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Library Refurbishment Project – University of Reading

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Library Refurbishment Project


A £40 million redevelopment and refurbishment of the University Library was approved by the University Council in January 2016.

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.

The next phase of the project will increase space for individual study, and will make better use of the space currently available 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 will be installed, and an improved service for borrowing and returning books will be put into place.

The exterior of the building will be totally re-clad and will have replacement windows fitted throughout, providing a striking focal point at the heart of the Whiteknights campus.

The Library will remain operational to students across the entirety of the redevelopment, with work anticipated to be completed by the end of 2019.


  1. Study seating capacity increased by 200.
  2. Installation of 3 new 16-person lifts serving all floors, plus a new book lift.
  3. Toilet capacity increased with toilets available on all floors, including disabled and gender neutral provision.
  4. Significant improvements to wheelchair accessibility.
  5. A new clearly-defined entrance, with improved security, in the central location of the façade leading on to redefined landscaped frontage.
  6. Introduction of improved automated services for borrowing and returning books.
  7. External cladding and new windows to improve building sustainability and energy saving.
  8. Upgrades to all roof finishes and thermal insulation.
  9. Removal of backlog maintenance.
  10. Expansion of the café spaces, including opening glazed doors onto external al fresco areas.
  11. Reduction in Library energy use of around 40%, with carbon emissions reduced by 30% through efficiency improvements gained with the replacement of mechanical services and improved thermal insulation.

'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.'
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, Senior Tutor, National Teaching Fellow, SFHEA

Architects' impressions

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 Help counter 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 Course Collection 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

Proposed work schedule

The following schedule is provisional and subject to change as the project develops.

Spring 2016: Award-winning firm ISG Fit Out appointed contractor.

Summer/Autumn 2016: Building site prepared and protective hoardings erected inside and outside the building.

Easter Vacation 2017: Library study furniture gradually moved to URS Building.

Summer term 2017 - Autumn 2019: URS Building open 24-hours in term for group, quiet and silent study space (using Library furniture), PC facilities and Course Collection; also contains Library help, Study Advice and Maths Support, IT Service Desk, Café Libro. Library members can borrow other printed material from Library Building, open 09:00-22:00 in term.

Refurbishment work

  • Whole building
    New windows and thermally-efficient cladding, new heating and ventilation systems.
  • 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. 


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 will now refurbish study, teaching and refreshment space on the remaining 1st and Ground Floors, and address issues throughout the building such as improving heating, ventilation and insulation; along with overall building access and operational workflows. We will retain the high quality and popular furniture and fittings installed in 2013 and 2014.

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

Yes. The University is offering study space in the URS Building instead of the Library until Autumn 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.

There are over 1,500 study spaces available across the campuses during term-time.

3. What exactly are these URS Building arrangements?

We have 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 include: Course Collection, Café Libro, Library Information Desk, Study Advice, Maths Support, and the IT Service Desk.

Most other physical resources remain 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 Course Collection, and other needs can be addressed with Inter-Library Loans.

These arrangements will be in place until Autumn 2019, at which time facilities will move back into the Library.

There are several benefits to the relocation. Moving study space from the Library into URS provides a quieter environment for study while still being close enough to borrow and use materials. It also means we can carry out more work inside the Library than previously planned, and so will complete the refurbishment around six months earlier.

Regular updates on the relocation - including furniture arrangements, move dates, building opening times and additional alternative study spaces - will be published on the Library Blog.

4. Why can’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 between 2013 and 2014, the current refurbishment project is a significantly larger undertaking that will take longer to realise. Work will need 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 ensure the books can remain available throughout the refurbishment.

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

Yes, the books will remain accessible throughout the project, though they will 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). When barriers are in action, Campus Card holders will be able to swipe through automatically; visitors will be asked to sign the Visitors’ Book before being admitted individually.  


For more information on the Refurbishment Project contact Robin Hunter, Facilities Manager.

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