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Questions & Answers

New Library

  1. Why are Queen’s planning a new Library?
  2. What benefit will a new Library provide?
  3. Can the present library accommodation not be refurbished?
  4. How is the Library being funded?
  5. Where will the new Library be built?
  6. What University buildings will be affected?
  7. What about the existing library buildings?
  8. Will there be any impact on Botanic Gardens?
  9. What will be the impact of the scale of the new Library?
  10. Who are the architects?
  11. What materials will be used?
  12. How will the surrounding area be landscaped?
  13. What degree of consultation has taken place with the local community?
  14. How is construction being planned?
  15. Will servicing the new Library present difficulties?
  16. How will car parking be affected?
  17. The current Computer Centre generates some noise from old outdoor cooling fans. Will this problem be duplicated in the new Library?
A new library for the 21st Century

Q1 - Why are Queen’s planning a new Library?

Answer - Queen’s University plays a pivotal role in the life of Northern Ireland. Innovation and excellence in learning and research are combined with a mission of serving the local community. By harnessing global excellence for local purpose and advantage, the University underpins the knowledge-based economy that will ensure Northern Ireland’s future prosperity. Queen’s is embracing the challenges facing Northern Ireland in the 21st century. To continue to do so, it must be at the leading edge of the information and knowledge revolution. The building of a new Library, more than any other single development, will make the greatest contribution to the University’s search for excellence. A new Library for the 21st Century will provide Northern Ireland with a world-class resource in which innovative learning and research will flourish.

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Q2 - What benefit will a new Library provide?

Answer - A new Library at Queen’s will promote access to quality. It will provide, in one location, an integrated learning environment for academic staff and students. It will create a world-class resource for Northern Ireland. A new Library will enhance Learning and Teaching by transforming the support given to students and academic staff. It will support Research and Development and allow Northern Ireland to attract and retain the best researchers. It will enhance University research activity in all disciplines. A new Library will enrich the Student Experience at Queen’s by providing a high quality work place that promotes multi-disciplinary learning. It will enhance the University’s Contribution to the Community by providing even greater access to its resources and a unique collection of books, manuscripts and periodicals, built up over more than 150 years.

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Q3 – Can the present library accommodation not be refurbished?

Answer - The present library accommodation is basically unchanged since 1969. Since this time, the number of students has increased from just over 4,300 to more than 24,000 today. Regular shelf-space has remained the same but the number of books, pamphlets and periodicals has doubled. Library services today are based on five separate sites stretched across a three-mile radius. The Old Library is too small and cannot be extended. The Main Library Tower and the Science Library, built in the mid 1960s before the advent of computers, could not have foreseen the development of innovative electronic information sources in support of learning and research. The University’s vision is to build a central, high quality library to achieve a seamless range of service and support for users, and an environment that will encourage multidisciplinary learning and collaboration.

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Q4 - How is the Library being funded?

Answer - The total cost of the library project is over £40 million. A fund-raising campaign has been spearheaded by the Queen’s University of Belfast Foundation and the project has already received £28m from private donors. The project also received £10m from the Northern Ireland Executive through the Reinvestment and Reform Initiative. The new library will be a world-class facility in Northern Ireland that will enable the university to continue its development as one of the leading educational and research institutions in Europe.

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Q5 -Where will the new Library be built?

Answer - The site for the new Library is located in the southeast corner of the University’s Main Site. The site is bounded by the Botanic Park to the south, College Park to the north and Rugby Road to the east.

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Q6 - What University buildings will be affected?

Answer - The David Bates Building and 7 and 8 College Park East are on the site of the new Library and will be demolished. College Park Physics which lies to the north of the site will also be demolished and this area will form part of the landscaped setting for the new building. The David Bates Building, College Park Physics and 7 College Park East are undistinguished 1970s era framed buildings with elements ranging from single to four storeys. They have flat roofs, lightweight external cladding with poor thermal insulation and have outlived their useful lives.

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Q7 - What about the existing library buildings?

Answer - The Old Library will remain a treasured part of the University’s estate and will be restored to its former glory and put to an appropriate use. The feasibility of reducing the height of the Library Tower will be investigated before its conversion to use as an office/teaching building. The Science Library is a poor quality building and the University will examine its long term future.

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Q8 - Will there be any impact on Botanic Gardens?

Answer - The new Library will be built on land owned by the University. The south side of the site abuts the Botanic Park and is bounded by a fence and dense planting. The site’s location relative to the park provides an opportunity for attractive views from the new Library and surrounding public spaces. The exterior space between the building and the south site boundary has the potential to continue the character of the park beyond its boundaries with compatible selection of planting materials. The University is working closely with Belfast City Council Parks Department on the specification of planting and design of landscape features and on the relationship of the building, its landscaped setting and the boundary with the park. Development of the site will enhance the views and landscape along College Park to the gate lodge at the entrance of Botanic Gardens. Removal of the College Park Physics Building and landscaping of the site will greatly enhance the relationship of the area to the park, improve pedestrian walkways and promote public access to Botanic Gardens.

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Q9 - What will be the impact of the scale of the new Library?

Answer - The accommodation requirements for the new Library have been developed by reference to university and industry standards and through an assessment of both current and anticipated future needs. The University has calculated that to meet the needs of staff and students for years to come, the Library needs to have space for 2000 readers and 1.5 million volumes. The building’s spatial requirements have been minimised by including extensive compact shelving and a basement store. The University is determined to create a beautiful building of which Queen’s and Belfast can be proud. Design specifications dictate an appropriately scaled building which is sensitive to the adjacent environment. The building will have a maximum of four storeys, consistent with the David Bates Building. The northeast corner of the site which abuts the Rugby Road residential area will be the site for a three storey Mathematics Building which will be predominantly academic office accommodation. By its nature it will be a lower-scale building with windows and storey heights in keeping with the character and scale of the residential neighbourhood. The creation of landscaped open space to the north of the new Library will significantly enhance its overall setting.

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Q10 - Who are the architects?

Answer - Shepley Bulfinch Richardson and Abbot (SBRA) from Boston in the United States were selected after a rigorous international selection process. SBRA have been associated with many prestigious university libraries worldwide including Harvard, Yale, Cornell and Fordham. The appointment panel concluded that SBRA could provide the necessary experience, resources and design ability to undertake this flagship project on behalf of the University. SBRA are working with local architects Robinson Patterson Partnership.

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Q11 - What materials will be used?

Answer - The site is fortunate to be surrounded by several prominent listed buildings, including the Lanyon Building to the west and the Palm House to the southwest. The Lanyon Building and Rugby Road residential buildings establish a context of building materials dominated by brick and sandstone. The new Library will respect the neighbouring buildings in the selection of its building materials palette.

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Q12 - How will the surrounding area be landscaped?

Answer - The new Library site offers opportunities for improving the character and use of the surrounding open space by careful landscape design. Successful landscaping will have a major impact on the creation of a vibrant ‘library quarter’ which will be for many the heart of the University. The west side of the site can be developed as a landscaped plaza and gathering space adjacent to the entrance tower and at the junction of the major north-south and east-west pedestrian routes. The area to the north, encompassing the site of the College Park Physics building and the adjacent car park, can be developed as landscaped car parking with formal pedestrian routes delineated by mature planting. The south side of the site adjacent to the boundary with Botanic Park affords the opportunity for continuity of landscaping, creating a visual extension to the Park while maintaining a physical barrier.

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Q13 - What degree of consultation has taken place with the local community?

Answer - Queen’s is consulting widely on this flagship development for the University and Northern Ireland. The University values the input, comments and support of the community that it serves. Senior University staff hold frequent meetings with, and provide a direct link for, local resident groups including Rugby Road Residents Association, Friends of Botanic, Holylands Residents Association and Stranmillis Residents Association. The University has put in place a mechanism whereby issues and questions raised by residents can be addressed both prior to and during construction.

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Q14 - How is construction being planned?

Answer - It is anticipated that a planning submission will be made in Summer 2004. The New Library will be constructed in two phases. In Phase 1, a free standing Mathematics Building, and the portion of the Library containing the central computing functions, will be built on the north east corner of the site currently occupied by 7 and 8 College Park East. Phase 1 will have a construction period of approximately one year. When complete it will create a ‘buffer zone’ between the main Phase 2 development and the nearby residential properties throughout the remainder of the construction period. The University will facilitate communication between local residents and relevant contractors in order to minimize inconvenience and discuss related issues such as access routes for site traffic. Phase 2 will create the major Library element and involve the demolition of the David Bates Building. Completion is planned for December 2008 with subsequent commissioning and operation.

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Q15 - Will servicing the new Library present difficulties?

Answer - The Library by its nature will not require significant numbers of large service vehicles. However, the University will undertake further study on this issue and consult local residents on proposals to manage efficient deliveries and services.

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Q16 - How will car parking be affected?

Answer - The removal of the College Park Physics building to the north of the site introduces the opportunity for new landscaped parking provision.

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Q17 - The current Computer Centre generates some noise from old outdoor cooling fans. Will this problem be duplicated in the new Library ?

Answer - Computing services will be embedded within the hi-tech new Library and hence this problem will be eradicated.

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