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Fingers crossed and all that, my service, Special Collections at the University of Bradford, should get our long-awaited new premises in 2016.  Hooray!  Our project is part of a wider programme which will transform the lower floors of our 1970s Library to meet the needs of modern students.

Before: rambling, dark mazes full of odd stairs, awkward corners and pipes where you really don’t want them.  Not to mention our horrible mustard-coloured scary carpet.

Journal stacks, floor 02

This area is the home of the Library’s remaining collection of print journals – part of the long and winding journey from the Library entrance to our home in the basement.  The space has been much improved in recent years but is still very dingy and unappealing.

Corridor, floor 02

Random corridor to nowhere. If readers walk past the reading room, this is what they see …

After: lighter, brighter, tech-friendly spaces which make the most of every square metre of our small building.  We will have PD 5454 quality storage to keep the collections safe plus public spaces which allow for teaching, outreach, exhibitions and the use of all kinds of collections.  Not to mention people-friendly spaces for staff and volunteers, with room to catalogue archives.

We’re now at the stage of “plans with walls” and costing the project.  Since the autumn I’ve been to many meetings with colleagues to try to get all the things we need into the footprint to be refurbished.  It’s tight, but we’ve done it.  It’s been exciting working with the team from Farrell and Clark, our architects, and the other experts, seeing how they bring their expertise to solve problems that have puzzled us for years.  They have tried really hard to understand how we work and what we need – couldn’t ask for more.

I’m learning so much: will try to blog as much as possible to help others on the same journey.  Even if the project doesn’t go ahead, the work we have done will give us a headstart next time.

It’s been easier for us than it would otherwise have been because we have been preparing for this for so long.  I have learned that no matter how far off improvements may seem, there is an awful lot services can do now that will really help when the time comes.  For instance …

Archives Accreditation.  We decided to apply for Archives Accreditation in the knowledge that our premises are poor BUT we do the best we can, understand and manage the risks involved, and otherwise run an excellent service.  We hoped we could use the outcomes of the application to help us make the case for improvements.  It worked.  We received the award (provisional of course!) and it has indeed raised our profile in the University and given us independent external support for our need for better space.  Do consider applying if you’re in this situation – it is really worthwhile.

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