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Library Refurbishment Project – University of Reading

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Library Refurbishment Project


 The University is investing over £40 million into the further redevelopment and refurbishment of the Library.

The Library building at Whiteknights opened in 1964 and was extended in 1985. This major redevelopment comes after the first £4.4m phase revamped the study spaces and furniture on the 2nd to 5th Floors back in 2013 and 2014.

We are increasing space for individual study to make better use of the areas on the Ground and 1st Floors. The redevelopment will provide better access and security across the building as well as improving its energy efficiency, as a result of improved insulation and ventilation. New lifts and an improved service for borrowing and returning books will be put into place.

The exterior of the building is being re-clad including replacement windows fitted throughout, providing a striking focal point at the heart of the Whiteknights campus.

The Library remains operational to students across the entirety of the redevelopment. Work started in 2016 and is anticipated to be completed by Autumn 2019.


  • Study seating capacity increased.
  • A more comfortable and sustainable study environment created by replacing heating and ventilation systems, windows, cladding and roofing. It also aims to cut energy use by 40% and reduce carbon emissions by 30%.
  • Larger Library café, including a new outdoor dining area 
  • More toilets on more floors, including disabled and gender neutral provision. 
  • Bigger lifts with better access for wheelchair users.
  • Card-access security barriers.
  • Automated returned-book sorter.

'The Library has always played a central role in our life and work, with its location at the very heart of the University's Whiteknights campus. We have invested £4.4m in the top four floors of the Library as a first phase of redevelopment and this major new investment of £40m will complete the project. We will combine traditional and crucial functions such as book and journal collections with group study facilities, great digital access and multi-purpose spaces. Our Library has never been a static, sepulchral space. It has continued to evolve over its 50 year history and as these excellent new facilities become available to students and staff.'
Former Vice Chancellor, Sir David Bell

‘Where you learn can impact on how well you learn. To be successful, the learning environment has to be a physically and emotionally comfortable place. This is what the University Library will achieve with the refurbishments planned: a learning environment that supports many styles of learning.’
Dr Helen Bilton, Associate Professor of Education, National Teaching Fellow, SFHEA

Library and URS Buildings

Library users have retained access to books in the Library building throughout the project, even whilst some floors are closed for refurbishment. All Library services have returned to the University Library building as the project reaches completion. From April 2017 to summer 2019, the University relocated most Library study space and services to the Library@URS building next door to provide a quieter environment during construction works. For further details, see FAQ 2 and 3 below.

Our refurbished Library Building

View from the front showing the proposed enlarged café and new cladding. 

View from the front showing proposed enlarged cafe, cladding and landscaping


Proposed new entrance lobby and café  New entrance lobby and cafe


Proposed design for enlarged Library café

Proposed design for enlarged Library cafe 

Proposed redesigned entrance hall with repositioned central staircase, information desk (left) and new lifts (right).

Proposed redesigned entrance hall


Redesigned 1st Floor IT area and IT Service Desk Redesigned 1st Floor IT area and IT Help counter


Proposed new Study Advice and Maths Support area

Proposed new Study Advice and Maths Support area


Study space proposed for the enlarged Short Loan area includes long tables, individual pods and a view

Study space proposed for the enlarged Course Collection includes long tables, individual pods and a view


Proposed exterior seen from the Palmer Quad

Exterior seen from Palmer Quad

The plan

  • Ground Floor: extended café, extra study spaces, new entrance, new staircase and lifts.
  • 1st Floor: new individual IT workspaces, IT group study spaces and group study rooms.
  • 2nd, 3rd and 4th Floor: improved heating and insulation, additional toilets, print and refreshment hub.  Reinstate quiet and group study furniture.
  • 5th Floor: reinstate silent study furniture. 
  • Whole building: new windows and thermally-efficient cladding, new heating and ventilation systems.


1. Why is the University investing even more in the Library?

The £4.4 million refurbishments in 2013 and 2014 created a variety of attractive, modern study space on the 2nd to 5th Floors. This further investment refurbishes study, teaching and refreshment space on the remaining 1st and Ground Floors, and addresses issues throughout the building such as improving heating, ventilation and insulation; along with overall building access and operational workflows. We retain the high quality and popular furniture and fittings installed in 2013 and 2014.

2. Did the University provide alternative study/PC space in other buildings during the project?

Yes. There were over 1,500 study spaces available across the campuses during term-time.  The University offered study space in the URS building instead of the Library until summer 2019.

Additional study space has also been provided at RUSU’s The Study @ TOB2 (at Earley Gate) and alternative quiet study spaces have been identified across Whiteknights and London Road campuses (subject to teaching timetabling and departmental use).  Check daily availability with the new Free Room Finder and the current PC availability page.

Existing space includes RUSU's The Study (Whiteknights) and unused teaching rooms which can be booked via Room Bookings.

Should you encounter problems when using alternative study spaces you may report these to the Library at who will refer the issue on to the School/Department or other manager of the space .

3. What exactly were the Library@URS building arrangements?

We relocated as many study spaces as possible from the Library into the URS building - this includes study furniture (with power sockets), fixed PCs and printing facilities.

Services in URS included: Short Loan, Café Libro, Library Information Desk, Study Advice, Maths Support, and the IT Service Desk.

Most other physical resources remained in the Library building as usual. As print journals are less-used now, they have moved off-site. However Library staff have secured reading list items as online scans or with the Short Loan and other needs can be addressed with Inter-Library Loans.

Facilities moved back into the Library in June 2019. We previously intended to move study space back to the Library building in 2018 with refurbishment work continuing around it until 2019. However following complications inside the Library and URS becoming available for longer, the University decided – in consultation with RUSU – to retain study space in URS for another year, thereby minimising disruption to students.

The URS building provided a quieter environment for study while still being close enough to borrow and use materials. It also meant we could carry out more work inside the Library than previously planned, and so complete the refurbishment earlier.

4. Why couldn't you do the work in the summer vacations, when fewer students are here?

Although we were able to do this for the smaller refurbishment projects in 2013 and 2014, the current refurbishment project was a significantly larger undertaking taking longer to realise. Work needed to carry on throughout the year.

5. Why don’t you just build a new library?

The Library already occupies the prime site at the centre of the Whiteknights Campus, convenient to all. Siting a library elsewhere would disadvantage some schools. Building, or renting, temporary accommodation during a re-build on the present site, would cost considerably more, besides being more inconvenient. Our plans include providing study space in the URS building and ensuring the books could remain available throughout the refurbishment.

6. Will all my books be available during the course of the refurbishment? 

Yes, the books remain accessible throughout the project, though they move location within the Library as work is carried out on different floors. Print journals have moved off site, but as most journal usage is now online via the Library website this should not cause inconvenience.

7. I’m not a member of the University but use your Library for study. Can I still come in?

Yes. Non-members will still be able to use the University Library (except at exam revision time, as previously). See Information for members of the public for more guidance on access to the Library and exam time restrictions.


For more information on the Refurbishment Project contact Paul Johnson, Associate Director (Collections Planning and Research).

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