Refurbishment 1994-5 and beyond
By the mid-1990s, the library needed not just redecoration but a fundamental rethink of the way it presented its services. The surface of the oak floor was starting to break away in splinters, and the woodwork loomed gloomily over a rather stark and old-fashioned interior. It was clear that the Library could no longer present an up-to-date attractive service in its present form, particularly to families and children, and the decision was made to undertake a comprehensive refurbishment of the building.
Local and senior librarians had put much thought into the redesign of the Library, and the City's Planning and Architecture Department, and its Conservation Unit in particular, together with the Planning Committee Chairman, Councillor Stuart Stacey, also played a strong part in influencing the refurbishment, which was undertaken by Fellows and Jones of Darlaston. As a result, the Library Service was able to reopen a much improved building on 9 May 1995. The Library is now comfortable, open, welcoming and bright, with a particularly colourful and attractive children's area. Removal of some surplus shelving brought about a huge improvement in visibility, and made apparent the grandeur of the interior.
The floor has been carpeted to protect it, increase comfort, and reduce noise levels. Most of the oak furniture has been retained in a new study area, designed to look, with its rows of long oak tables and oak chairs, like a traditional library space. Similarly, the shelves for adult lending present an attractive radial design, with a long run of shelving on the walls. An extended counter in oak, skilfully designed in the style of the original, is the centrepiece. Only in the Children's Library was the oak shelving removed altogether, but oak panelling and glazed screens were retained.
In the Community Room, very careful attention was paid to the design of a new kitchen, storeroom, and toilets. The high dado, doors, and skirting are copies of original designs to be found in the building, and the new radiators installed have original terrazzo surrounds. New chairs and some new tables were bought. One toilet is designed for people with disabilities, and the other is modelled as a parent and baby room.
All the oak panelling and glazed screens throughout the building have been stained and varnished, there is new lighting throughout the public areas, and new furniture and features have been provided in the adult and children's areas. The building has been thought out anew as a set of distinct spaces, with their own functions. The study area in particular can be emptied of furniture, and the railway models there moved aside to allow concerts and other library events to be staged there out of hours. The refurbishment succeeded in retaining the best of the original features, and has given the local community an attractive, user-friendly library flexible enough to accommodate new developments such as Information and Communications Technology. The library hosted a Neighbourhood Office from 2010 to 2013 and educational and cultural events and meetings take place in the community room. New skylights, in keeping with the design of the originals, with remote opening and closing, better able to retain heat and prevent excessively high temperatures, were installed during more work during 2013 and 2014. It is truly a comprehensive resource. For more information on the library's services, click here.