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A new library for Aylesbury - Community Engagement


On 24 July 2017, Buckinghamshire County Council's Cabinet Committee agreed a proposal to integrate library lending and reference provision in Aylesbury and to undertake community engagement on the design for a new and modern library for Aylesbury.

How we engaged with the community 
  • Six open days were held to enable discussion and comment on the proposed design
  • Customers were invited to put comments and suggestions on 'post-it' notes and attach to the display
  • An online survey was launched on 14 August and closed on 30 September 2017


Summary of key findings

Survey responses

  • The survey received 756 responses
  • 358 people commented on the layout, with 34% expressing approval, 18% expressing disapproval and 47% were neutral
  • Most popular ideas for new activities/services  were group study, visitor (tourist) information and family information

Key positive findings from all community engagement

  • 55 commented positively on the Children's library
  • 40 comments welcomed the toilet and baby changing facilities 

Key concerns from all community engagement

  • 43 respondents expressed concern over noise and 47 over space for study e.g. that the quiet study area may not be big or quiet enough
  • 13 commented on the need for natural lighting
  • The reception desk was not close enough to the entrance to welcome new visitors
  • 81 comments mentioned that the space for book stock appeared to be reduced

Key actions

  • Include new meeting spaces, toilets, baby changing facilities, drinking water and  book drop 
  • Review the number of desktop public computers needed and increase the number of power points for Wi-Fi users
  • Introduce new informal seating that can be used for Wi-Fi access, newspapers etc.
  • Create areas to promote Local Studies, Visitor (tourist) Information and Family Information Service
  • Introduce staff pods at the main entrance and near study area
  • Make relevant former reference stock available for loan

Specific key actions arising from concerns over the study area

  • Work was undertaken to look at different layouts to put distance between children's area and study area 
  • Improved sound dampening in study area and children's area, shelving to screen children's area
  • Increased the overall size of study area from 57m² to 90m² - an increase of 50%
  • Increased the number of study spaces
  • Fit out the meeting room for extra study and introduce semi-frosted glazing to reduce distraction
  • Replacing existing T5 (180 LUX) lights with LED technology will give the library a brighter look



1 Background and the proposed design

The study centre services and resources will move from the existing space in County Hall, and all library services will be delivered from the current lending library 'shop-front' premises on Walton Street.

The integration of lending and study services will generate savings of £87,000 per annum due to the new library requiring less staff and equipment. This saving represents an important contribution towards the library service savings targets, and will help avoid service reductions and maintain a sustainable library for Aylesbury.

The current arrangement, with lending and reference resources split over two sites, is inefficient and does not reflect the needs of our customers. The absence of a 'shop-front' makes the study centre difficult to find for some customers and disabled access is unsatisfactory. 

The integration of lending and study services has been proposed because this model will deliver an improved and more accessible service at reduced cost.

A new and modern integrated library will:

  • Deliver a well-designed and refurbished modern library with self-service technology, improved children's facilities, new teenage area, two meeting rooms and improved toilet and baby changing facilities
  • Increase the accessibility of the study centre resources ensuring an increase in usage
  • Allow an increase in opening hours and savings of £87,000 to be realised by reducing staff numbers and equipment
  • Provide a strongly branded, high quality shop-front for library and council services 

There are clear benefits to be had by integrating the two services on one site but there is also a real design challenge given the reduction in space involved.

The work on the initial proposed design sought to create new or better use of space by: 

  • Removing reception desks and introducing self-service technology
  • Assessing all of the current book-stock in terms of usage and relocating under-used stock to the reserve store
  • Reducing the staff work/rest areas and create a new flexible public space. This space could be used for additional study area capacity during peak times  
  • Utilising the columns to create computer work stations


2 Community engagement

The library service is keen to ensure that customers and stakeholders inform the development of the new library, so a number of engagement events and activities were organised during August and September 2017.

2.1 Open days  

Six open days were held to enable discussion and comment on the proposed design. Members of the library senior management team along with members of the design team were available to answer questions.

The Open Day dates were: 

  • Saturday 12 August at 9.30am - 1pm at Aylesbury Library
  • Monday 14 August at 10am - 1pm at Aylesbury Study Centre
  • Tuesday 15 August at 2 - 7pm at Aylesbury Library
  • Thursday 14 September at 2.30 - 5.30pm at Aylesbury Study Centre
  • Tuesday 19 September at 2 - 6pm at Aylesbury Library
  • Thursday 21 September at 2 - 6pm at Aylesbury Study Centre

Over 90 people talked to us at these events and many others viewed the plans, which were left on display throughout the consultation.

2.2 Post-it notes 

Customers were invited to put comments and suggestions on 'post-it' notes and attach to the display.

The summary of comments is as follows:

  • "Can you just put USB sockets on their own about, so we can charge things without needing computers"
  • "Good idea - good input as well as good achievement of the new library"
  • "Good layout and very organized. I like the way of how the different facilities are set out in the library"
  • "Please add more sockets"
  • "How long will you keep the newspaper, more books, will the phone books be coming?"
  • "More seating"
  • "Franchised coffee bar/tea room, improved & expanded toilets"
  • "More new crime books please. Will you keep the drop box?"
  • "Attractive design but a growing town will need more floor space"
  • "Keep a space for; 1.Quiz, 2. Book group, 3. Reference books"
  • "Where will the reservation books go?"
  • "Lots more new crime books please"

2.3 Friends of Aylesbury Study Centre and Library

Concerns regarding the integration of the Study Centre and Lending Library were raised by a group of library users prior to the Cabinet decision in July. The library users formed the Friends of Aylesbury Study Centre and Library group and organised a physical and online petition that specifically asks the council to reconsider the decision.

The Friends group also put forward a number of comments and concerns relating to the design.

The key concerns can be summarised as follows;

  1. Silence and a dedicated good study environment. No audible noise or visual distractions to detract study.
  2. Natural light. Research has shown that natural light is essential for effective study.
  3. Enough comfortable seats and good sized desks with electrical points and Wi-Fi to meet demand.

Representatives of the Friends group attended the six open days. The Friends representatives were able to hand out fliers, invite customers to sign the petition and comments book and then discuss their concerns with customers. The comments from the comments book have been submitted by the Friends groups and are included in the evaluation (see 4 Comments book - Friends of Aylesbury Study Centre and Library).

Work has taken place to consider and address, as far as possible, the concerns put forward by the Friends of Aylesbury Study Centre and Library as part of this wider community engagement exercise. In addition, specific work has taken place to explore different layouts given the concerns and comments made by the Friends (see 5 Alternative layout and design options).


3 Aylesbury customer survey 

3.1 Method 

An online and paper survey was launched on 14 August and closed on 30 September 2017.

Customers were notified of this survey through:

  • Posters to publicise the survey and open day dates were displayed in both Aylesbury Study Centre and Aylesbury Lending Library
  • Survey links were added to both Aylesbury Library and Aylesbury Study Centre web pages, as well as through the Buckinghamshire County Council 'Have Your Say' web pages
  • Over 13,000 library customers registered in Aylesbury were emailed directly by the library service on 24 August to invite them to look at the proposals and share their views
  • The survey was also publicised via library social media and in the Library eNewsletter on 31 July 2017
  • Emails were sent to Parish Councils, Council Members, all schools, higher education colleges and universities
  • Emails were sent to the Greater Aylesbury Local Area Forum and a presentation delivered to the Aylesbury Town Centre Partnership
  • Links were shared through BCC social media accounts, Facebook, Nextdoor and Twitter. Information was also included in Buckinghamshire County Council's eNewsletter, called MyBucks, and sent on 31 July 2017

3.2 Results

In addition to those completed online, 129 paper surveys were completed making a total of 756 responses. All but 41 of these were from users of Buckinghamshire Libraries.

77% of respondents use library services at least monthly, the vast majority of these regular users visit to borrow books (85%).

3.2.1 Current use of facilities and resources

We asked: "What do you currently use the library for?"

We found that:

  • Among the 16-24 age group, quiet space for reading and study space came out slightly ahead of books, and Wi-Fi was the fourth most used service
  • From age 45 upwards, finding local information came second to borrowing books
  • Wi-Fi use is highest in 16-54 age group
  • Public computer use is highest in 45-75 age groups
  • Attending regular events and activities is highest among 45-54 age group


Fig.1 All respondents' answers to 'What do you currently use the library for?'

What do you currently use the library for?


3.2.2 Library materials and stock

We asked: "What type of stock would you like to see more of in the new library?"

We found that:

  • Given the overall age of the respondents, adult fiction and adult nonfiction books came out first and second overall
  • The majority of people who put reference books as their highest priority were age 45 and older
  • Under 25s favoured more young adult fiction and age groups likely to have teenage children put this as their third preference
  • Most respondents ranked newspapers as eighth, ninth and tenth


3.2.3 Current activities and services

We asked: "What current activities and/or services do you value the most and would like to see more of in the new library?"

(1 most important / 10 least important)

We found that:

  • Space to use laptops or devices were rated the most important service, ahead of public computers
  • Author talks were second highest overall
  • Children's activities and children's reading groups were top for parents
  • Family history was top answer for 65-74 age group


3.2.4 New activities and services

We asked: "What new activities and/or services would you like to see in the new library?

(1 most important / 10 least important)

We found that: 


  • Space for group study was considered the most important new service for the new library overall, and was particularly popular in 16-24 age group
  • Access to visitor (tourist) information was second overall
  • Family information was first choice for 25-35 age group
  • Information from local services e.g. police, health, local government was the top choice mainly in over 45 age group


Fig.2 How respondents ranked Group Study Space by age group.

1 most important / 10 least important

Group Study Space


3.2.5 Proposed layout

We asked: "What are your thoughts about the proposed layout, including any suggestions you may have?"

We found that: 

  • 358 people commented, of which 34% expressed approval, 18% expressed disapproval and 47% were neutral
  • 81 comments mentioned that the space for book stock appeared to be reduced
  • 66 mentioned furniture, suggesting more comfortable seating for quiet reading both for adults and for parents in the children’s area, separate study tables, more book shelves
  • 55 commented on the children's library e.g. they particularly liked the partitioning which doubles up as seating where they can curl up in the small 'tunnels' with a book. Respondent comment: "Love the children's area. In the corner so it is easier to herd your children."
  • 47 commented on the study space. Respondent comment: "I do not believe it will be quiet enough or large enough for students preparing for exams although I accept students are only a couple of months a year."
  • 40 comments welcomed the toilet and baby changing facilities
  • Suggestions included a supply of drinking water and a secure drop off box for returning items outside opening hours

Concerns raised about the proposed layout included:

  • Noise and space. 43 respondents commented that quiet study area may not be quiet enough and/or that children's activities can disturb other users. Respondent comment: "Will children's activities be in a closed off space as the noise from their enjoyment can impact on other activities being held in the library and people generally browsing"
  • Reception desk is not close enough to the entrance to welcome new visitors
  • Natural light. 13 respondents commented on the need for natural lighting


3.2.7 Any other comments

We asked: "If you have any other comments, please provide them here"

This question was primarily used by customers who had concerns around the impact on study space, to reinforce comments made in the previous question, "What are your thoughts about the proposed layout, including any suggestions you may have?"


4 Friends of Aylesbury Study Centre and Library Comments Book

Copies of the comments entered into the book provided by the Friends of Aylesbury Study Centre and Library were passed to Buckinghamshire Libraries on the 19 October with a request that these comments be considered as part of the evaluation.

There is a breadth of opinion reflected through these comments with the same key concerns raised in the customer survey.

Equal numbers of customers used the comments book to specifically support or oppose the principle of the project – eighteen on each side. For customers opposed to the project the key concerns were those of space, noise nuisance and reduced study facilities. Comments in support of the scheme often referred to the tired look and feel of Aylesbury Library and Aylesbury Study Centre and the need for a new and modern approach.

Slightly more customers (20) used the comments book to accept or support the project in principle but to raise specific concerns or make specific suggestions. The issues of noise and space in the study area feature strongly as do concerns around the placing of the reception away from the main entrance, support for toilets, concern around book stock reduction, praise for staff and requests for drinking water.


5 Alternative layout and design options 

After examining all community engagement, including the results from the Aylesbury customer survey, the design team were commissioned to explore a number of alternative designs. The design team were tasked to address some of the concerns raised around the proposed layout, in particular the study/quiet area.

The particular focus of these designs was to try and change the location of study/quiet space relative to children's space in order to address concerns around noise nuisance and the potential reduction in natural light. The design team also considered a specific design as suggested by representatives of the Friends of Aylesbury Study Centre and Library - see Option 7.

Layout and design options:


6 Preferred layout option - option 4

This is the original proposed design but will involve a larger study/quiet area and significant noise dampening.


  • Children's library is close to the toilet facilities
  • Children's library is away from the exit
  • Staff area has access to the existing staff toilets and kitchen facility
  • Children’s library visible from outside - a showpiece drawing people into the library
  • The reception desk has sight of the study area and children's library
  • The study area has been extended from approximately 57m² to 90m²


  • Proximity of the study area and children's area – to be qualified by noise dampening options which will be effective at reducing noise

The original proposed design was based on important principles and despite concerns around noise nuisance and distraction for study area customers, this remains the option which best delivers a modern library for Aylesbury. Important changes will be made to increase the size of the study area, dampen noise and address concerns around study spaces and natural light. These changes are detailed in 7 Other actions and decisions taken from engaging with the community


7 Other actions and decisions taken from engaging with the community

7.1 Study Area

Concerns around the location and size of the space designated as 'quiet' or 'study', the number of study spaces and absence of natural light, have been raised during the engagement and particular concerns have been raised by the Friends of Aylesbury Study Centre and Library.

We have listened to these concerns and whilst we were not able to incorporate all of the suggestions into our design, the engagement with the Friends of Aylesbury Study Centre and Library group has made a difference and we have amended the design as follows:

i. Audible and visual distraction

In the first instance, we explored a number of layouts to address noise concerns by locating the study area and children's area as far away from each other as possible. The different layouts are all described in 5 Alternative layout and design options of this report and the drawings for each layout are visible in

A consideration of the advantages and disadvantages of each option resulted in the original proposed design being agreed as the preferred option although the study area has been moved back slightly and is therefore a bit further from the children's area. 

As we have not been able to alter the positioning of the services, relative to each other, our efforts have focused on softening potential noise nuisance. We have upgraded the intended sound dampening for the enclosed area, penetrating through the ceiling void up to the underside of the concrete slab and using double glazed or similar glass panels. 

Above the children's library we have incorporated sound deadening baffles in the ceiling and suspended panels to absorb sound in various strategic locations. The children's library will be designed with shelving creating a defined space for the children to use, so that the children will be less likely to disturb customers in the quiet/study area. 

We will also pre-publicise the regular children's events to study area customers so that customers are aware of when there might be potential increase in noise. At present, significant noise is only generated during some pre-publicised children's activities. 

One suggestion was to use solid walls to enclose the study/quiet area. On the one hand this would minimise visual distraction, but there would be a safeguarding concern if library staff are not able to see into the area. Our design team will now explore a number of options that could see a semi frosted screening that allows staff to see into the space but prevents customers using the space, from being distracted by external movement.

ii. Size 

It is clear from our engagement survey that the study/reference resources will be used by different groups of customers in different ways and that not all customers will be seeking a perfectly quiet space e.g. students seeking group study. It is also the case that some reference/study activities will be undertaken outside of the defined study/quiet space. However, the size of the study space as defined by the glass screen has been a concern for customers, and so in the final design we will increase the overall size of it from 57m² to 90m², an increase of over 50%.

iii. Study spaces

The proposed design shared with our customers showed a potential configuration of work stations, but the concern was raised that there would be insufficient study space. The increased study/quiet area will accommodate increased seating and, with use of the meeting room for study, it will be possible to provide up to 60 study spaces if needs be.

iv. Natural light

The study centre has large windows and enjoys an abundance of natural light. One of the concerns raised around the new design is that the location of the study area, at the rear of the library, will deny students natural light and that this is an issue because natural light is conducive to study.

Attempts to relocate the study area to improve natural light have not been successful (see 5 Alternative layout and design options) but the quality of lighting in the new library will be significantly improved by the complete replacement of existing lighting as part of the project.

The recent energy survey suggests the current lighting layout needs to be replaced as the lights show signs of fading thus giving a darker/moody look to the library. The survey has identified the majority of bulbs installed on the library are 80W T5 which are currently emitting LUX levels of around 180 LUX and fading overtime which is not acceptable by industry standards. Replacing these T5 with LED technology we will increase LUX levels to 300 LUX in line with the Chartered Institution of Building Services Engineers (CIBSE) recommended light levels giving the library a brighter look.

7.2 Meeting rooms 

There was strong support for the idea of creating new meeting spaces. The larger space will be designed and equipped so it can be used for extra study space at peak times and also to host some children's events. The smaller meeting room will be used to provide a more discrete space for existing advice surgeries.

7.3 Computer facilities

The survey data confirmed our own in-house measures of computer use and indicates that demand for desktop public computer us is reducing whilst the demand for Wi-Fi access is increasing. We will review the number of public computers needed in the light of this data, install power points in designated study spaces and also significantly increase the number of power points available throughout the library.

7.4 Seating

Comments were received around the lack or informal/low level seating. The detailed design will incorporate new informal seating spaces that can be used for Wi-Fi access, newspapers, study etc.

7.5 New services 

The engagement exercise has identified a demand for particular areas of service and so the new library will incorporate dedicated areas to promote Local Studies, Visitor (tourist) Information and Family Information Services.

7.6 Toilet and baby changing

Some customers questioned the improvements to toilet and baby changing facilities but the majority of comments were in support of these improvements.

7.7 Reception points 

The importance of the central island reception was recognised by customers but there was a concern that staff support in accessing self-service technology and/or public computer facilities were absent from the design. Two customer service pods will be introduced by the main entrance and the study/quiet area to ensure that staff are available to assist customers.

7.8 Access to County Reserve Stock 

Stock withdrawal and maintenance is a routine part of library work.

All lending and reference stock has been reviewed in advance of the implementation of this project. Selected lending and reference titles which no longer receive regular usage but may still be relevant will be transferred to the County Reserve Stock. These titles will become part of the County Reserve Stock collection

This means that they no longer occupy space on the shelves in a public area but can be supplied on request. We will be transferring selected reference titles to the County Reserve Stock in advance of the project. In order to address concerns around access, we will revise arrangements as follows. If requests for items currently on the shelves of Aylesbury Study Centre, which are subsequently transferred to County Reserve Stock, are made via the new Aylesbury library, these items will be supplied the following working day.

Please read our Stock Management Policy for further details. 

7.9 Vending machines and refreshments 

Work has taken place to explore the feasibility of securing a vending franchise but this option will not be pursued for a number of reasons. The demands on space means that we cannot give over a significant portion to a franchise. We also believe that the range of competitor facilities in Aylesbury would make such a venture unviable. However, we will introduce refreshment facilities during selective library events and we will also provide a free water dispenser.

7.10 Book drop 

The new design will incorporate an external book drop in line with customer comment.



Appendix 1 Layout options 1-3

Appendix 2 Layout options 4-5 

Appendix 3 Layout options 6-7

Appendix 4 Preferred layout option - option 4

Appendix 5 Example of Aylesbury customer survey




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