Assessing and refining

As I round off my second full week in post, I’m thoroughly enjoying being involved with the Main Library Redevelopment project at such a critical stage. I’m also learning so much more about The University of Manchester Library team and how their work impacts across the University and beyond.

This week has been spent assessing and refining many aspects of the redevelopment plans. For the IT and Audio Visual aspects of the project we need to ensure that we provide what’s needed across the building and consider lessons learnt from other spaces across the campus. A significant meeting took place in relation to the phasing of the project, during which we considered a number of options and contingencies to ensure we can continue to operate a full library service throughout the construction works. The Phasing Group, led by Sandra Bracegirdle, has finished a comprehensive phasing report that will be ratified by the Library Leadership Team and used by the Design Team for working through the most complicated areas of the project.

I attended three very interesting meetings looking at a wide range of technical aspects of the design including fire safety, waste, roofing, glazing and decoration. Overall, our colleagues in Estates were very pleased with the attention to detail paid to these elements by the design team and constructive conversations were had regarding some of the unconventional challenges presented by the original building that would need to be overcome.

Towards the end of the week I had the chance to visit the Barnes Wallis Student Hub. Having not visited that part of the campus since the late nineties, when I frequently walked through the same entrance to perform in Club Underground as it was known then it was fantastic to see the transformation that had taken place. I was able to chat about how their learning spaces were proving very popular, although it was interesting to hear the same concerns about the layout of group study rooms and the challenge to provide a range of flexible spaces for students at different times of the year.

Barnes Wallis Hub
Barnes Wallis Hub

At the end of the week I had the pleasure of taking part in my first Library ‘All Staff Meeting’ which focused on Strategy Projects and Mythbusting. It is brilliant to see the team approach which has been embedded in the Library and the range of strategy projects underway is very exciting. I was also kept very entertained by lots of the myths that we had to bust during the meeting (let’s hope that we are right about cats not setting off the security gates should we ever hold the very first Bring Your Pet to Work Day!)

Last weekend I was able to visit one of my favourite places in Manchester (and the architectural gem of the city) The John Rylands Library. I find the urban history of Manchester intriguing and, having written my dissertation on the gentrification of the city centre and the rise in loft living, I continue to be fascinated by Manchester’s ever changing landscape. The building aside, the Special Collections are also incredible and the current Later-Day Saints exhibition by local artist Alan Birch is brilliant.

The John Rylands Library
The John Rylands Library

The Manchester International Festival has started; although tickets are scarce, there are lots of free performances taking place at this major cultural event. Further evidence of Manchester’s status as a cultural hotspot was confirmed when the Whitworth Art Gallery won Museum of the Year earlier on in the week. Congratulations to the team behind the stunning transformation.

Mike Kelly

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