External shot of the front of the Glucksman Library building.; External shot of the front of the Glucksman Library building.;

Glucksman Library, University of Limerick, Limerick

Ireland’s biggest academic library caters for collaborative learning styles

The flagship Glucksman Library extension at the University of Limerick (UL), sponsored by philanthropists Lew and Loretta Glucksman, has produced the biggest academic library in Ireland and one of the most digitally advanced archives in the world.

This forward-looking extension and refurbishment, which houses one of Ireland’s most important Yeats collections, is a digitally-integrated library boasting innovative book storage and retrieval systems and a variety of digital research and learning spaces.

The Glucksman building also reflects current approaches to academic learning and university living. Flexible learning underpins all of the design work, allowing for multi-modal learning styles, with a mix of multi-purpose and collaborative working spaces as well as more traditional scholarly study areas.

Arup engineers helped deliver this vision, providing a range of services including civil, structural, mechanical, electrical and fire engineering.

Project Summary

7,600 library building

10mhigh robot-operated vault for easy retrieval

>500,000books can be stored in the vault

Robotic library archives help free up space for learning

The university researched cutting-edge facilities across the world during the design of the new library space. The new extension will help the library double in size thanks to an Automated Reserve Collection facility (ARC), a 10m-high vault that can store over 500,000 books and is operated by a robotic crane for easy retrieval.

Creating the space required the installation of the ARC vault, the first one of its kind in Europe and one of 50 globally. This presented our engineers with a structural challenge as we needed to create this void, while still supporting the adjoining floor plates. We also needed to design flexibly to enable the crane to be replaced in the future, as required.

Creating space for collaborative learning

Centrally storing books in the ARC enabled an open plan, flexible space without compromising the students’ needs for access to materials. The vault cuts down on storage space as it can store half a million volumes in little more than a tenth of the space occupied by conventional shelving.

The newly freed-up spaces can easily be reshaped and reused as the library grows, without requiring changes to the ventilation system, which is through a floor plenum, meaning it is supportive of repurposing over time. Our fire engineers overcame the challenge of integrating the existing library building with the new extension. During design and construction, we also advised on the appropriate design solutions to mitigate risks including ground gases, a high water table and poor ground conditions.

Forward-looking learning defines this library: digital tools and automatization have freed up space that can instead be used for collaborative work and experiential study. ” Aidan Madden Aidan Madden Associate Director

The resulting open spaces in the library can be used for collaborative learning, reflecting the new learning styles of students. There are dedicated spaces for postgraduate and faculty study, group study and exhibition spaces; and the building also features a Medical & Health Sciences Library, a Law Library and Appellate Court. Experiential learning is enabled through the set-up of a ‘moot court’ as a practice area for students to present cases in a courtroom-type setting. Other bespoke areas include a Digital Scholarship Centre, Social Learning Spaces and an Assistive Technology Centre.

Protecting historical collections

The library also contains UL’s historic collections in a series of special collections rooms. Specific environmental controls are required in order to prevent damage to the delicate collection of manuscripts. Arup designed the specialist air conditioning systems and UV filters on luminaires to protect the sensitive documents, allowing them to be moved back to the library, as prior to the extension, they were located off-campus. It is now easier for students to access this collection while conducting research.

External view of the Glucksman Library. External view of the Glucksman Library.

Officially opened in June 2018, the Glucksman Library has been named after the Glucksman family, the philanthropic family of Lew and Loretta Glucksman, long-time supporters of the university.