All the Same, But Different - Hive Visit

Emma Whitney, Harper Adams University
The Hive

Getting the chance to visit The Hive last November was brilliant; myself and my colleague from Harper Adams’ library were so curious, as we’d heard so much about this place. Did the combination of public and university library work? Were the facilities impressive? And would we gain tangible insights, which we could bring back to our own environment?

The answer to all these questions was a resounding yes. The Hive building itself is incredibly striking, and it was an exciting place to look around, so it must be very inspirational to work and study there.

The staff we spoke to really seemed to love being part of such an institution, and despite initial fears, everybody had risen to the challenge and embraced the changes which come with combining institutions. Getting to tour around the building with library assistants was great, because we could ask questions about specific areas or practices there and then. We were all very impressed with the walkie-talkie system that The Hive uses; library assistants ‘rove’ around, and can be called to areas where they need to be, allowing for flexibility, and making things easier for users.

I was most taken on the day with the children’s area of The Hive (not something you come across at your common or garden uni library!), the audio-visual/manga section (how teenagers are catered for is very interesting), and also the integration of public amenities. As a history and archaeology nut, I loved The Hive’s ‘Explore The Past’ section, which incorporates Worcestershire’s Archive and Archaeology Service. It’s interesting to muse on how having so much in one place is beneficial to students, but also to the public. A friend who is studying Primary Education at the University of Worcester has told me how much she appreciates being able to use the schools’ collection; I also wonder how many members of the public have been inspired to take up further or higher education, after simply popping in to pay their council tax or return a crime thriller.

After our tour (and lunch!) we had the opportunity to ask more questions of The Hive staff, and network with each other; always a plus point of these events. Teething problems were considered – joining two very different cultures together has obviously seen headaches along the way, but it was good to get feedback on how The Hive staff have dealt with certain issues, for example encouraging acceptable behaviour from teenagers (!) and allaying student fears over computer and book availability.

Overall, the visit was completely worth it; despite the cultural shift, Europe’s first combined public/university library does work, the facilities are fantastic, and we all, I think, left with a sense of what can be achieved when people come together with a can-do attitude. Whether such combined spaces are the future, who knows, but in an era of public-funding cuts it was great to see a library so well used – a hive of activity by name and by nature, which certainly left us with thoughts and inspiration buzzing round our heads!

Emma is a Library Assistant at The Bamford Library, Harper Adams University

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