Front Quad of Lincoln College, the walls covered in bright green ivy


The main Library reopens!

17 Apr 2024

After much work and some unexpected delays, we are absolutely delighted that our main Library has reopened its doors for the first time since the Accessibility Project started in August 2023. The renovations fulfil our long-term goal to make our Library a more welcoming and accessible place for those with disabilities and for neurdivergent people. The College is particularly grateful to the Trustees of Lord Crewe’s Charity for their generosity in supporting this project, and to all who helped with this multifaceted project. Special thanks go to our hardworking librarians, Lucy Matheson and Marina Sotiriou, for their hard work including packing and moving 575 boxes of books at the beginning and end of the Project!

Improvements include, among other things:

  • a new half-height lift. Although the new lift is not yet operational, we expect it will be during the course of Trinity Term, necessitating no more than one day’s closure of the main library during Trinity Term;
  • an accessible WC in the Lower Library;
  • relocating assistive equipment and the pneumatic door opener to make them more reachable for wheelchair users;
  • providing more suitable and better sited handrails on the stairs to improve accessibility for people with mobility and visual impairments;
  • improving the lighting for visually impaired and neurodivergent people by changing fluorescent lights to high-quality LED lighting with even illuminance, avoiding flicker and glare, and providing dimmable, warmth-adjustable lamps;
  • adding UV film to the secondary glazing to reduce glare for readers at the main table (and reduce sun damage to the books); and
    providing height-adjustable desks designed to complement the existing furniture, which will benefit many people, not only wheelchair users.

Background to the Accessibility Project

The ground plan of All Saints’ Church in 1971 did not provide sufficient space to house all the College’s books. The ingenious solution was to dig down and raise the floor level by 4.5 feet to provide two floors connected by staircases. While this problem was solved, however, another was created: the Library’s staircases, whilst elegant, are a barrier for those with mobility impairments to accessing our books and all but one of our desks.

The Library Accessibility Project, started in August 2023, removes this barrier by providing a platform lift. The aesthetics of the building meant that a fully-enclosed, full-height lift would not get the necessary consent of the Diocesan Advisory Committee (the Church of England still own the building), but a platform lift, being half-height, will not intrude upon the view down Upper Library from the entrance level, as it is shielded from view by the balustrade. Because our new lift will not be able to reach the level of the current WCs, an accessible WC has been built in the Lower Library. Fire regulations require a fireproof lobby where a wheelchair user may wait for assistance in case of fire. This has been built around the lift and accessible WC, making the latter more discreet, but also providing acoustic buffering between all the WCs and the reading room – a much-needed improvement!

What about the books?

The closure of the Library provided a fantastic opportunity to address another issue created over the years, as Library staff moved individual subjects downstairs to provide room for growth. This led to an illogical ordering, which made the collection hard to navigate unaided. The most challenging part of the whole project for Library staff has been to re-order around 36,000 volumes back into numerical order, so that readers will be able to find their own way around more easily.

Where next?