Macquarie University’s goal is to join the ranks of the world’s top 200 research universities, and its new library plays a major role in that undertaking. “Our university's strategic plan has reaffirmed the library as the intellectual heart of the campus,” says Maxine Brodie, University Librarian. “We’re unique among large universities in Australia in only ever having had a single campus library because of our focus on the interdisciplinary nature of research and learning.”
Inspired by the eucalypt woodland of the campus, the 193,718-square-foot building rises from the ground in a number of stages. Using concrete and steel, the design embodies the key concepts of light, connection and a focus on people. The phased opening began in February and the library will eventually provide up to 3,000 seats, with the goal of providing a study space for one out of 10 of its equivalent full-time student load at any one time.
“Our university's strategic plan has reaffirmed the library as the intellectual heart of the campus.”
Facilities include training rooms, dedicated spaces for postgraduate studies and visiting scholars, 16 presentation practice spaces with screens/interactive whiteboards, 12 individual spaces for library staff to consult with clients, learning support areas with special equipment for students with special learning needs, and a large seminar room to support connections to campus and public programs, e.g., Library Friends. Spaces are as open as possible, with noise levels being managed by layout and acoustic controls rather than walls, and patrons are guided by extensive digital signage and an interactive kiosk network.
Macquarie also aims to have the first library in Australia to receive a 5 Star Green Star Certified Rating by achieving points across a range of criteria such as indoor environment quality, energy and emissions. The building incorporates many features common to sustainable projects, and a few special attributes:
- An automated storage and retrieval system (ASRS) allows reduction of the building footprint by 38 percent. This “dematerialization” of the building results in savings of embodied energy of 211.717 gigajoules and an annual savings in greenhouse gas emissions of 817 tons per year.
- A green roof will provide thermal control, and its plants will become the subject of university research into the species best suited for this use in the Sydney basin. Rainwater will provide irrigation and be recycled for use in toilet flushing.
- The building’s sustainability will be incorporated into the university curriculum and public programs, an important Green Star requirement.
With the implementation of the first ASRS in a library in Australia, more than 80 percent of the collection will be instantly accessible from a purpose-built temperature-controlled vault within the library. This has allowed the design of the other spaces in the new library to focus on the needs of people. “The disciplines we teach and research at Macquarie fall along a spectrum from almost exclusive use of online resources (laser photonics) to heavy reliance on print materials (Egyptology),” says Brodie. Open shelves will hold up to 500,000 items to facilitate browsing, and the ASRS will provide storage for another 1.8 million items. Brodie lauds this move, as she believes the strategic and service focus for librarians has moved to becoming facilitators of access to information rather than just custodians of physical items.
It has all the technology, and then some, expected of a new building, but in the end it’s really about the interactions the space fosters. “The new library is a symbol of the University's new strategy — to inspire research and to connect researchers, teachers and learners,” Brodie concludes.