Sunday, June 05, 2011

New Gungahlin Library and Learning Centre

Greetings from the new Gungahlin Library, which opened 21 May 2011. It is adjacent to the Gungahlin town centre, in the north of Canberra. Downstairs the library has a branch of the Canberra Institute of Technology (CIT). Next to the library is the Gungahlin College which also shares the library facilities. The library is a large open, modern, well equipped building, but not without problems.

The library is at an intersection next to the town centre. This should make it convenient to walk from the shops, across the road to the library. However, the library is set back 25 metres from the intersection and the library entrance is about another 25 metres along at the other end of the building. The open space next to the library probably looked like a pleasant open space in the artist's renderings, but in reality is a cold, windswept, desolate expanse of concrete, in a Canberra winter. This flaw in the design could be fixed in the future by extending the building up to the road with a door at that end. The space freed up at the other end of the building could then be used as a learning commons for the CIT and the College. The extended building would also shelter the small located park in front of the college.

Once I found the door, the library proved to be warm, bright and inviting. Unfortunately it is too bright, with unshaded glass on the northern side of the building, resulting in direct sunlight hitting the computer screens, which have been placed on this side of the building (they would have been better on the south side). Some shading devices need to be placed on the building.

Contrary to the modern trend in libraries, most of the floor space is taken up with library shelves. But this is somewhat deceptive, as the shelves are only half full. The librarians have placed numerous books flat on the shelves and multiple copies of popular novels to fill up some of the space. But even so, there are sections of shelving completely empty giving the library a slightly deserted feeling. This, combined with the problem of not being able to see clearly up the rows of shelves when looking north (due to the glare from the windows), did not make for the most pleasant browsing experience.

There are useful group rooms located in the library, as well as the training rooms downstairs for the CIT. There is also an excellent children's area with some built in games, such as hopscotch.

Computers for the patrons are on interesting hexagonal desks with alternating short and long sides. Unfortunately ugly, poorly designed metal arms have been used to mount the LCD computer screens on the desks. These are very difficult to adjust and incorporate badly located USB sockets. I had to unclasp the arm and wiggle the weight of the monitor and arm down to adjust the height. I found I could then not tilt the monitor into an upright position. Also tilting the monitor resulted in the power plug falling out. The Library should send these arms back to the suppler and reinstall the desk stands which came with the monitors.

The Library is advertised as having a Cafe and while there is an area with a kitchen, counter and cafe tables, there is no cafe operating.

Apart from a cafe, what I look for in a library is a magazine rack with comfortable chairs nearby. This library has an excellent rack, but the actual magazine selection proved disappointing and the seating, while comfortable, had the problem of glare from the excessive northern glazing.

Overall this is an excellent facility for the community to grow into, after the problems with the design are fixed.

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