Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Library @ The Bridge, Glasgow

Introductions to Steven Finnie and a Tour of the Easterhouse Centre:

The Bridge is a matrix shaped centre that offers patrons a leisurely environment where learning, training and arts is on the forefront in Scotland. The centre is the product of a union between the Culture and Sport Glasgow, the John Wheatley College, Glasgow City Council and the Greater Easterhouse Arts Company. The organizations together strive to ‘bridge’ opportunities for the residents/community of Easterhouse. The centre has won many awards for its innovative and modern facility that offers an invigorating and central hub where culture is the focal point bolstering improvement in lifestyle, living and education. The facility offers a art centre for the community that is engaging and is positioned to be between the activities surrounding the University of Strathclyde, linking the people to the public swimming pool and other services provided such as a workshop, recording studio, theatre, gallery, café and last but most definitely not least, the library.

The “Easterhouse” is most certainly a ‘meeting place’ and as a primary goal, the Architect invigorated it with the offer of an improved facility that has been statistically identified as being a need for a community that wants to come together! With high rates of unemployment, falling area population, poor health, lack of transport, lack of formal educational qualifications, and rising numbers of dependent children without working parents, serious problems have existed in the community and the Bridge was especially designed to bring value to a community with so many needs.

The Library at the Bridge: Defining Features

The library is in an open expanse of the building and has segmented rows within a unique open area of varying levels. There is an ‘Inquiry Desk’ up front, a well integrated collection and many ramps and lifts to ensure access for all. The facility has a tree house effect with varying levels and a rich use of woodwork throughout. ‘The Den’ is a meeting area on the upper level that offers a tree house effect and functions as a small community room with computers.

The Bridge offers a joint use library to be shared in the community along with its services. It features a new service delivery model where the college and the library is joined to form where services are delivered and developed together. An offer of the Internet and technical support is a plus for all age groups in the general public and university community.

Benefits of the Library at the Bridge:

Of the many benefits offered to the Easterhouse patron community are:

• Enhanced library services
• Access to support by professional library staff
• Greater activity base and spacing
• Flexible hours of operation
• Enlarged and improved meeting spaces
• Greater study space
• Broadened services, resources and level of expertise
• More efficient and effective use of resources
• Increased performance, accountability and awareness
• More funding opportunities
• The offer of a fully integrated facility
• Integrated activities
• Enhanced staff satisfaction levels due to challenging work, career development and wider opportunity

Other Unique Features of the Library at the Bridge:

As the centre of the building, the library offers a wonderful zone for the community that is brightly lit and seems to bring the outside in with large windows encircling the facility. The layout is uniformly geometric with shelving in alignment that has the effect of drawing patrons directly into the stacks. Each area (Periodicals, Adults, Teens/Young Adult and Children) is separated by shelving that serves as walls or dividers, but certainly not barriers. Each section offers ample seating and tables for lounging and reading purposes. The fabulous design of the library, as a unified structure with a design that carries throughout the facility, is one that the community is proud of with generous accommodating facilities for dance, music, swimming and theatre as well. The sloping floor plane throughout the structure offers easy access for everyone and is truly an urbanized jewel for the Easterhouse community.

Library Activities:

With a mission to cater to the community’s need for a library space that enhances learning through the offer of information and recreation, the Library at the Bridge provides a target patron community with a large percentage of vulnerable individuals that have special needs or disabilities, a place that addresses these issues. Those individuals Steven discussed consisted of the following population groups: ethic minorities; sole parents; unemployed; mentally ill; disabled; young; old; unemployed; disabled; homeless; and those with chemical addictions. With such a broad number of special needs groups that the library serves on a daily basis, many partnership activities have be formulated to address their specific needs through various activities:

1. Healthy Reading Initiative (special collection of health-related books)
2. Health Promotion Initiatives with Greater Glasgow NHS (information service)
3. Easterhouse Writer’s Group
4. Big Plus and BBC RAW (Adult literacy and numeracy)
5. Get Glasgow Reading
6. ICT Taster Sessions (Introduction to computer classes)
7. Youth Progamme (variety of youth activities; ongoing during the tour!)
8. McMillan Cancer Information and Support Services
9. Careers Scotland (Workshops)
10. Riddie Disability Group (library community group of various partnerships)
11. Adult Literacy and Numeracy Support
12. Bounce ‘n’ Rhyme (Stories, Rhymes and Book sharing of parents and children)
13. Doors Open Day (Annual architectural event)

It is clear to see that the offer of such a wide range of opportunities promote lifelong learning for all age groups that, as our speaker/tour guide informed us, is advantageously all housed under one roof!

More Interesting Information to Add:

The facility in entirety offers over 4,140 square feet of space, yet that surprises me as I imagined the space to be larger due to the openness and high ceilings that encourage you to look upwards (such as you would when looking up to a tree house, which appeared to be a library design theme). I was also surprised to see that the library shelving, furniture and some of the library supplies are supplied by Demco, as this company must be an 'international' library supplier. Another interesting and astonishing thing to mention is that the cost of the facility is over a hefty eight million pounds! The library is open 64 hours per week, Monday through Sunday, with Wednesdays, Fridays and Sundays offering earlier closures at 5pm. The collection at present generously offers 33,820 items. Funding comes through the Scottish Arts Council, the Glasgow Community Planning, Strathclyde European Partnership, Glasgow City Council, the NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde and the John Wheatley College.

Unique Things I learned about the Bridge:

While the offer of a café in the library is not altogether surprising, the offer of alcohol in a facility that houses a library was most unusual to me. Yet, this concept of a library within a community centre is most unique and incorporates a mixture of different services and the offer of numerous art/entertainment venues in addressing community needs. There is also a recording studio and we were told that all auditoriums offered links to the café. The facility generates revenue to sustain the costs of upkeep and development. With that thought in mind, the library nicely receives ample funding from very unique revenue sources to maintain and further develop its collection and services!


Websites of Relevance and Interest:

Glasgow: The Bridge