Reflections on the Main Library Redevelopment Project


Sheila Cannell retires as Director of Library services and Deputy Head of Information Services this summer. Sheila has been involved in Libraries for thirty-six years during a time of rapid and exciting change. The advent of the digital age has already radically impacted on the way libraries operate and are managed and she has been at the forefront of these innovations. She has organised, overseen and guided the extensive and challenging Development of the Main Library over recent years. An iconic Basil Spence building, the Library has morphed into a modern, exhilarating, fit-for-purpose space loved and used by many with a new delight. A typical comment from a student writing about the feeling of proud student ownership when the building opened again was: “It’s beautiful and it’s ours!”

Lady Caplan, President of FOEUL

The redevelopment of the Main Library has been a constant backdrop to my time as Director of Library Services at the University of Edinburgh. Planning commenced with feasibility studies in 2003, and, as I write in late Spring 2012, the project is almost complete, with only the work on the Lower Ground Floor to be completed. The project vision, which was developed in consultation with staff and students, declared that the Main Library would be transformed for the twenty-first century, and be:

  • An intellectual hub for the University
  • The focus of a wide range of activities in learning and research
  • More open and accessible
  • Flexible to accommodate changes in the future.

The redevelopment has certainly been successful, and the Library is busier than ever, with the greatest compliments coming from those who say that the Main Library both reflects its past and works for the present and future.

Sheila Cannell, outgoing Director of Library services and Deputy Head of Information Services and FOEUL Honorary Secretary.

Excerpts are taken from The Piper, Summer 2012, the Newsletter of the Friends of the Edinburgh University Library. To become a member of the Friends and receive your copy of The Piper, please view our Membership Page.

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