UCL News


Library of the Month: Science Library

12 December 2018

The Science library is one of UCL’s most central spaces – but how much do you know about it, really? myUCL Student Journalist, Robert Vilkelis, explores UCL's Library of the Month.

UCL Science Library

As one of UCL’s most central spaces, what are the chances that you don’t know the UCL Science Library? What you may be more surprised by is the scale of Malet Place’s flagship library: a staggering five floors, over 900 study spaces, UCL’s largest PC cluster and 24-hour access on weekdays.

As Term 1 winds down, rediscover one of our most familiar and most expansive libraries with one of its long-time employees, Jason Hobart.

“Students feel free to use the space how they want to.”

Step out of the bristling cold through a warm burst of air, and you’re already feeling welcome. It’s just one quick touch to step through the barriers and onto a literal red carpet that invites you into a crisp, bright, modern atrium.

Immediately, you’ve got a full view of what’s on offer. Computers? Straight ahead. Study spaces? To your left. A little pick-me-up? Right around the corner. The Science Library Café makes for a friendly, relaxed group study space.

“I like to think that students feel free to use the space how they want to,” Jason shares, “and if you need any kind of support, the Help Desk is to the left when you walk in.” Whether you’re up for solo study or partner projects on paper or PC, you’re sure to find the space that works for you among the range of:

  • open areas
  • silent study zones
  • group study tables
  • Science Library Café seats
  • PC cluster desks
  • Research Grid workspaces – if you’re a postgraduate!

You might be tempted just to remain on the ground floor, but you’d be selling yourself short if you did that – there’s a lot more to the Science Library than meets the eye.

“The Science Library is actually two buildings put together.”

Instead of going straight past the barriers, turn right and head up the stairs, where you’ll discover a seemingly endless supply of more traditional library rooms with all manner of topics. While you’ll start with browsing Biology, Chemistry and Psychology, curiosity will lead to you getting stuck in a book or three about Botany, Zoology or Librarianship & Archive Studies (it’s on the first floor – check it out).

As you head to study, you might also notice a particular quirk about the building: the corridors have a noticeable slope to them.

“The Science Library is actually two buildings put together,” Jason explains, “and they don’t quite join up perfectly, creating inclines in corridors.”

After learning that, the first thing I did was look up in the atrium, where I saw how the room’s friendly lighting is all thanks to a former courtyard. It’s one of those things you’re shocked you didn’t realise sooner!

Just goes to show: beyond reading, writing and studying, there’s a lot to explore – and more than meets the eye.

“There’s an element of experimentation, definitely.”

“We have a brand new help-point, a refurbished lobby, and a café as well. Yet, the library has changed considerably from when I first started here 12 to 13 years ago.”

True to its name, the Science Library is constantly innovating and experimenting. The automated returns machines – two silver devices you’ll notice flashing green on your way in – made their debut at UCL a few years ago right here in the Science Library.

“It was a brave move to adopt self-service technology in one of the busiest libraries,” Jason reflects, adding a dimension of history to the machines we now take for granted. “There’s an element of experimentation, definitely.”

Yet, much like our experience as students, there is a learning process, and it can take more than once to get everything right.

“Location of our frontline customer service team – that’s something we didn’t get quite right the first time. It used to be where the café was, so we weren’t very visible. Now we’re the first people you see when you walk into the building.”

It can take time to optimise things and get them quite right. Yet, so long as students continue to study, the Science Library will continue to expand, to adapt, and to innovate.

When’s your next visit?

Whether you’re a newcomer to the library or a seasoned resident, there’s never been a better time to stroll down Malet Place and step into the DMS Watson Building’s refreshing warmth to make the most of your studying between terms and into the next.

Want to make sure there’s room for you before you head over? Be sure to make use of UCL’s library space availability checker: https://www.ucl.ac.uk/library/libraries-and-study-spaces/available-study...

Robert Vilkelis