bookshelves’ containing all print and electronic resources in the online library catalogue. Items in the ASRS can be requested with the click of a mouse, and are then collected from a service point. The retrieval process takes just a few minutes, meaning that all of the library’s physical collections are immediately available. Some 500,000 items remain on traditional open shelving.
Elegant and timeless designPlanning for the new library began in 2006 and five renowned architectural firms were asked to put forward competing designs for the building. “We told the architects to forget everything they thought they knew about academic libraries,” said Ms Brodie. “They were given core design concepts of ‘light’ and ‘connection’, with a focus on people and their interaction with knowledge.”
The judging panel described the successful entry, by architects Francis-Jones Morehen Thorp (fjmt), as “an elegant and timeless design concept that responded to a ‘new beginning’ at Macquarie.”
The new library is located on what will become the University Common. The eye-catching striped exterior was inspired by the trunk colours of native eucalypt forests, while the open arms at the front of the building reach out invitingly from a tall glass facade that provides an uninterrupted view of university life.
Certainly the new design is in stark contrast to the old 1960s era library building which, with its brutalist grey concrete blocks, sat brooding and emphatic in the centre of the campus.
Inside the new library there is seating capacity for up to 3000 students in a mix of quiet study areas, collaborative spaces and dedicated postgraduate and research areas. Strong wireless connectivity throughout the building will ensure the growth in use of personal electronic devices will be met well into the future.
A café is incorporated into the front entrance of the building, giving an informal meeting place and study area. The new Library also houses the original parlour room interior from Lachlan Macquarie’s Scottish estate. Macquarie was a significant Governor in Australia’s early colonial history, and the University takes its name from him.
Green features throughoutSustainability was a core consideration in every step of the new library project. The entire lifecycle of the building was planned beforehand, with thought given to the environmental impact of the materials in creation, the impact of the operation of the building during its life, and the disposal of materials after it has served its purpose and is dismantled.
Energy demand is minimised through passive design solutions such as the orientation of the building as well as an emphasis on natural lighting and ventilation. Air conditioning and lighting responds to human activity within the building.
A green roof featuring grass cover and drought-resistant native plants covers much of level 2, and water collected here is recycled through the toilet system.
However the most significant sustainability innovation is the ASRS. Moving resources into high density storage allowed the building footprint to be 11,000 square metres smaller than it would otherwise have been. As a result far less energy needs to be expended on heating, cooling and lighting.
A place of light and learningIn his speech at the opening of the library, Macquarie University Vice Chancellor Professor Stephen Schwartz spoke of the important role the new library would play into the future. “When it comes to learning, libraries remain as relevant as ever,” said Professor Schwartz. “It’s not only a place of light and learning, it’s also the most stunning building on campus.”
And it would seem the students agree. They have flocked to the new library in unprecedented numbers from the day it first opened its doors in 2011.
|Brendan Krige is Communications Coordinator at Macquarie University Library and is completing a Master of Library and Information Management at the University of South Australia. And while backpacking around Germany a few years ago, he found Mitfahrzentrale to be an absolute godsend!|