Tour of Campbelltown Public Library, March 2011

SALIN invited members to tour the recently redeveloped Campbelltown Library. Many years in the making, the works were completed in September 2010 and have proved popular with the local community. In fact in the last six months, 2,500 new borrowers have signed up with the library. The response from patrons has been overwhelmingly positive. When surveyed about a new facility, the users cited factors such as more space, more computers, increased hours, and access to refreshments as ideas they would like incorporated. The library has not only done a fantastic job in meeting that brief, but has created an impressive space for all generations to use.

The new library sits in the same location as the previous red-brick building. The redevelopment was done in two stages allowing the library to remain open during the process. This did cause some confusion with users, as often the building resembled a construction site and huge banners and advertising were used to assure patrons the service was still operating. DesignInc Adelaide were the architects responsible for the transformation, and with staff and community consultation, have delivered an innovative and welcoming space.

Walking around the library, you are struck by how modern it feels. The high ceilings, the use of clean lines and stylish colours all contribute to creating a bright and spacious environment. Walking through the glass doors into the library, the returns chutes are built into the wall on the right, while the large service desk is to the left. The desk, staffed by up to four staff members at a time, is a sleek white counter free from clutter. Behind are brown and green panels, colours which continue throughout the library, and hide storage space for the staff to utilise.

Off to the right is the gallery space where community and school groups can display artworks. This space can also be hired through the council by artists to display their work. The space is also great for promotional events held by the library. Adjacent to the gallery space is the returns room. Here staff can access the books returned by users and process them for shelving. The outside wall of the room also contains built in chutes that are continually open for users who don’t come into the library. The room is completely fire-proof and has its own air conditioning system. In the next year, a RFID system will be installed to speed up the checking-in process.

Following the retail principles of John Stanley, there are specific areas dedicated to different generations to maximise the use of the library. The Adult fiction area includes comfy chairs, coffee tables and leather lounges set up against the huge ceiling high windows. The area is light and airy and very popular with the older clientele. Next to this space is the Chill Zone, a teenage-friendly area that is delineated from the main space by the use of wooden columns. The area has teenage login-only computers, a projector and screen to show DVDs, and the most unusual light shades made out of black sunglasses. The muted colours of brown, black, green and silver are complimented by a bold purple feature wall. A mix of stools, funky chairs, and window-sill benches, and close access to the youth fiction shelves, make it a great place for teenagers to relax in.

The sunglass light shades also appear in the space next to the Chill Zone, although this time in white. This area is for quiet study and has access for WIFI users. Adjacent to this space is the newspaper and magazine reading room. The large bench with a small ledge is perfect for reading the large papers, and the two walls of magazines on display create a bright and functional space. Next door is the food and drink area where patrons can purchase coffee and items from two vending machines. Eating and drinking may be taboo for some libraries, but here the emphasis on encouraging patrons to use the space has resulted in these popular additions.

A large multimedia area has trays of CDs and DVDs providing easy browsing of these items, and the trays are on wheels so can be moved easily. Four listening posts are available for users to listen to their favourite music, or discover a new artist as selected by one of the many volunteers. This area also has comfy chairs and lounges with modern table lamps creating a warm and inviting space.

Also in this area is a wall-mounted flat screen that tracks the library’s, and council’s, environmental impact. The library was built with sustainability in mind and has solar panels on the roof to provide energy savings. Rain water is also recycled to provide irrigation for the gardens, including the nearby playground, and water for the toilets. The screen shows what savings the council is making through these initiatives and what energy is being put back into the power grid.

Past the self-serve holds and the language resources is the large area dedicated to public computers. The twenty-five workstations are connected to the printer in the print/copy area adjacent, and controlled using the PC reservation software for bookings. The print/copy area also has three photocopies and an extremely popular shredder. Conveniently there is a long work bench for patrons to use for collating and other processes.

Access to a non-smoking courtyard area is near the non-fiction section. With the peak roof, the non-fiction area has lots of light and the white shelving throughout contributes to the airy feel. The use of large clear signage to identify areas is mirrored in the stylish signs on the end of each bay to indicate the collection content.

Passing through this space, you come to the highly popular children’s section and Toy Library. Here bold colours of pink, green, black and white are used and size-appropriate furniture is scattered throughout. The shelving units and picture book trolleys (on casters) are shaped in a large arc which helps to contain the children in the space. The centrepiece is the Magic tree, a storytelling space that uses light and sound to enhance the reading experience. From the throne at the base of the tree, branches lead up and out across the ceiling. These branches regularly get decorated to suit events, including hanging spider webs for Halloween and autumn leaves for the turn of the season. The space also has child login-only PCs for playing games and educational activities, and an aquarium where a green frog resides.

The library has a number of spaces for hire, including two meeting rooms that can be converted into one, and an IT suite for computer-based training. These rooms can be used even when the library is closed due to the ability to isolate lighting and security in these sections. The Local History room is available to use when staffed and there is regular access to a Justice of the Peace in a separate area just outside the library doors. All these spaces enhance the community feel of the library.

The staff work area has lots of waist high bench space for processing and administration tasks. Increased storage was also a welcome outcome of the redevelopment with dedicated storage rooms and two large compactus to hold items in process. The staff area has plenty of desk-space for staff levels to grow.

Overall the library is large and spacious, having doubled in size since the redevelopment. Staff now use pagers to be called to the desk if out shelving or assisting users, and there is a touch panel that can be used to turn off all the lights, reducing the time it takes to close up every evening. A visit to the Campbelltown library reveals a modern, practical and functional place that is committed to enhancing the user’s experience. Many thanks to Jennifer Dew, Customer Service Team Leader, for showing us through this impressive new library.

Kelly Frazer

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