First look at what Exeter Central Library could look like following £4.1m revamp

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Posted on: 2 August 2012

Residents in Exeter will have a first chance to see what their flagship city library could look like in the future as Devon County Council release a series of artist’s impressions of the planned multi-million pound revamp.

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.

The images, which have been create from initial concept designs, show how the front of the building could look and reveal a new open plan entrance area leading right through to the back of the library where it will open out onto Rougemont Gardens, as well as how the interior spaces could work, and the location of a new lift.

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

“I’m pleased we are able to share these images of what the library could look like. Its interesting to 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.

“We have listened carefully to the views of our residents, and have produced an initial design that would meet changing local needs by maximising the use of space in the building, and making it as flexible as possible so it could accommodate a range of activities and services that young people, their families and the local community need.

“Our next step is to meet with residents and key groups about these initial designs so that the best possible decisions are made to benefit the community and together we make sure we create a magnificent local landmark that will be used to its full potential.

“Further consultation is planned for after the summer, and is an important opportunity for us to get some feedback on these initial designs and for people to influence the next phase including the interior design as well as see what has been going on behind the scenes and find out about timescales for the rest of the project.”

The initial concept designs have been drawn up following extensive consultation with residents, library staff, local schoolchildren, families and other key community groups such as people with disabilities.

The collected views, and data on which services the library currently offers are most popular and how often people visit, have been used to create the plans which include a new passenger lift near the main entrance, revamped meeting and performance spaces as well as 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 are being sought, so building work could begin as early as January 2013, and it is anticipated the new library would open in early 2014.

During the construction period, an interim library will be made available in the adjacent Castle Street building. 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.

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!

Consultation events are planned for the first week in September. Residents can continue to help shape plans for their new-look library and follow the project’s development online at www.devon.gov.uk/ecldevelop. Comments questions and suggestion are welcome, and should be directed to the Community Involvement Co-ordinator by calling 01392 384315, emailing  ecldevelop@devon.gov.uk or writing to Exeter Central Library project, Devon Libraries, Great Moor House, Bittern Road, Sowton, Exeter, EX2 7NL

18 comments on “First look at what Exeter Central Library could look like following £4.1m revamp

  1. If Exeter Central library ends up like Newton Abbot’s, it will be small, have a cafe which does not lend books, and have checkout machines. Oh, and Passmore Edwards knew a lot more about designing buildings that looked attractive and functional.

    I looked at your slideshow, and all I saw was an empty space with no books! Tragic.

  2. r carr on said:

    I think you could learn from the recent revamp of Newton Abbot library. Things that look good in theory can be bad news in practice (1) Cafe – this has to be completely self-contained, otherwise the noise and smell pervade everywhere and ruin the atmosphere. (2) Books – if the net result is that the book collection is significantly reduced (as Newton Abbot’s has been – some non-fiction areas are now disgracefully threadbare) then you have massively missed the point. A library is essentially for book-borrowers – it isn’t a Starbucks with books. People can buy a cup of coffee anywhere – that wont bring them in – but you will drive them away if you shrink the book collection.

    • Devon Newscentre on said:

      Thank you for your comment.

      The café at the Passmore Edwards Centre in Newton Abbot is extremely popular and has been well received by residents. Where we have invested in our library buildings across Devon, and created a café, usage has risen. Visitor numbers at Newton Abbot Library have increased, as have the amount of members and the number of books borrowed.

      We have worked with the local community in Exeter to design and develop a new library facility, and a café is one of the most requested features to be included in the refurbishment project.
      Books and reading will remain at the heart of our library service, and we are committed to raising the quality of the stock and developing greater access to our collections as well as improving the general experience of visiting Exeter Central Library.

  3. Good to see investment to encourage greater use of the library itself and of underused areas within the library. Certainly work was needed to allow full use by mobility impaired, those with prams etc. Thie building is an interesting example of 1960′s civic design and the challenge is always to upgrade whilst keeping those elements of interest such as the Castle Street entrance (won’t the walls shown in the picture gallery trap rubbish?), stairs in the foyer and main library, double height of the main library etc. Anyway good to see that there is investment when so many other libraries are being shut down.

  4. Rose Swift on said:

    I love the look of the new library not least because it maximises the use of the old building with its lovely big windows. I also think that unless the library is updated less and less people will use it and it will be subject to cuts in the future. The more attractive it is the more people will use it thus prolonging the life of the concept of a free library. The library is a good example of a community hub so it needs to think about maximising its space for the staging of community projects and meetings and also to provide a good source of information for, amongst other things, those who cannot afford home technology. Provision of a cafe may also tempt people who don’t normally visit the library regularly to borrow books and media items and a good place for others to advertise what is going on in their neck of the city! To be able to access information, borrow books,(for free) media and music (for a nominal sum) from a library where the space is flexible also for future needs is also a must. Who knows what the future might hold but our precious library should keep up with trends!!

  5. Gordon Guest on said:

    As a disabled person in a wheelchair there is a lot wrong with the exsisting library for access for people in wheelchairs like me. I think it is BRILLIANT that the library is being upgraded and improved. I hope thay have fully considered wheelchair and mobility scooter access. Twenty years ago computers were few and mobile phones, twitter, facebook etc did not exsist. So it is important that the library updates itself to make use of all this new technology. It is also important to keep the library in the centre of Exeter and make it a welcoming place to go and be. I am really pleased this is happening.

    • Thanks for your comment Gordon.

      During the redevelopment a new 13 person passenger lift will be installed in the main entrance space so those with mobility issues can have access to the whole building without having to rely on assistance from staff as they do now. Improving physical access to the building is an important element of this redevelopment and we have consulted with local disability group Living Options throughout the design and planning. We will continue to work closely with our disability focus group to ensure the best possible decisions are made to make the building more accessible.

  6. Paul Oliver on said:

    I am so pleased to see that the library ‘revamp’ is going ahead soon. I would have preferred to see a completely new library as was original planned and budgeted for, but hey at least we are getting something for the 10million originally promised from the airport sell off. I would just remind Harvey that this is not ‘new’ cash the council is spending but old cash from the airport sell off as I have already mentioned.

  7. Kirsty on said:

    I love the idea of having a cafe in the library and definitely plan to spend more time in there. This will be a lovely social centre and will really help create a “feel good factor” at a time when we could do with it! I hope many more people will be attracted to make use of this essential service.

  8. Why haven’t the full results of the first consultation ever been published on the county council consultation finder internet pages ? I would like confirmation that i am in a SMALL minority that think this project is the wrong thing to be doing.

    • Thank you for your comment Dave.

      We have contacted the project team to let them know the results are not on the consultation finder – they will be posted on there shortly. There is also a new story summarising the results on the News Centre here – http://www.devonnewscentre.info/community/community-share-transformation-vision-for-citys-flagship-library/

      We received a good response to our consultation, with over 600 people from across the community sharing their views. The vast majority were very supportive of the redevelopment, and the results demonstrated that residents would like to see the size of the children’s area increased and creating a café created as well as an outside area and more available meeting space. Residents are also looking forward to the Library having a new entrance into Rougemont Gardens and many commented that this would help bring more people into that area of the city, which is currently underused.

      It is disappointed that you feel this redevelopment is the wrong thing to be doing. We strongly believe that Exeter deserved a modern first class public library. Exeter Central Library is Devon’s largest and busiest library and is in desperate need of improvement, not least to make it more accessible for people so they can actually access the wide range of important community services on offer there. This investment now will also reduce the need for further spending in the future as the building will be more efficient and easily maintained following the redevelopment.

  9. Gabi Recknagel on said:

    The library definitely needs improvements, to take the building into the future as a key facility in the city. What it does need especially is measures that make it more sustainable to run, and waste energy, etc. I am a bit concerned that the two-sided opening of the entrance hall will defeat this purpose, unless it is very cleverly designed. I would like reassurances and more details on the energy consumption aspect and that all options are duely explored than the first -or cheapest- one jumped at. This would include the use of locally sourced materials, wherever this is possible, so that the money invested benefits the local economy.

    • Thanks for your comment Gabi.

      We have considered the environmental aspects of this refurbishment carefully, and our proposals include photovoltaic panels on the roof to produce energy, replacing the old inefficient boiler with a new efficient one and special blinds on the windows to help deal with the issues the building currently experiences with being too hot in summer and too cold in winter. These important environmental improvements will reduce the future day to day running costs of Exeter Central Library.

      Plans also include a ‘draft lobby’ at the front of the building to prevent energy being wasted through the two entrances.

      We are making sure we source materials locally wherever possible, which as well as being more environmentally friendly, is also important for the local economy. This includes our contractors, Mansell, who are a local company.

  10. Harvey on said:

    In these financially troubled times, what is so wrong with the old library? For goodness sake stop spending council tax money so needlessly, fixing something that is nowhere near broken. Please just “hold your horses” and repair more of the much needed transport infrastructure (you know, the old fashioned things we call roads). When you have met all existing obligations, then show a picture of a councillor smiling, not until. Oh, and close the cheque book until your books properly balance.

    • open to all on said:

      As far as I am aware the £4.1 Million revamp is coming out of the proceeds of selling Exeter Airport. At the time it was stated that a new library would be built – either way the money being used is already available and therefore not having to be paid for by residents. I of course stand to be corrected if these fact are wrong but at the time it was well reported in the Express and Echo and questione were also asked as to what had happened to the whole amount intended for this refurbishment rather thsn new build.

    • Thanks for your comment Harvey.

      The majority of funding for this project is coming from the Investing in Devon Fund – money from the sale of Exeter Airport which must be used for capital projects around the County, not as revenue.

      Libraries are an important community resource which contribute greatly to the well-being of our residents and help form the basis of lifelong learning. Exeter Central Library is Devon’s largest and busiest library, and is in desperate need of modernisation, including new boilers and other substantial maintenance. The environmental improvements we are making as part of the redevelopment will significantly reduce the running costs of the library for the future.

      Most importantly the accessibility of the building must be improved so more people can actually access the services we are providing there, which is why we are installing a new passenger lift in the main entrance area so people with mobility issues can get around the whole building unassisted.

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