Sheila Silver Library Refurbishment: choices and compromises – responding to your feedback

While we’re really excited about the newly refurbished first floor of the Sheila Silver Library, we know it’s not perfect.  We’ve received a lot of comments on the whiteboards we put out for your feedback asking us why we made the changes we did—many students really liked having the bookstock on the ground floor and the big open study space on the first floor!  So we thought we’d share some background about why we made the changes we did, and what you can look forward to in the future.

To summarise what’s happened: before this phase of the refurbishment, books 001-599 were temporarily located on the ground floor.  During 2015-16, the entire first floor book room was full of study tables and PCs. Now that we’ve refurbished, the first floor is similar to the second and third floors and the book room contains a mixture of bookshelves and group study furniture and PCs. Rooms 104 and 105 are also available for group study.

Why did you move the books back onto the first floor?

Rooms G28 and G29 (which temporarily contained bookstock) had to be turned back into teaching labs for 2016-17. These are some of the only labs on campus large enough to hold the larger student groups of 40 or more. So we had to move the books out of those rooms and replace them with as many PC desks as possible—these rooms are an essential part of University teaching space.

By the way, don’t forget that any time a lab isn’t timetabled for a class, you can walk in and use a PC!  That’s 44 PCs in G28 and 43 PCs in G29, plus a few extra desks in each room if you want to use a laptop.  This is in addition to the other teaching labs on the first, second, and third floors.

But you could have left the books in the area near the entrance and still had some extra study space on first.

Yes, but we are expecting the ground floor to be refurbished in the near future, and that would require the books to move.  Book moves are very costly (that’s your money we’re spending!) and, more importantly, they’re very disruptive for you—every time we move books from one floor to another, those books are unavailable to you for at least some of the time.

Both the temporary location of the books on the ground floor and their recent move to the first floor are part of a larger plan to keep the bookstock available to you (and reduce costs) as much as possible over the course of the larger project in which we refurbish the entire Library one floor at a time.

You could still fit more study tables on the ground floor near the entrance.

You’re right! This phase of the project didn’t include funds to purchase new furniture for the ground floor, so we’ve reused our old furniture that would connect to the floor sockets (so you have more convenient plug points on top of the tables).  We are currently working on getting some more tables to fill in the gaps in this area.

The books take up too much space.

We have to balance between providing study space and providing the resources you need for your coursework—we know both of these things are important to students from the feedback we receive. We do our best to keep the balance right:

  • we buy eBooks and ejournals whenever we can—no shelf space needed!
  • we assess the collection regularly and remove items that are out of date
  • we have a section of compact shelving on the third floor which takes up less space than ordinary bookshelves. However, compact shelving is very expensive and also too heavy to use safely across the entire floor of the Library.

Why do you let college students take up space in the Library?

We need an upgrade to the infrastructure of the entrance gate in order to be able to turn it on all day long without inconveniencing you even more with multiple gate breakdowns. We expect this situation to improve soon and to be able to implement better balanced visitor policies that will prioritise the needs of our students to use study space.  You can help with this by getting in the habit of carrying your Campus Card with you at all times!

Your feedback about needing more study space and more areas with large tables for groups to spread out and study together has been passed along to Leeds Beckett Estates, as they ultimately make the decisions about University facilities.  We will be working with Estates on the next phase of the refurbishment of this Library (fourth floor, Summer 2017) and the ground floor refurbishment.  We’ll do everything we can to increase study space and provide the kind of environment you need as we participate in these projects!


Remembering the Somme

You may have seen the exhibition of photographs and objects from our University’s Archive and Special Collections on display on the ground and first floors of Headingley Library commemorating the centenary of the First World War. These have been selected to call attention to the relationship of this very particular space and the historical events of 100 years ago and on the anniversary of the Battle of the Somme our Archivist, Keith Rowntree writes of two former students who lost their lives:

We were two years in the making and ten minutes in the destroying’.[1]

The Somme Offensive began on 1 July 1916 perhaps one of the bloodiest battles in history. Many perished within the first few agonising minutes shortly after emerging from the relative safety of their trenches. At 07.30, that morning, heavy machine gun fire met the Leeds Pals as they took part in the offensive moving towards the village of Serre.  As a result 15 Officers and 255 other ranks died, with many others wounded and maimed. Among those killed were Sergeant Robert Bland and Acting Sergeant Matthew Mossop. They had been students at the City of Leeds Training College around 1912-14 and keen sportsmen who played for the college rugby team. Both had enlisted in the 15th Battalion (1st Leeds), The Prince of Wales’s Own (West Yorkshire Regiment) in Leeds probably around late 1914, early 1915.

Robert Bland (15/1045) was born 1892, in Torpenhow near Aspatria, to Wilfred Bland, a Coal Miner, and his wife Annie Peat. In 1911, Robert and his family lived at Brayton Road in Aspatria. His older sister Mary Jane was also a teacher. Although his body was not recovered, Robert Bland is commemorated on the Thiepval Monument and on the City of Leeds Training College War Memorial.


Matthew Hudson Mossop (15/1027) was born 1890, in Seascale, to Isaac Mossop, a Joiner, and his wife Ann Hudson who died the year after her son was born. Matthew Mossop was a schoolteacher in Cleethorpes before he attended the City of Leeds Training College. At his death, he was an Acting Sergeant, and posthumously awarded the Military Medal. Mossop’s gravestone bears the legend, ‘One of the Original Leeds Pals’ at the Serre Road Cemetery No. 1, Pas de Calais.


Further information about the Archive and Special Collections can be found on the website, including articles and digital images.

[1] Private A.V. Pearson, talking about Leeds Pals at Serre in Martin Middlebrook, The First Day On the Somme, Penguin Books, 1984, p 270.