Ambition at the University of Salford

Ambition

The last few months have called for a re-scoping and reassessment of our original plans for the Main Library Redevelopment. Though it has been a challenge, it has also afforded us the opportunity to take a step back and get a fresh perspective on the project. In such circumstances, innovative and (possibly) more effective solutions are often found. Henry Ford famously said “when everything seems to be going against you, remember that the airplane takes off against the wind, not with it”. The power of a resilient, supportive and creative project team is the engine on the wings of a project.

Alliance Manchester Business School site
Alliance Manchester Business School site

While en route to a Decant Review Meeting at North Campus on Monday, I was able to witness the significant progress being made on the Alliance Manchester Business School site with groundworks, pillars and a tower crane all now in place. The site for the Manchester Engineering Campus Development is also expanding and changing on a daily basis; the remnants of the former Grosvenor Halls a mere pile of bricks and mortar.

The weather was beautiful and it highlighted the incredible difference that has been made on Sackville Street following the demolition of the Faraday Tower Bridge the previous weekend. Similar to the effect of the precinct bridge demolition on Oxford Road last year, pedestrians, cyclists and drivers now have an unobstructed view of the south side of the North Campus

Another fantastic demolition, the separation from the Faraday Tower is a ‘clean cut’, the wounds of the building left in a clinically precise state. Opposite the tower is a somewhat artistic collection of rubble, twisted metal and dirt – an incredible pile of ‘no purpose’ considering its former life as a bridge! At the Decant Review Meeting we discussed the progress of our external store facility and how the revised project programme may help to ease pressure on the on-going stock decant.

On Tuesday the Library Leadership Team, the Redevelopment Design Team and I attended a Library Design Meeting to finish assessing the scope of the project. The Design Team presented updated plans based on the requirements and principles set out by the Library Leadership Team.  This gave us a very clear understanding of the scope of works, the areas the work might extend to and initial thoughts around an updated programme and timeframe. A number of areas require further detail and we are arranging workshops to look at this with specific members of the Library team.

On Wednesday I met with Sue Hoskins (Library Development Project Client Lead, The University of Salford Library) to look over their plans for the refurbishment of the Clifford Whitworth Library. Sue had recently visited our Main Library to learn more about my role and our plans, and as their project is due to begin this summer I wanted to share more ideas and lessons learnt as they near the start of construction.

Salford’s library refurbishment project aims to maximise a £5.8m budget and address a number of space, configuration and functional challenges that, like many libraries are currently facing, have accumulated over the past few decades. On arriving at the Clifford Whitworth Library, landscaping works opposite the main entrance meant I had to enter via a temporary entrance at the back of the building. As an experienced Facility Manager, I am always interested in the services that thread through buildings and how these are either hidden or intelligently revealed. Although not on the scale of Richard Rogers Lloyds Building, it was great to see the University having fun with its building services; the external pipework was unashamedly red, climbing the walls of the Cockcroft Building and not dissimilar to the Experiment! Interactive gallery at the Museum of Science and Industry.

Whilst waiting for Sue in the Salfood Café (I love the play on words!) I took some time to absorb the atmosphere in the library. Clearly this is a busy location on campus as the ground floor was a hive of meetings, discussions, enquiries and studying for a huge range of students and visitors.

Sue arrived and we walked around the library, looking at the existing areas and layouts on each floor which were not dissimilar to many libraries of this period. Having identified that technology has advanced, library services have developed and users’ needs have changed, the library is attempting to address a number of issues including improvement of the entrance area, increasing the number and variety of study spaces, introducing a dedicated PGR area and replacing a range of services throughout the building.

The interior design has been shaped by the library team in collaboration with Fuse and is based around the concept of “a library in the park”. This serves as a fitting tribute to Peel Park; one of the first municipal parks in the UK, which straddles the east side of the university’s campus. The design certainly plays heavily on this concept, resulting in a playful, forest-like collection of facilities for library users. Peel Park itself is undergoing a £2.1m redevelopment in order to improve many aspects of the park, including the removal of many self-rooting trees that have grown since the 1970s. There will be improvements to walkways, the addition of wild meadows and the installation of a range of seating, with a hope to reinterpret some of the Park’s history through its renovation. It’s a fantastic coincidence to see many of the same reasons driving the park’s redevelopment as those which have led to the plans created for the Clifford Whitworth Library – improve facilities, offer more variety of spaces for users and remove aspects that have ‘grown’ since the 1970’s. The refurbishment will accommodate the closure of the Adelphi Library (located in the soon to be closed Adelphi Building) and will bring the library environment and facilities up to speed with the continuing improvements being realised across other areas of the campus.

Every university library has a unique and different context, some shaped by its users, others by its areas of focus and some by the environment that surrounds it. Salford’s Clifford Whitworth Library redevelopment plans do very well (with a small budget) to achieve a great deal – using it’s influences to shape its objectives in tackling a range of issues that have accumulated over time. To do this takes ambition, something that the University of Salford tells every visitor and passer-by it has, without reservation, in six foot letters that stand proudly at the side of The Crescent.

Ambition at the University of Salford
Ambition at the University of Salford

On Thursday I visited the redeveloped Brynmor Jones Library at the University of Hull with Penny Hicks (Head of Strategic Marketing and Communications), Amar Nazir (Academic Engagement Librarian) and Zoe Makin (Strategic Project Officer). I’ll be writing an account of our visit on my next blog post.

Thanks for reading,

Mike Kelly.

 

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