WHSL Reception Interior

Libraries around the world are changing due to the advent of e-resources. The need for physical books as a primary resource for libraries is diminishing and the library, as we know it, is re-inventing itself into a dynamic media-centric technology hub.

At the University of the Witwatersrand the Wits Health Science Library is at the forefront of this re-invention. Their shrinking requirement for book storage spaces within the library has meant that leftover spaces have started to be filled with new functions like e-learning classrooms and group work spaces.

“In 2013 the head librarian had identified that the reception foyer in the library was in need of a re-invention to keep in line with this evolution” says Mike Rassmann. Shortly after AOJ was appointed by the university to redesign this space and ensure the execution of the work was of the highest standards.

The design commenced with the identification of the spaces required within the new foyer and the mapping of movement through the foyer into the other library spaces beyond it. These spaces include; two break-away lounge spaces and a re-imagined reception counter designed to be more focussed on how to access and use the library e-resources than the issuing and returning of physical books. In addition to being lounge spaces the two breakaway spaces were to be designed to accommodate an existing collection of books and artworks (paintings and sculptures) donated to the library.

Once the mapping of movement through the foyer was completed an aesthetic for the space was needed. Many options were considered and the one that was finally selected was a mixture of a walnut timber, reminiscent of grandiose timber panelled libraries of bygone eras, and lines of bright yellow and brilliant white which hint towards a library of the future.

The final space was completed at the beginning of October 2015 and has already been well received by library users. On a daily basis students can be seen with laptops and tablets sitting in comfort on the leather upholstered built in seating, within the breakaway spaces, conducting group work or individual study.

University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg