Hereford Library Users' Group

04/12/2014

Latest Proposals for Hereford Library

Filed under: Local library news — hporte @ 9:22 am
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HEREFORDSHIRE LIBRARY USER GROUP

A FUTURE FOR THE BROAD STREET LIBRARY BUILDING

AN OPPORTUNITY NOT TO BE MISSED

Introduction.

Over the next few years Herefordshire Council has to make severe cuts of its expenditure on many services. However, the latest proposals agreed by Cabinet on 23rd January provide a unique opportunity to achieve major benefits to Hereford and the whole county by reducing present Council office space by future co-location and integration of Customer Services with the Library in the Broad Street library and museum building.

Such integration of services is being encouraged by central government and has been successfully introduced by many local councils and has provided more efficient operation, convenience to ratepayers and tourists and improved provision of advice and information.

Present position.

HLUG has previously made proposals for, and stressed the advantages of, a Herefordshire Hub on the above lines. Proposals to vacate and dispose of the Franklin Barnes building and move Customer Services staff to Broad Street give a rare opportunity to develop a well planned, up-to-date multi-functional facility

It has long been acknowledged that the present 1875 Broad Street building in its design, layout, fittings and condition it is unfit to provide a modern library or other service. Various modifications, not always successful, have been made in the past in an attempt to improve the situation. Nevertheless it is an iconic building in a prime location for serving both residents and tourists and although the façade is listed it is capable of alteration to achieve the objectives we have in mind.

Objective

To create The Hereford Centre – a major city centre feature

A modified and refurbished centre could be a major feature for the county in a good location which, with careful design and planning, could provide a “one stop shop” for Herefordshire’s residents. It would provide a much needed and long overdue modernisation of the central county library, employing a much more efficient use of space and act as a bright and welcoming cultural service centre. Such an updated building, close to the cathedral and Mappa Mundi centre, would be a focus for the cultural, heritage and educational needs of the city and county.It would bring benefits to education, advisory and social care services, industry and tourism so enhancing both the economy and image of the county. It could also incorporate facilities that would provide possibilities for income generation.

How this might be achieved

HLUG has, over the past few years, undertaken much research and given considerable thought on how the Broad Street building could be updated and improved. While not wishing to prejudge a detailed review of the future of the building, the following suggestions show the scope that exists for better use of the building and co-location of services.

The key to improving the building is better use of the existing space. There are several areas which at present are not being used effectively and which with modification and refurbishment would allow co-location of community and other services. In particular these are:-

  • The entrance area on the ground floor.

  • The mezzanine floor

  • The Woolhope Room

  • The museum and art gallery.

  • Office spaces throughout the building.

  • Access to and use of the basement.

The Hereford Library Users Group have prepared proposals about how each of these areas might be adapted; each of these outline plans needs further expert study in terms of layout, operation and any structural limitations, together with a thorough search for the most appropriate fixtures and fittings.

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Ground floor.

If Customer Services and other functions requiring close contact with the public move to Broad Street they would need to be sited on this floor. The best area would appear to be on the left side of the building as it is entered, using the present space on the street frontage and extending back into the present computer and library area.

The existing space on the right of the entrance to the building could be leased out for commercial use and income generation – a café would be a much requested addition. A small shop could generate badly needed income and there should be a study on how the library and museum could be better marketed by exploiting the valuable resources that exist in the form of historic books, maps and photographs which are likely to be of interest to publishers. The production and sale of the sort of items that are often seen for sale in any modern library and/or/museum could well be developed to increase income. HLUG can support this opportunity with its own ideas.

The present toilet area would need refurbishment and expansion and made available to the public for a possible charge or be part of the community toilet scheme.

The remainder of the floor would remain as part of the library with a smaller reception/enquiry desk and automated issue and return (RFID) The layout and design of the present old and poor shelving should be modernised and primarily house fiction. Some computer stations should be distributed around the floor. The children’s library would stay where it is, but brought up to date with space for child based learning activities. HLUG can provide examples of this kind of thing as practised elsewhere.

With moving of more library functions upstairs the possibility of installing a new location for a lift at the front of the building should be examined. The adequate stair case to the front of the mezzanine could be converted to public access

Mezzanine floor

There is considerable scope for creating more public space on this floor. The floor could be expanded over the present staircase and public use extended into the considerable area at present occupied by library administration and stock storage. This floor, again with new fittings, could then be used for popular non-fiction, further computer terminals, more seating and general reference. The staff work stations should be replaced by manned desks distributed around the public area of the library.

The Woolhope Room

It is recognised that the history and contents of, and access to, this area and the requirements of The Woolhope Club make it difficult to adapt. Some non club events are already held here but the Club should be encouraged to allow it to be refurbished and used for more general use as a meeting room.

The Museum and Art Gallery.

With the impending proposed reorganisation of museum services there should be a complete rethink about the usage of this considerable area. In terms of footfall compared with the remainder of the building it is underused and it needs a major update to bring it up to modern museum standards in line with the Friar Street building. For the future use of this floor, we suggest:

The museum area should be modified and integrated more closely with the library. With a little imagination and expert display advice there are many possible linkages that could be developed in the fields of county history, archaeology, family history, agriculture and the Local Collection which could enhance both the library and museum. There should be close links with the new Rotherwas Archive Centre. This floor of the building would then accommodate reference and study areas, research facilities and a business support centre.

The Art Gallery should be moved in its entirety to another location in the city which could provide more accessible and exciting display space. Obvious possibilities are the Town Hall or Shire Hall, but possibly also the Bishops Palace and other readily available buildings such as The Courtyard

This floor of the building could then also accommodate reference and study areas, research facilities and a business support centre and employment hub, possibly in conjunction with Chamber of Commerce, Rotherwas Enterprise park.

Upper floors

The second floor areas should be used for back office library and customer service functions and improved staff facilities.

Basement.

This is a problem in terms of its condition and usage but nevertheless it is a valuable area and worth further study to achieve better use. A really innovative development in conjunction with a specialized enterprise might provide an exciting tourist attraction. A possible link with the cathedral to create, for example, The Medieval World might be explored, given its potential for further sources of income.

Stockholding.

At the moment there is too much stock in storage at various different locations and not enough on the shelves. Making better use of the building will allow many more books to be on shelves where they should be and far fewer in store. Volunteers might participated in a number of means by which more appropriate book stock be acquired, including by contributions.

Funding.

The capital spend for the above proposals can be found from the proceeds of the Council’s present disposal of unneeded property. As the objective is to produce a new cultural centre for the county and not just a library improvement, additional public sources such as HLF need to be explored together with private sponsorship and donations.

Next steps.

To achieve these objectives requires a major expert review of the present building and not just a quick shuffling of existing space to accommodate additional functions. The future space requirements of all departments that are intended to be housed in the Broad Street building have to be determined together with the additional facilities that are needed such as toilets, disabled access, café etc. and an outline brief prepared that can be given to a number of suitably experienced local architects/structural engineers for them to submit their ideas, leading to an appointment of an expert to work up a costed proposal. HLUG recommends that expertise in various areas is needed and has suggestions to make.

Examples of similar developments elsewhere.

HLUG can provide details and photographs of how other older library and museum buildings have been modified and developed to produce the type of multi-purpose building that we are proposing with particular reference to situations similar to that in Herefordshire.

Conclusion.

We believe that there now exists a once in a lifetime opportunity to have a Herefordshire Centre that will bring together a wide range of services and sources of information in one well located building that will enhance both the economy and the lives of the people of Herefordshire and become a landmark ‘must -see’ facility that will attract visitors to the county.

The future of Broad Street – a HLUG occasional paper 10 March 2014

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