Tuesday, 3 July 2012

The Hive - Worcester Library and History Centre

Monday 2nd July 2012 saw the opening of this amazing new facility for the people of Worcestershire.  The Hive is Worcester's library and history centre.  It is the first in Europe to combine the public and university libraries.  It also contains the local council customer service centre, quiet study area, a cafe and the archive and archaeology service.

We have been looking forward to the Hive opening for a long time, so I was very excited to finally get to look around today.  I was very kindly granted permission to take photos, so I've uploaded quite a few! 
The first thing you will notice as you arrive at the Hive (conveniently located next to the bus station, a few minutes walk from the train station and right next to a large car park), is the unique gold-clad design.  Love it or hate it, it's certainly eye-catching.  And I happen to love it.  Landscaped gardens and lawns surround the building, with sloping paths leading around to the main entrance.  We did find this a little hard to find at first, but hopefully more sign-posts will be installed to help first-time visitors.  However, by walking the entire circumference of the building, we did get to admire it from every angle.  A co-ordinating gold-glad bridge has been installed between the Hive and the bus station and shops, making it easy to access from the city centre.
The bridge to the Hive
Large glass doors lead into a central area, which is full of light from the huge windows and skylights.  From this area, you can look all the way up to the skylight in one of the two towers.  This gives a wonderful feeling of space and light.  There were several members of staff ready to welcome visitors and help direct them to the part they were interested in visiting, or to answer any questions they might have.  The lady we spoke to was very helpful, and made us feel welcome straight away.

Main entrance
 On the ground floor to the left as you come through the door is the council hub, and to the right is the cafe. 
 Also on the ground floor is the bright and colourful children's section.  I felt sad that my children have outgrown this area, as it is a fantastic area.  Small seats are integrated with the bookshelves, making reading with your child and introducing them to the wonderful world of books a joyful experience.
Mini seats, and low bookcases in the childrens' area
Full height windows look out towards the railway aqueduct and River Severn and let in lots of light.  There is an area for messy play, a room for group activities, such as the weekly Bounce and Rhyme sessions and the fairytale-esque Story Island - an outdoor classroom reached by a bridge from the children's section, and built to look like it belongs in a castle.  I think learning there would be a magical experience.

Story Island

Before the Hive was built, the area was thoroughly excavated.  A case in the central area contains a selection of the artifacts found - including a plastic toothbrush!
Items found during the excavations
Part of the Roman remains found at the sight has been left for visitors to see.  This gives a great link between the ultra-modern new building, and all the years of history that have lead to this point. 
Roman remains
 There are lifts to all floors, but you get panoramic views of the building from the open-plan staircase.
Central staircase leads from ground floor to
The first floor contains the public records and archaeology sections.  This is an area I'll be investigating further on future visits.
The open plan, large windows and sky lights make the building full of light and space
The second floor is the main library floor.  This contains the public and university libraries.  There are comfortable seating areas to read, tables for quiet work and research and a large number of computers for public use.  In total the library contains around 250,000 books.  A book lovers paradise.  The lights on the top of each shelf really help you to read the book spines without being overly bright. 

I did think there could have been a few more stations to check out books, but in fact there are quite a few on the ground floor as well.  I didn't notice these until I was on my way out though.
The library contains approx. 250,000 books

There are 800 study stations in the Hive
The third floor is for research and quiet work, and access to this floor can only by made via one lift.  In fact it's so well hidden, that we forgot it was even there, so missed out on seeing that part.  But that will be my first port of call next time. 
Manga and graphic novels
The lowest floor is dedicated to teenagers.  It is a fantastic space where they won't have to worry about keeping quiet so they don't upset other library users.  Although it is situated below the main floors, the full height windows looking out onto he same view as the children's section means it is certainly not dark and dingy.  We were impressed by the manga and graphic novel section - somethings our children have a particular interest in.  There are tables for studying, comfortable chairs for reading or spending time with friends and even three games consoles with large screen TVs.  And what surprised me most - several vending machines. 

The Hive is a truly remarkable achievement.  It combines a state of the art building with beautifully thought out touches.  For example, the colour palette is taken from Royal Worcester porcelain.  Combining the university and public library will help to integrate the university students with the residents of Worcester.  It is an invaluable resource for everyone. 

It was wonderful to see so many different groups of people using the Hive.  Parents with small children, elderly couples, and everyone in between.  There is really something for everyone here. 

I'm proud that this amazing building belongs to me as a resident of Worcestershire.  If you get the opportunity, it's well worth a few hours of your time.  Me?  I think it'll become my home away from home.

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