Right across the UK, libraries are closing. Inspire is a charitable community benefit society which, along with Nottinghamshire County Council, is working to buck that trend locally. Together, they’re refurbishing and modernising libraries to keep them open, thriving and right at the heart of Nottinghamshire communities.
That’s exactly what they wanted to do in Beeston, where the 1930s library needed substantial improvements, including a new entrance, roof, windows, lighting, flooring, shelving and heating. They brought us on board to make the whole project happen.
Inspire and the Council wanted to create a supportive, stimulating environment, where people of all ages could read, learn, get together and enjoy a whole range of activities.
To achieve this, the ageing library building needed a huge amount of work to turn it into a comfortable, modern, accessible community hub. We put together a proposal that protected the building’s heritage while creating a more attractive, contemporary facility, designed around the needs of its users.
There were some challenges along the way. The first was the library’s proximity to a local primary school. With children, parents and teachers so close by, we needed to address some extra health and safety risks. To do that, we regularly visited the school, keeping their team up to date and answering any questions.
We also worked hard to engage the children, who would ultimately be regular users of the new library. This included running a competition where they each designed a health and safety poster. The winning entry was printed and shared across the site to raise awareness.
Materials with asbestos content were discovered unexpectedly in the ground during excavation works, which created another challenge. It needed to be removed quickly and safely to keep the project moving and the library’s closure minimal. We carefully resolved the problem, while still delivering the scheme on time and on budget.
As well as improving the appearance and accessibility of the library, we made it a more sustainable, energy-efficient building, fit for the future.
We collaborated closely with the library team, carrying out extensive planning before making significant improvements to the building’s meeting room and exhibition facilities. In addition, we designed a discovery room for children and families, creating an inspiring hands-on learning environment.
We completed work on the library in August 2017. By the end of the project, we’d created 1,500m2 of modern, fit-for-purpose facilities which went well beyond the expectations of the Beeston community.
Local people have thoroughly embraced their refurbished library, and it’s now a popular, well-used centre, with visitor numbers up by 30% and new memberships up by 71%.