Library expansion

British Library bosses have announced that they are redeveloping the Boston Spa site to create much-needed storage for the UK national collection.

Thursday, 22nd April 2021, 10:13 am

Following government investment announced in the March 2020 Budget, plans involve the construction of a new state-of-the-art storage facility and removal of old buildings.

A spokesman said: “Other buildings will be refurbished to improve working environments for the Library’s 550 staff in Yorkshire, and to use the available space more efficiently.

“These new facilities will offer exciting possibilities for opening up our site and sharing the work of the Library with audiences, including school visits, tours, public displays and a new Reading Room, as well as a restaurant and café for visitors.

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“It will also underpin and make possible our ambition to open a major new public-facing site in the centre of Leeds, where we are working with Leeds City Council and property developers Commercial Estates Group to explore options for bringing the iconic Temple Works building into public use, and creating a new British Library of the North.

“This new city centre presence in the heart of the South Bank regeneration area of Leeds would be powered by the collections and staff resource at Boston Spa, with the goal of delivering a greatly enhanced national offer for culture, education, tourism, digital innovation and economic growth.”

The Library and architects Carmody Groarke are soon to submit a planning application to the City Council for the redevelopment of the Boston Spa site which is planned to open by 2026. More on page 4.

The redevelopment is driven by the urgent need for more space for the British Library’s growing print collection.

The 44-acre campus at Boston Spa, formerly a Second World War munitions factory, is home to more than three quarters of the Library’s collection of over 170 million items.

A major new storage repository will provide 220 linear km of additional capacity, ensuring there is sufficient storage for the growth of the national collection into the second half of this century.

A spectacular public viewing gallery will mean that school parties and other visitors will have an opportunity to see the vast scale and robotic technology of the Library’s ‘backstage’ operation in action.

Andy Groarke, Director of Carmody Groarke, said: “The British Library’s masterplan at Boston Spa will increase the capacity and quality of storage for the national collection, create a better place for people to work and vastly improve the long-term environmental sustainability of the campus.

“We were inspired by the complex post-industrial history of the site as well as how the library have evolved their archive buildings at Boston Spa over the past five decades, to design the next generation of buildings.

“A new fully-automated, net-zero-carbon archive will accommodate more than 225 kilometres of collection expansion, whilst an extensive renovation of the Urquhart Building will upgrade the 1970s brutalist concrete architecture to contemporary environmental standards for 550 library staff.

“We are delighted that the project will enable the British Library to give the campus a more public-facing presence and to provide long-term care for the national collection in a far more sustainable way.”