Barnsley’s new Lightbox will banish the fusty image of traditional libraries to history

Barnsley’s 21st Century Library at the Lightbox opens on Saturday with electronic technology playing a pivotal role alongside traditional books to make the complex a ground-breaking community facility.

Wednesday, 10th July 2019, 20:09 pm
Updated Thursday, 11th July 2019, 13:18 pm
Home comforts: Lightbox project manager Paul Bennett on the ground floor of Barnsley's new library

The four storey building takes over from the old Central Library and while it will still provide the town’s main centre for both adult and children’s book lending, the innovative use of technology means it will offer many more services than conventional libraries, with the bonus of more flexible opening arrangements to squeeze the most out of the site.

It occupies a site oppose the emerging Glass Works retail complex and takes its name from its glass-heavy exterior design, which allows so much natural light to penetrate the building that an automatic system regulates the interior lighting to save energy when it is not required.

Sweet music: Volunteer Jonny Butler and staff member David Pendlebury test the music-making equipment at the Lightbox

Books, computer terminals and work areas are spread over three floors, with the top storey – which also features a balcony area – has a sprung dance floor, an area for music-makers and a clever screen arrangement which can effective box off part of the area, to allow those inside to be surrounded by projected images.

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Computer users will have the choice of desk-top terminals or tablets in future and those wanting to use their own laptops will be able to take advantage of wi-fi on site, with charging ports attached to armchairs.

In an age of computer games, the library also gives a nod to a different era, with a laboratory and workshop, to allow visitors to experiment and make items from materials including wood and paper, with staff on hand to assist.

Book borrowing will be automated, meaning staff will no longer need to be involved in that process and even when the library is ‘closed’ it will remain accessible early morning and later into the evenings for customers who gain special access on their library card.

That will be especially useful for groups wanting to use the public meeting rooms which have been made a feature of the new building, with the public areas surveyed by CCTV to ensure security and safety for those using the building when it is not staffed.

Similar arrangements elsewhere in the country have worked without problem.

Other innovations include the provision of a ‘quiet room’ for those with conditions such as autism, who need time away from the bustle of the town centre.

It is envisaged some council and other public body services will also be run from the building, which has a central location near the transport interchange, with direct access to the Falco Lounge next door replacing the need for an independent cafeteria.

One of the first sights to greet visitors will be the Kes statue produced by Graham Ibbeson, which is now mounted on a plinth at ground floor level and is destined to stay in the building for the next five years, according to Barnsley Council. The ‘crowdfunding’ group which raised money for the artwork have disputed that it will be in the library for so long, however, but have offered no further information.