Page last updated at 10:56 GMT, Saturday, 7 March 2009

First look at new 'green' library

By Jo Manning
BBC News

Aerial shot of Cardiff's new central library
Aerial shot of Cardiff's new central library showing its Sedum grass roof

Funky furniture, listening hubs, a grass roof and an mini grand piano - no it's not the latest Big Brother house but Cardiff's spanking new library.

The six storey building is a world away from the dark, dank and dusty libraries of old and has already been rewarded for its green design credentials.

The idea, according to Cardiff council, is to make the library as attractive and welcoming as possible to visitors.

The library opens its doors to the public on Saturday 14 March.

Inside Cardiff library

Enough concrete to fill nine 25m swimming pools was used in the library structure

There are 3km of shelving for the books, CDs and DVDs

In total 1,191 different people were involved on-site during construction, a total of 324,797 man hours
It took 98 weeks to build, the council's fit out works then took 12 weeks
The roof is the same size as a five-a-side football pitch
The soil for the sedum grass roof was delivered in three tankers and pumped onto the roof
Source: Cardiff council

The library's 90,000 books have been housed in two soulless portable buildings since the autumn of 2006, since its previous home in Frederick Street was demolished to make way for the St Davids 2 shopping centre development.

Soon you'll be able to wander a state-of-the-art glass and concrete building stuffed full of sustainable features which maximises natural light and keeps the warm in.

Among its many interesting features are the aforementioned Sedum grass roof which insulates the building in winter and prevents heat gain in the summer.

It also assists in the removal of CO2 and other pollutants from the air in the city centre and is patrolled by two fearsome-looking hawks who stop birds from eating the grass seeds.

Also at the top of the unusual features list is a white concert grand piano on the third floor near the music library where pianists can plug in their headphones and tinkle the ivories to their heart's content for free with a host of music scores.

A local primary school pupil, council leader Rodney Berman and library manager Rob Boddy on the new library

But probably the main thing which will strike you when you first visit the library is the amount of space.

The building is large, open and criss-crossed with walkways. Even the book shelves are low so that users won't feel too hemmed in.

And dotted here and there are a variety of booths, comfy chairs with mini desks attached and seated areas where you can sit and relax with a cup of coffee. The new library will even be home to more than 90 public access PCs.

"We want people to feel like they can hang out here," said library manager Rob Boddy.

"We asked library users what they wanted and as a result we've moved away from desks and chairs.

The library's interior
The library's interior features walkways and is open plan

"Many people seemed to shy away from sitting next to each other at these desks so quite a lot of space was wasted. This is why we favoured chairs with desks attached and other individual study spaces."

Mr Boddy also said the team did a lot of research in libraries across the UK and Holland to help them get the layout right.

"We tried to pick up the bits and bobs that we liked from each library and brought them altogether along with our own ideas here," he said.

"I think the end result has the wow factor. It certainly doesn't look like any other library I've seen."

The new library also features a new computerised self-issue and return books system, so instead of returning your items to a stamp-armed librarian sat at a desk, you can do-it-yourself at one of several touch screen machines dotted around the library.

This frees up the librarians to interact with library users more, said Mr Boddy.

Councillor Nigel Howells, Cardiff's executive member for sport, leisure and culture, said he was "chuffed to bits" with the library.

"It has been several years in the making but what we have now is I think, unique in the UK," he said.

"It's not just a place to pick up and book and leave, it's somewhere we hope people will spend some quality time reading, studying and relaxing."

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