Queen Mary opens new £16m library 

Queen Mary’s new Mile End Library Pic: Lucia Graves 

A new refurbished library with space for almost 20,000 people opened yesterday at Queen Mary, University of London.

Over £16m was invested into the renovations, which transformed the Mile End Library into a 5-storey state of the art building, over twice its original size.  

The transformation project was undertaken in consultation with students, academics and librarians about what they needed the new library to do. The Queen Mary Students’ Union team was also involved throughout. 

Professor Frances Bowen, Queen Mary’s Vice-Principal and Executive Dean, said in a statement: “This calm spacious building, flooded with light, is now a brilliant place to study. It has been embraced by the whole Queen Mary Community.” 

The unveiling of the refurbished Mile End library marks the beginning of a new project across Queen Mary Libraries to improve staffing and collections over the next 5 years.

James Murray, Associate Architect at Purcell Architects, who led the project, also said in the statement: “We wanted to refurbish and enhance the qualities of the existing St John Wilson building and reconfigure it to work better for students and staff.  

“We are really proud of the result – it looks beautiful, it’s preserved the adjacent public spaces, and it has super green features like a green roof, highly insulated external envelope, solar panels on the roof and an abundance of natural light.”  

The transformation has made the space more available by including adjustable standing desks, more individual study pods, larger tables, better heating, lighting and Wi-Fi, and an inspiring view over London.  

Mile End Library is sister building to British Library. Pic: Lucia Graves 

Kate Price, University Librarian, said in the same statement: “It goes without saying, there have been major changes in how researchers and students access information since 1988.  

“So much more is done online now. And teaching has changed too, with much more flipped-classroom and problem-based learning, which means the need for more group study areas and training rooms.” 

Built in 1988, Mile End Library was designed by architects Sir Colin St John Wilson and his partner MJ Long, who were also responsible for the British Library at St Pancras.  

The Mile End Library was extended in the early 2000s but by 2018, it was creaking at the seams with the huge increase in demand for its services. 

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