Now you can get a massage, play FIFA and go Zen at the State and University Library

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The State and University Library, which is incidentally now called the Royal Library – Aarhus University, has opened its doors to an 800 m2 study environment with room for activities such as massage, table tennis and mindfulness.

2017.02.22 | Lotte Bilberg

Books also have value in the digital age, which is manifested by a “Wall of Material" containing a selection of books from the storerooms. The idea is for the wall of books to stretch from the basement to the second floor, though at the moment it can be found in the new large room in the basement and the large reading room on the ground floor. Photos: Lars Kruse.

Even though many different people visit the State and University Library, which today is called the Royal Library – Aarhus, the students at AU are the primary target group. Two of the students, Stine Lykke Holst and Karolina Thomsen, both fourth semester experience economy students, have already made themselves comfortable in the new facilities in the basement, which they describe as being "mega nice."

Via a workshop and other activities, the students have helped to define the layout of the new study environment, says deputy director Erik Hofmeister. "More of the same," "more leisure activities" and "more student places" were some of the suggestions from the students. There are not more student places, because according to Hofmeister it would be too difficult to provide the correct lighting conditions in the basement room.

Should a bookworm become peckish, he or she can warm up food in the kitchen in the basement, which also contains showers and several toilets (the latter a big wish from the students).

Things have also happened on the ground floor, including a new coffee room, where the coffee is actually three Danish kroner more expensive than in the cafeteria where Monica Ejsing, who is taking a Master’s in nursing science, usually comes. "But it's also much better," in her view.

Deputy Director Erik Hofmeister from The Royal Library – Aarhus has difficulty hiding his pride as he shows us around the 800 m2 newly renovated basement facilities at the State and University Library, now called the Royal Library – Aarhus following a merger with the Royal Library at the turn of the year. 

"The staircase is also new," says Hofmeister as he points at the staircase which we have just walked down to get to the basement. It is indeed new, but it only dawns on you now that there had not previously been a staircase near the reception desk. Neither does the staircase stick out from the rest of the interior, as it is built with the same curved rails and narrow tiles that characterise the area around the entrance and the large reading room. 

Journals out, students in

On the other hand, you cannot miss the thorough renovation that has taken place in the basement, which previously housed shelve after shelve of journals in addition to servers. The latter have been moved to the Book Tower, and the large number of journals are gathering dust elsewhere to make room for the library's version of a modern study environment, which has been created in close collaboration with the architect company Arkitema Architects. It is not difficult to understand the deputy director's pride in the finished result. No expensive has been spared on both the quality of the interior and the level of creativity when it comes to the students' opportunities for physical activity during breaks from their studies. 

Solid quality

Broad, oiled oak planks are laid in a herringbone pattern across the floor surface in the larger rooms, which are also furnished with large, round tables where several students can sit together with their own computer without constantly elbowing one another. There are also sofas with thick, round cushions in smooth leather. The ‘wall’ of the rondelle consists of heavy, worsted material in rose, beige and dark-blue, and the idea here is that students can either relax in a massage chair, meditate or play computer games. Behind an organically shaped glass wall there is also a table tennis table for students who relax best by being physically active.

Ensures ownership among the students

The decision to go in for solid quality in the choice of materials and workmanship is entirely deliberate, even though the rooms in the basement will be used by many thousand people.

"We realise that it won’t continue to look like this," says Hofmeister while running his hand over one of the loose, light leather cushions on one of the sofas. 

"But we have chosen to focus on quality, because we believe that it will help to give the students a feeling of ownership of things, so that they will therefore look after them and help to ensure a high level of order here," continues Hofmeister.

The basement renovation has cost approx. DKK six million.

"We will come to feel it a bit in our operating budget, but as this is a renovation of our buildings, we will be able to write some of it off over many years," says Hofmeister.

The article was published 2017.02.22.

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