top of page

School Library Design

© Nick Kane

A university library has won this year’s prestigious RIBA Stirling Prize and been named Britain's best new building. The New Library at Madeleine College, Cambridge by Niall McLaughlin Architects looks to be a stunning building which encapsulates and adds tangibly to the educational history and vision of the Oxbridge college which it serves. But what if you don’t have £17million to spend? In this post we examine three architectural tools and techniques that you can use to improve your own school or university library, using simply the space you already have and the furniture you decide to put in it.

© Nick Kane

1. Differentiated environments

A library offers students, staff and visitors a change of environment for learning and teaching. Something different from the everyday classroom. In fact, your library can offer many different types of space, each supporting a range of different ways of thinking, feeling and working. As at The New Library, your space can be arranged for group working and solitary working, for discussion and for quiet, for connection to and protection from the world outside.

© Nick Kane


Alongside books, the bricks and timbers used to construct The New Library are used to powerful effect. Their high quality sourcing and detailing befits an aspiration to build something that lasts 400 years. They send users a clear message that they are part of a deep-rooted learning culture that is embedded within them and the society in which they live. So, take a fresh look at what your library building offers you in terms of materiality, and think carefully about the new materials you add into it through fixtures and furnishing.

© Nick Kane

Connection with nature

The inherent appeal of natural light is used at The New Library to draw people into and through the different spaces. As shadows shift throughout the day and year these changing patterns help provide a natural rhythm and subtle constant variation which keeps regular visitors engaged and interested. Views of natural surroundings outside have been harnessed to help create a calm and reflective environment, with every different type of space have different views into trees, the river or up into the sky. How can you harness biophilia (human's love of life) to make your library somewhere that improves the wellbeing of its users?

At Co-DB we use the power of co-design to uncover and deliver cost-effective transformations of your learning and teaching spaces through bespoke joinery solutions. We love to talk about your ideas and how to turn them into reality, so if you are inspired then please get in touch today for a chat about your educational environment.


bottom of page