A new chapter for university library

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Students have been given an opportunity to see their design ideas potentially implemented in the refurbished library after the University’s competition Jolt The Library. Coinciding with the £15 million pound refurbishment of the library currently taking place, the competition will see the six best entries being presented before a judging panel with the opportunity to see the idea in the library, win a cash prize and be named Lancaster University Innovation Champion 2015.

However large or small their design ideas, students are being offered the chance to professionally present their ideas before a judging panel, yet to be announced, in the Great Hall in the Jolt Competition Final on Wednesday Week 9. The six selected entries will battle it out for the title of Lancaster University Innovation Champion 2015 as well as cash prizes, including £1000 for the overall competition winner.

The competition allows students the opportunity to let their creative juices flow but also allows for important student input to help improve the library facilities. Head of Digital Innovation Masud Khokhar told SCAN that whilst surveys and other methods of communication can be useful to gauge student opinions, Jolt offers a new opportunity for students. “Rather than looking at a very specific focus this just gave us an opportunity to expand it and ask students what they really feel like doing for the library if they had no constraints on them. We definitely feel that it is important for a dialogue with the students rather than just a monologue on the changes we want to make.”

The Jolt The Library is separate to, but will coincide with, the £15 million refurbishment of the library currently taking place. The refurbishment is projected to finish in early 2016. The refurbishment project which began work at the end of Summer Term 2013/14 will introduce new infrastructure, facilities, IT, workspaces and bookshelves to the East Building. The West Building, which was refurbished in 1997, will be upgraded to the same standard as the new East building.

Tim Leonard, Assistant Librarian, spoke to SCAN about his hopes for the competition’s impact on students and their University. “The Jolt project is not one directly part of the refurbishment. The main idea is that the competition allows students to put forward their ideas to improve the library to custom it to what they feel is necessary. We are, perhaps bravely, putting this process in the hands of the students and some judges, you are yet to be decided. Whatever the winning idea, whether it is a large technical change or something very cheap to implement, we will install it.

“But we also hope it can be an opportunity beneficial to the students involved. We will be taking it very seriously, picking the best six ideas and they will be given the opportunity to make a professional presentation for their product, probably in the great hall, in front of the judges. We have put forward some good prizes, the first being £1000, the runner up winning £500. We want it to be obvious that we really value students input as it is them that are using the facilities.”

Significant areas of study space in the library are closed for the near future as part of the refurbishments. These are set to be improved over the next year. In terms of workspaces, there will be an increase in quiet individual study spaces in a variety of formal and informal settings, while group study will be made easier through bookable enclosed and semi enclosed spaces.

However due to the lack of study space available in the Library there is a new Study Zone opened opposite the Faraday Building providing 200 individual study desks arranged in a variety of study rooms. The Study Zone is also about to get a new lease of life breathed into it with some new designs being installed on the walls. The competition to create original designs for the interior walls of the study space last term found two winners, Rosie Jackson and Kate Ealy. Their designs will be introduced to the new study zone to make it a more pleasant study space as an alternative to the library during the refurbishment process.

Leonard sees the role of students as vital to constantly invigorating and improving campus, and it is hoped the Jolt campaign can continue and thrive across other areas of the University. “The Jolt idea will hopefully not be one-off and will in fact be a good opportunity, across the services, for students to put forward good ideas. We think it could potentially be a series of competitions or events, so we could gain significant student input in the changes that are being made on campus.”

The closing date for the competition is Friday Week 3.

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