The challenge was to create a separate, comfortable, study space for the exclusive use of University of Melbourne law students whenever theLaw Building is open.
In 2002, Melbourne Law School (MLS) moved to a modern corporate looking office building, glass and steel, black, gray and white on both the inside and the outside. The Law Library occupies two and a half floors of the building and is open to all who wish to use the facility. It is heavily used by non-law students, especially around exam time. Not surprisingly, the Law School student representatives approached the Law School administration with a request for a separate, quiet study area open longer than regular Law Library hours and for the exclusive use of MLS students. In February, 2010, the first stage of the project began. Half of the third floor of the law library, including three PC labs was made into an area accessible from the lobby by MLS students using their student cards activated as swipe cards. The creation of the separate study area meant that the Reference Collection had to be removed. High use items from the former Reference Collection were moved to the Reserve Collection, while other reference items were moved to a separate new shelving area on the fifth floor and the waist high, reference shelves were donated to a suburban school. Take note, the disappearance of the Reference Collection from a high traffic area was barely noticed by any library users. MLS students needed more study space. In place of the wooden reference shelves, we added additional chairs and tables from storage.
From the end of June to mid August, 2010, the separate study area was closed and all the furniture disappeared. A staff office and one small
PC Lab were removed to take advantage of the lovely leafy view across University Square Park. The two smaller, original PC labs were re-configured to create one teaching lab for 30 students. The large PC lab for sixty students remained “as is”. Both PC labs and the bathrooms were made accessible via a newly created corridor from the third floor lobby and the student printers and print stations were moved to the corridor. The architect, Steve McIldowie and designer, Simon Carver worked with the builders to transform the large drab shell into an attractive scholarly study space, offering a choice of different work spaces separated by attractive wooden partitions in white oak, and providing a variety of ergonomically correct seats – 137 in all. Students can sit in the comfortable seating area near the entrance, sit at large board room tables for ten, share smaller tables with one or two other students, sit at benches either facing the park or for more private, focused study, students can sit at study carrels that face a wall.
The new lighting is designed for a study area. Gone are the sterile, white walls. The newly painted walls are beige and an earthy shade of red. To add more color, randomly selected, gray carpet tiles have been replaced with deep red and gold carpet tiles. A final touch was the installation of artwork on loan from the University of Melbourne’s Potter Gallery. A small sign at the entrance, reminds the students that they are expected to leave the area to speak on their mobile/cell phones and to eat, however beverages are permitted. From the first day, MLS students have entered the area and settled into quiet study. The renovation has been a resounding success.
Carole Hinchcliff is the Law Librarian at Melbourne Law School, The University of Melbourne,