UCL News


Library of the Month: Bartlett Library

2 November 2018

myUCL Student Journalist, Robert Vilkelis, explores UCL's Library of the Month.

Bartlett bookshelves

It's quiet yet exceptionally central. It's modern yet pleasantly woodsy. It's fresh and professional, yet boasts a cosy, lived-in feel. Welcome to the Bartlett Library, home of the built environment, and so much more.

This month, join me on a tour of this newly-renovated den with Bartlett Librarian, Sarah Turk, whose enthusiastic energy perfectly reflects just what this library has to offer.

…It's not where you think it is!

You may expect the Bartlett Library to be in 22 Gordon Street, but if you head there (like I did), you may find that your best intentions to study may be thwarted by the mocking rejection jingle of the turnstile.

Central House, just a stroll down Upper Woburn Place along the east-side of Tavistock Square, is where you'll want to head instead. While it might take a few extra minutes to find at first, you'll rarely find a library quite so welcomingly convenient: the moment you card past the turnstiles, you're there - no endless journey of stairs or corridors required.

"You're naturally drawn in…"

Bartlett light and wood

You can still smell the renovation in the air as you walk in. Shiny surfaces bring the reception to life, fresh paint highlights the path, and a flood of natural light draws your attention to the beaming smile at the front desk.

"As students walk in, they do smile and say hello," shares Sarah. "As a team, we like that feel of students interacting with us, even if they don't need help at that moment. Your eyes are naturally drawn to where we sit because of all the natural light." 

With some study spaces, it's easy to feel like you're headed into self-imposed isolation. Not here. The space is rich with a dark floor and bright ceilings, and even the walk in is enough to bring calmness and focus to the most deadline-riddled minds.

Light, views and openness

From the Bartlett Library's convenient ground floor position, there's an impressive and unexpected sense of space, plus vantage points that you would normally associate with higher storeys. Love historic buildings? Head straight ahead or take a left, and your desk will have one of the best views of the 19th century church next door. Want to feel inspired every time you look up? Bear right, and settle down in the periodicals room - its skylights are perfect for you.

"It's a calm, mature, professional space," Sarah told me, and she's right. Wherever you go, elegant shades of blue and grey greet you, and wherever there are books, you'll find them cradled in a striking array of woody hues.

Spacious desks and tea in a flash

Bartlett Library desks

Whether you are an architect with a portfolio, rabidly revising from many different sources, or just need to spread stuff out, you're sure to love just how large the desks are.

You truly have the freedom to enjoy studying; from episodes of light reading to hardcore focus.You'll also find something else both luxurious and uncommon where all three main study spaces converge: a tap with an endless supply of boiling hot water. You can fill up on tea while you study, which means you can leave your desk and be back with a fresh cup in less than a minute. With hot and chilled water so close and accessible, you can say goodbye to all the internal debate about when it's time to make the next "journey," and take breaks when you really need them rather than negotiating convenient breaks in your studies.

"It's not just about architecture - that's the key"

"It's not all large format architecture books," remarks Sarah, "although we do have those, too." You'll discover that the Bartlett Library hosts a rich, multidisciplinary tradition with over thirteen departments.

Back in the days when the Bartlett's home turf of 22 Gordon Street went by the name "Wates House," the library hosted two collections: The Architecture Collection and the Town Planning Collection. In 2014, they merged to create the Built Environment collection.

"Students are often surprised to discover the breadth of our collection," Sarah laughs, "We've got books that cater to all these multidisciplinary aspects of the built environment."

Is architecture your field of study? Perhaps not - but who knows what you'll stumble upon in your next visit that will expand your horizons.

Whether it's to pop in for a quick hello, a relaxed visit to immerse yourself in the serene environment, or the beginning of your next study shift, there's never been a better time to stroll down Upper Woburn Place and right into Central House.

Robert Vilkelis