Community to share views on city’s flagship library redevelopment

ECL library interior 1

Posted on: 24 August 2012

Residents in Exeter will have another chance to help shape plans for the redevelopment of their flagship library next month.

Following extensive consultation with the local community earlier this year Devon County Council has drawn up initial designs for the multi-million pound revamp, which include a series of artist impressions showing what the building’s interior could look like.

Now the Council is going out into the community once again to seek feedback on the plans, and talk to residents about how they have incorporated their suggestions into the designs.

Members of the project team will be in the library foyer on Tuesday 11 September and Thursday 20 September from 9.30am to 3.30pm. There will be 3D visuals of the re-designed interior, as well as details about timescales for the construction work.

There will also be a number of feedback sessions with key groups in the community; including children, teenagers and families as well as people with disabilities as improving physical access to the building is an important element in the redevelopment.

The events will give people the opportunity to see what the building could look like, as well as ask questions and talk to members of the project team.

Residents who cannot make any of the consultation events will still be able to view the artist’s impressions and read about plans on the displays in the library foyer throughout September, and leave their comments via the feedback card available.

Cllr Roger CroadCouncillor Roger Croad, Devon County Council Cabinet Member for Communities, said:

“Our initial consultation exercise received an excellent response, and we are keen for residents to come along and hear how we have used their views so far in the design process.

“Its also a good opportunity to tell us what they think now we can see how the open plan space could work, and where services within the building could be located, as well as how the design links the building to the rest of the city centre area.

“These plans have been developed in partnership with residents, and it is clear that by engaging with the local community we can ensure the best possible decisions are made to benefit them.

“We believe that by working together we can transform the library into an excellent facility that meets changing local needs, where residents of all ages want to spend longer exploring and enjoying everything Exeter Central Library has to offer them

“Having listened carefully to the views of our residents, we have produced a design that would maximises the use of space in the building, and make it as flexible as possible so it could accommodate a range of activities and services that young people, their families and the local community want.

“Now we are keen to meet with residents and key groups again to talk about these initial designs in more detail so that together we can make sure we create a magnificent local landmark that will be used to its full potential.

“These events are also an important opportunity for people to find out about timescales for the rest of the project and what provision will be available whilst the construction work is taking place.

“Central Library is an important community resource, and we want the Exeter community to have every opportunity to be part of this redevelopment so I hope as many people as possible will come along.”


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The ambitious £4.1m scheme will see a range of improvements made to the library including better accessibility, increased space for children and a new café as well as a new entrance area, revamped meeting and performance spaces and improved spaces for learning and study along with upgraded toilets. The latest environmental controls and relevant sustainability features will also be introduced to address some of the issues the building has with being cold in the winter and too hot in the summer.

An additional entrance to the library from Rougemont Gardens will also be created as part of the redevelopment so Devon’s flagship library has better connections with the city’s Cultural Quarter with the Museum, Phoenix Arts Centre and Exeter Castle

Relevant planning permissions will be sought, so building work could begin as early as January 2013, and it is anticipated the new library would open in early 2014.

Interim library preparations

Meanwhile preparations are being made for the interim library, which will be made available in the adjacent Castle Street building during the construction period. Although smaller, the building is ideally located and offers best value for money while continuing to offer a range of library services in the city centre.

The Stack at Exeter Central Library, which is used to store old stock, will not move across to the temporary library, it will be sealed during the redevelopment to protect the materials. Some of the more valuable items will be safely stored at the University of Exeter during this time.

The premises will become vacant when the Council’s Registration Service relocates to the Civic Centre and Larkbeare House and The Westcountry Studies Library, becomes part of the flagship Devon Heritage Centre along with the Devon Record Office based at Great Moor House in Sowton. The first phase of creating this new Heritage Centre will be achieved later this year with the relocation of the Westcountry Studies Library’s Reading Room to the Public Search Room of the existing Devon Record Office.

Have your say!

The project’s development can also be followed online at Comments questions and suggestion are welcome, and should be directed to the Community Involvement Co-ordinator by calling 01392 384315, emailing or writing to Exeter Central Library project, Devon Libraries, Great Moor House, Bittern Road, Sowton, Exeter, EX2 7NL

11 comments on “Community to share views on city’s flagship library redevelopment

  1. I should like to echo the comments above about books being the most important part of a library and am glad to hear you say that they will still be the heart. I do support the changes if they attract people to use the library and to read more, and certainly better access for disabled people is long overdue, but am dubious about the benefits of a cafe for example – I want a library to be a library. There are plenty of other meeting places in the city if you want to sit and chat over a drink. Things do need to move on, new technologies need to be embraced and I am all in favour of encouraging new (and younger) readers but please don’t miss the point of a library as a place to sit quietly and read or study and a place to choose books to take home and read at leisure. The selection of books needs to be wide and varied.

    As a regular and frequent user of the library for over 30 years, i was a little disappointed to learn about these changes from a borrowing receipt that fell out of a book – maybe I’ve been walking around with my eyes shut, but I haven’t seen anything in the library iteslf about the redevlopment. I am also curious as to how the people who were consulted were chosen – 600 doesn’t seem very many for a city the size of Exeter.

    Now I do know about the redevelopment, I shall watch with interest and do my best to keep up with what is happening and to be involved when possible.

  2. I think the plans for an updated library look attractive and exciting – the cafe and improved access are good ideas, and certainly we need to prepare for the future by planning for full use of new technology as it develops.
    All the same, I think we need to keep sight of the core meaning of “library” – a place where BOOKS are available! How many volumes are currently held at Exeter Central Library (including Stack)?How many books is it planned to hold in the new revamped library? I’ve searched for answers to these questions, but haven’t found any in the information you provide. Please can we have some “freedom of information” on this point?

    • Devon Newscentre on said:

      Thank you for your comment John.

      Please be assured that books remain at the heart of our library’s role now and into the future. We believe a modern public library should have a broad range of books that meets the needs of its local community and part of this redevelopment project is about finding new ways of enabling people to engage with books, reading and learning.

      We cannot say for certain exactly how much stock will be available once the library re-opens, as this is likely to change in the future, but the redevelopment is a key opportunity to look at the existing stock to see what is being well used and what needs to be replaced and address gaps in provision. We welcome suggestions from the community on stock areas which could be improved. Please contact the project team by emailing or calling 01392 384315.

  3. stuart crewes on said:

    i have to agree with the comments above – good stock is what makes a library worth using. i personally can’t work out why we’d want a cafe there either – noise, steam, ‘food and drink’ – none of them really condusive to the considerate environment that most people percieve to be a library.
    also – 9:30 to 3:30 consultation? putting the onus on city workers to try and make it in their lunchbreak… of course i’m aware that the display is on for the whole month and that people can use ‘comment cards’ but will they have the same weight? a late evening or weekend consultation would be more inclusive.

    • Thanks for your comment Stuart.

      We carried out extensive consultation with the local community during the design phase of this project, and the results told us that a cafe is one of the top things they want to see in their new library.

      It is important that this redevelopment turns Exeter Central Library into a modern service fit for the 21st century, and that means equipping it to fulfil the much wider role it plays in the community beyond just lending books.

      A cafe will help Exeter Central Library bring the community together by providing a space for people to meet for a range of activities. It will also encourage people to come into the building who may have previously thought the library has nothing to offer them. There are several cafes located with our libraries across the county, and all are very popular.

      About the consultation – of course, the comments cards carry exactly the same weight as speaking to the project team in person. We welcome comments, questions and suggestions throughout the project, and are keen for everyone to get involved to help shape the changes to Central Library. The consultation and comment cards are just one way for this to happen, and you can also email, phone 01392 384315 or write to the Community Involvement Co-ordinator for the Exeter Central Library project at Devon Libraries, Great Moor House, Bittern Road, Sowton, Exeter, EX2 7NL.

      You make a good point about the times the project team are in the library foyer not being convenient for those who work or are not able to come along in the daytime during the week. So we have arranged for an additional drop in engagement session on Saturday (29 September) where a member of the project team will be in the Children’s Library with the latest drawings and information about the redevelopment project between 10:00 and 13:00. We hope you can come along.

  4. As a regular user of the Music/Media library at Exeter Central I am very aware that this is the best facility in the County. I am concerned that books, Dvds and music which are held exclusively in Exeter will not be available throughout the library closure. Unlike other material which may be held elsewhere in the County this is not the case with the media stock. Can you reassure users that this facility will still have its exclusive stock available throughout the transfer. If not I fear for the facility and its longevity. It will no doubt have a reduced usage during this period and if this is the case, then not only will this be an inconvenience, but a few years down the line it could be used as a financial argument to make cuts. We have seen media resources take huge knocks throughout the country and I would like to see a reassurance on the continuation of this unique facility and also on general stock levels which is surely the life blood of the library service. Please do not sacrifice content for form.

    • Hi Philip,

      Thank you for your kind comments about the music and media resources available at Exeter Central Library. The temporary library will be smaller but we are working hard to provide a wide ranging collection of books, DVDs and music.

      Music and media stock which cannot be accommodated in the temporary premises will be held in storage and will become available when the refurbished library reopens.

  5. D J Walker on said:

    Will any of the funding be available to refresh the stock of books? I can see the attraction in having a more modern looking library, but it is vital that the stock of books is improved.

    • Anne Charles on said:

      I have seen a couple of comments which seem to suggest better ways to spend money on Exeter Library. I heartily agree with them! The selection of available books is dire. Why are we trying, at huge cost, to improve the building rather than to improve the service a library should provide…..BOOKS.

    • Thanks for your comment Anne.

      Like you we heartily agree too. You’re right – a modern public library should have a broad range of stock that meets the needs of its local community. As we said to D J Walker above, this is particularly true of Exeter Central Library which acts as a county-wide resource. The redevelopment is a key opportunity to look at the existing stock to see what is being well used and what needs to be replaced and address gaps in provision. We welcome suggestions from the community on stock areas which could be improved.

      It is important to remember that a modern public library service has a much wider role to play than simply lending books. Exeter Central Library is a valuable community resource providing access to all sorts of information, services and learning opportunities such as computers with internet access and meeting rooms to hire as well as events that bring the community together such as baby bounce and rhyme sessions and adult reading groups. The book stock and the associated services expected from a modern public library can only be provided in an environment that is accessible to people of all ages and in a cost effective building. Our investment in Exeter Central Library will provide this.

    • Thanks for your comment D J Walker.

      We agree that a modern public library should have a broad range of stock that meets the needs of its local community. This is particularly true of Exeter Central Library which acts as a county-wide resource. The redevelopment is a key opportunity to look at the existing stock to see what is being well used and what needs to be replaced and address gaps in provision. We welcome suggestions from the community on stock areas which could be improved. Please contact the project team by emailing or calling 01392 384315.

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