Shelf-Life: Re-imagining the future of Carnegie Public Libraries

Lead Research Organisation: Cardiff University
Department Name: Welsh School of Architecture (ARCHI)

Abstract

As happens, eventually, to the books on the shelves they contain, libraries that have not been subject to restoration inevitably have a limited 'shelf-life.' Complaints of cold, leaking, dark or mouldy spaces do not precipitate creative responses and replacement buildings are called for as people perceive themselves to have become victims of their environments. Arguably, the very act of provision of a service such as a library takes away responsibility and sets up an awkward form of ownership.

As the economic balance shifted from coal rich to carbon conscious in the twentieth century, light went from expensive to cheap and heat from cheap to expensive. This shift has precipitated the condemnation of many hundreds of public buildings which were engineered specifically to meet the lean targets of their day with bright single glazed rooflights to maximise daylight compensated by huge fossil fuel fired boilers. Very often the functioning aspects of decorative schemes, the way in which they covered structural joints or incorporated heating or ventilation equipment are deemed redundant because of ignorance of how these mechanisms were designed to work. Given that such features were standard elements of so many buildings, there is potential to make significant gains from identifying such patterns and enabling future projects to contribute to the enrichment of knowledge bases of building components.

Since the 1840s, specifications determined a sequence leading from Structure to Finishes. It is proposed that this archaic workflow may be used to advantage in augmenting the information relayed by surface scanning techniques. The increasingly mechanised era of building from 1880 onwards is however, significantly better documented in technical terms than previous periods through records of product literature, standardised procedures and material classifications. The practice of building specification that grew from a consolidation of professional expertise on similar lines in the UK and the US could provide the basis for increasingly accurate interpretation of surface measurements of buildings provided by 3D laser scan techniques. Technical indices, professional literature and Carnegie UK and US archives provide significant and rich resources which are unparalleled for other buildings in their breadth and scope and so offer a particular opportunity to develop these tools.

Shelf-Life asks if the uniquely controlled procurement of over 2600 public buildings across Britain and America around 100 years ago by the Carnegie Library Programme could benefit from some systematic thinking for their re-vitalisation at a time of crisis. Using and developing new techniques of Historic Building Information Modelling (HBIM), the proposal aims to develop a parametric library of building components for Carnegie Libraries of the UK. A digital resource of common elements would enable better-informed, more sensitive and economic proposals for the rehabilitation and re-use of these buildings and set an example for others.

HBIM is limited by the availability of adequate object libraries because historic buildings do not generally have standard construction methods or components and 3D scans, although geometrically accurate, can capture surface information only. 3D scans cannot determine the actual materials or structural elements of existing buildings that lie behind the surface. The number of Carnegie Libraries designed under a very controlled regime provides a unique resource. The deeper cataloguing of available information and technical guidance that is proposed here aims to make a step forward in enabling HBIM to facilitate informed conservation and design within these existing buildings.

Carnegie funding was critical to the public library movement in the UK and many of their features are common to other libraries of the time also. The research will focus upon British libraries but will make reference to the 2000+ US Carnegie libraries.

Planned Impact

Shelf-Life seeks to address a problem of redundancy that threatens to waste high quality public buildings that are a century old. In its broadest terms, the publication and dissemination of the Shelf-Life project will seek to promote reflective British and American understandings of the on-going use of public space which learn from comparisons of their experience of Carnegie Library Buildings.

The overall goal will be to initiate an economic and informed conservation model for public libraries on an unprecedented scale. By doing so it will demonstrate the potential to stimulate well-informed, sensitive, inventive and original approaches to the salvage, re-use and re-invigoration of shared inherited 'gifts'. The international aspect promotes dialogue amongst communities providing opportunities for reflection on wellbeing, education and public provision for future generations as well as informing technical and economic decisions.

In pragmatic terms it aims to challenge the state of the art, incorporating digital procurement methods that are commonly held at arm's length by conservationists. Should the development of digital Historic Building Information Modelling (HBIM) resources making use of the practices of standardisation employed in the Carnegie programme be successful, the work could provide a model for other building typologies. In the short term it would deliver an accessible resource as a means to reflect cultural interpretation within communities. The longer term aim being to deliver a detailed professional resource assisting statutory bodies and professionals alike.

This project aims to apply the potential efficiencies of HBIM to a more accurate calibration of a specific building type that was designed with standardisation as a key aim. The National Building Specification in the UK (NBS) in association with key CAD developers has already established workflows to incorporate contemporary products and to build shareable BIM libraries. The commercial incentive to do so is self-evident, to do it for traditional buildings requires deeper commitment. Here a significant step to demonstrate the viability of applying HBIM principles to a well-defined group of buildings will be set out with the potential to become an accessible part of those shared resources.

The contribution of increasingly usable scanning techniques whether by 3D laser scan or structure-from-motion methods is limited to providing data which records the surface finish and dimensional characteristics of a space or a building exterior. This is very useful for recording cultural heritage but has limited use for those engaged in considering repair or alteration strategies for existing buildings whereby it is essential to understand the construction methods, structural arrangements but also the ways in which the buildings where designed to perform in terms of ventilation, lighting and heating. The rich seam of data generated through the systematic design review of Carnegie Libraries held in Carnegie archives as well as detailed architectural review at the time offers a unique opportunity to significantly assist in the documentation, comprehension and conservation of these buildings which are almost universally at risk of abandonment or ill-informed adaptation.

Shelf-Life will operate and progress through collaboration and engagement with all stakeholders that are concerned with public libraries. Whilst it focuses on Carnegie Libraries for pragmatic reasons, it clearly offers the potential to establish dialogues with those concerned with other libraries and other types of related public buildings. This will be achieved through the presentation of outputs in technically and strategically high level fora internationally but also at a local level with consultant stakeholders and through web fora, contributing to the development of higher quality resources for people on the point of losing their libraries.
 
Description The survey of Carnegie Libraries has been completed enabling the quantification of multiple areas of data including library survival rates, building condition and regional variance in materials, scale and operational status.

424 building have been photographed, 22 have been laser scanned. All references in the contemporary architectural press have been followed up.

The repeated incidences of standardised architectural features have been recorded and located on a GIS map using novel machine learning techniques. HBIM models of key features have been created.
Exploitation Route The work will be accessible through a project website. The HBIM models are being uploaded to the National BIM library facilitating the future conservation of these buildings.
Sectors Communities and Social Services/Policy,Construction,Digital/Communication/Information Technologies (including Software)

URL https://zenodo.org/record/3611513
 
Description Erasmus +
Amount £1,200 (GBP)
Organisation erasmus + 
Sector Public
Country United Kingdom
Start 01/2018 
End 01/2018
 
Description Internship for Giovanni Bruschi, student from the Politecnico di Torino, Dipartimento di Architettura e Design
Amount € 0 (EUR)
Organisation Polytechnic University of Turin 
Sector Academic/University
Country Italy
Start 09/2018 
End 12/2018
 
Description PhD studentship to Camilla Pezzica
Amount € 45,000 (EUR)
Funding ID GRADUATORIA DEI VINCITORI E DEGLI IDONEI CORSO DI DOTTORATO IN ENERGIA, DEI SISTEMI DEL TERRITORIO E DELLE COSTRUZIONI 
Organisation University of Pisa 
Sector Academic/University
Country Italy
Start 09/2017 
End 11/2020
 
Title 1) laser scanner survey, 2) external photogrammetry, 3) internal 360 images recording of 22 libraries 
Description Complete 3d Laser scans of the public interiors and exteriors of: Burnley (England) Cathays (Wales) Darwen (England) Fratton (England) Gainsborough (England) Hamilton (Scotland) Hendon (Sunderland- England) Kayll road (Sunderland- England) Keighley (England) Kettering (England) Laughborough (England) Lister Steps (England) Middlesborough (England) Possilpark (Scotland) Radford Lenton (England) Rawtenstall (England) Rutherglen (Scotland) Toxteth (England) Treharris (Wales) Wallasey (England) West Calder (Scotland) Wolverhampton (England) 
Type Of Material Database/Collection of data 
Year Produced 2018 
Provided To Others? No  
Impact These will feed into the website as means to create HBIM objects but also prototypical library models 
 
Title CFD models of Carnegie Libraries 
Description Computational Fluid Dynamics (CFD) models by Ahmed Taher of typical Carnegie libraries to test and demonstrate original environmental performance. Case study has been published 
Type Of Material Computer model/algorithm 
Year Produced 2020 
Provided To Others? Yes  
Impact Too soon 
 
Title GIS map of UK Carnegie Libraries created 
Description This is a GIS map with layers of information that will become part of the website 
Type Of Material Database/Collection of data 
Year Produced 2018 
Provided To Others? No  
Impact It will become an interactive tool 
 
Title HBIM components for Carnegie Libraries of Britain 
Description Series of standardised components modelled in 3d and prepared for sharing in National BIM Library together with historic technical information 
Type Of Material Database/Collection of data 
Year Produced 2019 
Provided To Others? No  
Impact This is ongoing and will only be reportable once published 
 
Title Image dataset of architectural drawings from early 20th century journals and historic pictures (ongoing) 
Description to use to disclose patterns in the libraries' underlying design principles. 
Type Of Material Database/Collection of data 
Year Produced 2019 
Provided To Others? No  
Impact Ongoing collation of archival data will contribute to all outputs of the project 
 
Title Image dataset of original architectural components from trade literature of the period (ongoing) 
Description These will be used to for enriching HBIM families of objects. 
Type Of Material Database/Collection of data 
Year Produced 2019 
Provided To Others? No  
Impact These will support the creation of HBIM objects as a prototype for conservation practice 
 
Title Library data 
Description Dataset of public library buildings in the UK funded by Andrew Carnegie 
Type Of Material Database/Collection of data 
Year Produced 2020 
Provided To Others? Yes  
Impact n/a 
 
Title Photographic record of all Carnegie Library Buildings in the UK 
Description All 387 existing buildings have been photographed, the 217 of which are still operating as public libraries have also been photographed internally Following engagement with Historic Environment Scotland a further 37 buildings have been added 
Type Of Material Database/Collection of data 
Year Produced 2020 
Provided To Others? No  
Impact This will be added to the GIS map and put on the website it will also form the substantive content of a book 
 
Title Visits by Alistair Black to 5 US Libraries 
Description Visits in May 2018 to: Park Ridge (extant but now houses a beauty salon and an insurance broker) Evanston (demolished) Paxton (extant and still a library) Decatur (demolished) Danville (extant but now a military museum) 
Type Of Material Database/Collection of data 
Year Produced 2018 
Provided To Others? No  
Impact This will contribute to journal publications and discussion relating to US libraries 
 
Title Classification workflow 
Description A new method of image classification using a feature pyramid network has been developed. This will be published as open source code on our website but that is not yet ready. 
Type Of Technology Software 
Year Produced 2019 
Impact The proposed method not only potentially assists the path towards further advances in the field in time, but if suitably adapted, could also offer useful support for use in contemporary practice. Also, because of its emphasis on building components and the robust architecture of the classifier, the proposed method can accept, as input data, photos collected for photogrammetry, which typically capture buildings in fragments and thus may include incomplete representations of components. 
 
Description Carnegie UK Trust 
Form Of Engagement Activity A formal working group, expert panel or dialogue
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Supporters
Results and Impact Discussion with current Senior Policy and Development Officer of Carnegie UK Trust, Jenny Peachy - suggested contact with Julia Chandler who is recording the Carnegie Legacy in England
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
 
Description Cathays Library Cardiff 
Form Of Engagement Activity A formal working group, expert panel or dialogue
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Local
Primary Audience Other audiences
Results and Impact Dialogue with librarians at Cathays Library resulted in pledge to engage with the future of the project and offer of various archival material to assist in construction of the digital model. Promise to offer digital model to Library as a learning resource.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
 
Description Consulted by Editor of the Association For Preservation Technology Bulletin about a Carnegie Library in New York state 
Form Of Engagement Activity A formal working group, expert panel or dialogue
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact I was asked to source original drawings for the Carnegie Library at Amsterdam, New York by Diana Waite, editor of the APT Bulletin on behalf of an architectural practice following a fire.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
 
Description Dialogue with Historic Environment Scotland Designations team 
Form Of Engagement Activity A formal working group, expert panel or dialogue
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Policymakers/politicians
Results and Impact Skype call and email dialogue over potential participation in new push for library designations by Historic Environment Scotland. Exchanged lists of Carnegie Libraries in Scotland. Discussion with Dawn McDowell, Deputy Head of Designations; Rosanne Watts, Senior Designations Officer and Ranald MacInnes, Head of Place and Publishing. Reviewed potential for future collaboration on designations for Scotland.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
 
Description Discussion with head of SAVE 
Form Of Engagement Activity A formal working group, expert panel or dialogue
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Media (as a channel to the public)
Results and Impact Meeting with Henrietta Billings, Chair of UK NGO, SAVE Britain's Heritage to explain the activity of the project. Discussed the potential for a Carnegie Library conservation roadshow. SAVE are a media facing heritage campaign group and could make a significant contribution to the future development of the research.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
 
Description Discussion with manager of Braddock Carnegie Library, PA, USA 
Form Of Engagement Activity A formal working group, expert panel or dialogue
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Supporters
Results and Impact A Skype interview and discussion with Vicki Vargo, a project supporter and manager of the first Carnegie Library in the USA at Braddock. Braddock is a town which has struggled with significant post industrial decline and was also the site of the steel mill which made Carnegie's fortune. The library is a national landmark but struggles to raise funds for its maintenance and upkeep - by reviewing innovative practices in the UK where community asset transfer arrangements are becoming very common it was possible to exchange ideas on the subject and to anticipate future transatlantic discourse.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019
 
Description Hosting a stand at Lister Steps Community Business Open Day 18.5.19 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Local
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Hosted a stand at the Community Business Fair at Lister Steps, talking to members of the public, local media, local businesses, students, local councillors, third sector volunteers and community including former library caretakers
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019
URL https://listersteps-theoldlibrary.weebly.com/events--activities/previous/2
 
Description Meeting with HLF Community Engagement Manager at Lister Steps and community building recording workshop with the Archaeology team from the Museum of Liverpool. 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Local
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Following a meeting at Lister Steps library in Liverpool between Oriel Prizeman and the HLF Community Engagement manager there, Research Assistant, Camilla Pezzica and project intern, Giovanni Bruschi from Politecnico di Torino, carried out a public demonstration of laser scanning at a community building recording event at the library's Heritage Open Day The event was a success and Lister Steps are keen to participate in future discussions and suggested demonstration workshops with other libraries.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
URL https://listersteps-theoldlibrary.weebly.com/events--activities/archives/08-2018
 
Description Meeting with Historic England regarding drafting guidance for the conservation of Public Libraries in the UK 
Form Of Engagement Activity A formal working group, expert panel or dialogue
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Policymakers/politicians
Results and Impact Meeting with Susie Barson, Assessment Team Manager, Historic England 11th January 2019 at the RIBA, London. Discussed potential for writing a guidance note for Historic England on the conservation of public libraries in general.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019
 
Description Meeting with Historic Environment Scotland Designations Team, Edinburgh 4.6.19 
Form Of Engagement Activity A formal working group, expert panel or dialogue
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Policymakers/politicians
Results and Impact Meeting to discuss contribution to designations of Carnegie Library and Public Library buildings more broadly in Scotland
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019
 
Description Meeting with Julia Chandler Communications Lead, Libraries Taskforce DCMS 
Form Of Engagement Activity A formal working group, expert panel or dialogue
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Local
Primary Audience Policymakers/politicians
Results and Impact Meeting to establish potential paths for communication and engagement of the project as it evolves. JC suggested providing a blog link for our project to the Libraries Taskforce Innovation Network (UK Government)
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
 
Description Meeting with NBS (National Building Specification) 14.2.20 
Form Of Engagement Activity A formal working group, expert panel or dialogue
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Industry/Business
Results and Impact Meeting in Newcastle regarding proposed partnership for hosting our HBIM models in the National Building Information Model Library and potential to expand relevance to all UK public buildings of the period
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2020
 
Description Seminar with Lister Steps HLF project leaders, Liverpool, UK and Braddock Library librarian, Pennsylvania, USA 
Form Of Engagement Activity A formal working group, expert panel or dialogue
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Third sector organisations
Results and Impact Skype meeting at Lister Steps between HLF project co-ordinator, Olivia Johnson, project lead Gaynor James and the librarian of Braddock Library, Pennsylvania, Vicki Vargo. Review of funding support systems, exchange of best practice and novel engagement activities. Commitment to maintain contact.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019
 
Description Talk to "Happy Older People" community group about Lister Steps (Tuebrook) Library in Liverpool 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Local
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact 61 members of the local community paid to attend the talk: "Life & The Library in L13 - on Wednesday 16th October, Lister Steps are hosting a fascinating evening of local history talks all about The Old Library and life in L13 through the years.

You'll hear from Dr Oriel Prizeman from Cardiff University who is running an international research project looking at how Carnegie libraries around the world are being re-purposed for modern use.

We'll also be joined by Vanessa Oakden from the Museum of Liverpool who led an archaeological dig at The Old Library back in June. She'll be sharing some of the things we discovered and what we now know about how the area has changed over the last few centuries.
Lister Steps' fabulous research volunteers will also be sharing what they've learnt over the last 12 months, looking at case studies of interesting people who've lived and worked in L13, as well as how children have enjoyed, as well as worked in, libraries across Liverpool in the past.
The event kicks off at 6.30pm at St Cecilia's Club on Green Lane, L13 7DT.
Tickets can be purchased in advance from Lister Steps (L13 7HH) for £2 or on the door for £3.
For more information, contact Olivia on olivia.johnson@listersteps.co.uk or 07988 778372"
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019
URL https://happyolderpeople.com/event/life-the-library-in-l13/
 
Description Visits to every Carnegie Library in England, Wales, Northern Ireland and Scotland 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Other audiences
Results and Impact Between March and October 2018, every one of the 387 existing Carnegie Libraries in the UK was photographed externally and an application was made to secure permission to photograph the interior of every one that was open and functioning as a public library (217). This work was carried out by the PI following the departure of one of the part time Research Assistants. In obtaining permission and also by meeting all the librarians face to face, considerable interest in the project has been built and it is hoped that these lines of communication shall remain open as the key outputs are delivered from the project.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018