Posted by: christinelaennec | September 24, 2011

The new university library in Aberdeen

I thought some of you might be interested to see the newest addition to the campus of the University of Aberdeen, the new University Library:

The University Library, University of Aberdeen. September 2011.

This photograph looks strangely like an architect’s drawing, with the little stick figures!  I’ve heard the lights referred to as “lightsabers”.  I haven’t seen them in the dark yet – but in a month or so I’ll be able to do that before the end of the working day.  I also hope I don’t have to navigate the sloping plaza up to the entrance on an icy day!

The library was designed by the Danish architects schmidt hammer lassen (no caps), who also designed the “Black Diamond” library in Copehagan.  The Dafter commented that it looks like a marine centre, which is judicious, I think.  Inside, it is an arresting sight with a huge central atrium:

Looking up: the atrium inside the University Library, University of Aberdeen. September 2011.

The effect of the light coming in from all four walls is very pleasing, I think:

View across the atrium, the University Library, University of Aberdeen. September 2011.

The views from the top floor are particularly stunning:

On the top floor of the University Library, University of Aberdeen, September 2011.

In the photo below, you can see the leafy heart of the university campus, with the stone towers of King’s College.  Beyond is one of the high-rises in Seaton (to the left), the large white Aberdeen Sports Village (centre), and beyond that Pittodrie Stadium (right of centre).  The strip of green between the sea and the buildings is a municipal golf course, King’s Links.  You can even see the lighthouse, beyond the harbour.   As usual the North Sea was busy with ships coming and going.

View out to the North Sea from the top floor of the University Library, University of Aberdeen. September 2011.

The day I visited there were very few students.  The big question is:  how noisy will it be once it is full of people and the cafe on the ground floor is in full swing?

Looking down through the atrium to the ground floor of the University Library, University of Aberdeen. September 2011.

And, in case you are wondering, yes there are books – although not as many as were housed in the former library (Queen Mother Library).  However, we are reassured that anything can easily be fetched from storage.

Books! University Library, University of Aberdeen, September 2011.

So there you have it – a new addition to the Aberdeen skyline and a new place for students to study.  Their reaction seems to have been very positive.  I left feeling quite vertiginous, but I can almost imagine being able to think more freely while gazing through those windows at the views.  At least on a beautiful day!



  1. A beautiful library! It reminds me of a waterfall with a whirlpool inside! I can just imagine being there and looking out over the city to the North Sea! Very romantic. You are lucky, indeed to have access to such an amazing library! Our little town library is so tiny that I am reduced to checking out only new books, as I have read nearly everything else! A beautiful addition to your lovely campus. xx

  2. This is an impressive library, Christine. In my view, money invested in University libraries is money well spent. Mind you, I have a vested interest, having worked in an academic library for more than a decade. Less space is needed for books these days. Electronic journals and e-document delivery has seen to that. I was involved in a digitisation project during the year before my early retirement. As much as I love the building I worked in, it was never as swish as the one in your photos. What wonderful architecture and design.

  3. At first I thought that your photo was one of the architects’ drawings. I’ve seen several of them in university publications over the past few years. I have to say I have really mixed feelings. Happy that Aberdeen has a library of merit after the dull concrete horror of the Queen Mother library, sad that the glories of King’s are reduced to being a conference centre. Is King’s still in the centre of student life?
    “Under the crown that dreams of Flodden
    And Borgia in scarlet gown
    Youth lightly treads where Youth has trodden
    Under the crown.”
    Library noise is a problem everywhere – we have ongoing problems at Edinburgh.
    Perhaps it’s a sign of age, but like you, I would worry about keeping my footing on that plaza on an icy winter’s day.

  4. Having spent a lot of time inside The Black Diamond, I immediately recognised aspects of this building. Stark exterior. Organic shapes inside. It’s startlingly .. familiar.

  5. the light effects and views are wonderful. i think kariebookish has said it quite well … stark exterior and organic shapes. i can hear your concerns about noise once the place gets filled up … it does seem to be rather open and cavernous. thanks for the update! hope you’re all doing well.

  6. What a fabulous building a feet of Architectural and engineering excellence. And what super photos especially of the Atrium. looks like a good place to live, work and study


    (Susanba Rav)

  7. What an amazing building! I absolutely love outside and the surprise that is the inside. I know what you mean about noise, however, being a library….? I think if I was a student I would be entranced and want to spend lots of time here , which has to be a good thing!!

  8. It’s stunning but I bet it will be noisy, I know the RGU library is all lovely and open plan but the noise levels drive the staff mad.

    Thanks for sharing this, I do enjoy lovely library photos!

  9. An intriguing building, I like all the light streaming in and the openess of it all. The views make for a lot of thinking while staring into the distance. I think this is a lovely new addition to can tell it has a Scandinavian influence!

  10. Dont we just live in a beautiful place? Not just nature making it so. I think it is fabulous. And I also like how it does actually fit with all the old buildings in Aberdeen.

  11. I loved the look of the library from the outside, when I visited Aberdeen in May for the Word Festival. And I was delighted by the way you catch sight of it, because it is so high, from all sorts of places where you are not expecting to see it. .Now it’s wonderful to see these pictures from inside, I too can get nostalgic about how my generation used to work in what is now the Conference Centre, but the librarians made it clear that, although it’s a lovely place, it was hopelessly impractical .for using as a library

  12. that is a stunning library. very modern looking compared to the other buildings in it’s horizon. I like the curves and the soft lines. I think I’d enjoy reading there as well.

  13. Very interesting, intriguing structure! Thanks for giving us the tour. I wonder too how much noise will filter up through those levels when the library is full of students. You’ll have to let us know!

  14. Dear All,

    Thank you so much for all these comments! I’m glad you enjoyed the tour. I think the “Ayes” have it, although subject to noise levels. I will report back on that.

    Karen – good for you for supporting your local library. At least they have money to buy new books! There’s been a lot of talk about English libraries closing for lack of funds, and/or being run by volunteers in order to stay open.

    Martin – it is certainly true that a lot can be found online in digitised format. But I have always been a fan of shelf-browsing, and I do find it sad that there is less to discover in real life.

    Linda – we are assured that the plaza will take the weight of the gritters. Also, there are stairs on either side. I still imagine myself hoisting myself along the railings, head-down in a bitter wind. The library itself creates quite a wind tunnel, and as you know the wind near the North Sea in winter can be pretty strong. Your question about King’s being the centre of student life… I would have to say not so much as before. What was the library and is now the conference centre is not a place students go. But the classrooms in the quadrangle are in steady use.

    kariebookish – I agree with ajb, you’ve put it perfectly!

    ajb – thanks for your good wishes, I will be posting an update soon.

    Susan – hello there fellow knitter! Thanks for coming by.

    Scruffybadger – yes I agree if the students are attracted to it, that’s good.

    Katherine – I’ve heard unconfirmed rumours that RGU are abandoning their library because of the noise level. It’s known to be a huge problem.

    heike – maybe you will be able to visit sometime!

    jill and Flora – I haven’t quite made my mind up about how it fits in with Old Aberdeen, but I’m leaning towards your positive assessments!

    Lisa – I agree about the soft lines, the inside is very inviting.

    Dianne – I will let you know! Thanks for stopping by.

  15. WOW!! What a beautiful building. I do love architecture and have a special fondness for libraries. I can’t wait to share this post with my husband, the librarian.

  16. Just catching up and finding this very interesting .Kristine is aiming to go to Aberdeen next year, after her UHI courses. I will let her see it – it is most impressive. xx

  17. Very modern, cool and spacy. The mind sure might wander there to new dimensions.

  18. I have spent the past few weeks studying in this library (some call the ‘glass zebra’) and without doubt it is an astonishing piece of architecture if looked at from afar, however when you get up and close it looks really cheap and out of shape, and from what I’ve seen I could say it is, bits of metal and plastic broken off already, the glass is cracking, the lamps occasionally cut out and the glass railings around the atrium are broken. The building is not fit for a library, it is too loud, you can hear people talking from all floors and the coffee machine goes off every so often. There are quiet rooms but not everyone can fit in there. There are unisex toilets, 2 on each floor (3 if you include the disabled), as opposed to the male and female cubicles in the smaller old library which could accommodate 4 people at one time. Most times I go there they are in use, I see people using the disabled toilet instead, I’d also avoid this place if you have a stomach bug :P.
    I’d have to say the library is more of a fashion statement, it holds very little practical value to what a library actually is, if you want some peace and quiet, bring some earphones. A lot of students have already expressed what a disappointment the place is.

    • Dear Leo,

      Thanks for your full comment. I agree with you about the finishing inside. I’ve seen bits of the stairway railing already missing, and the bare cement walls are a hazard – if you lean against them, you get cement dust all over your clothes. I also agree with what you say about the loo situation; I don’t know anyone who likes the unisex toilets. I feel sorry for the library staff who have no choice but to use them. As for noise – the fact that there are “quiet rooms” makes it perfectly clear that it was never intended to be a quiet library. I find that very sad, but many would tell me I have an outdated attitude!

    • Yes, but when The Scottish Catholic Archives in Edinburgh is sold and closed, then the incredible Historic Archives of the Scottish Catholic Church will be available in Aberdeen University Library!

      • How interesting (and sad that they are being sold and closed). I haven’t yet been to see the Special Collections section of the library, which only recently opened, but I think that the Special Collections of the library holdings was very much prioritised when designing this new library. I wonder if there will be (or is) a connection with Blairs?

  19. I agree with Leo about the library holding very little practical value. As a fourth year student I find it incredibly frustrating due to the noise levels and can only wonder what the architects were thinking when they designed this building. I’ve noticed that there are quiet rooms in the library, but these are not new and the old library also contained them, therefore I disagree with the statement ‘that it was never intended to be a quiet library’. These rooms are good but you are not allowed to use computers in them and have been designed specifically for it without sockets for power.

    The finish on the library is extremely poor indeed! Some toilet seats are not secured properly and i’m still wondering if these every get cleaned… they are in a disgusting state and resemble that of a nightclub toilet. Also the workmen have completely forgotten to clean up there pencil marks off of all the white paneling in pretty much every toilet I have used. The disabled toilets also seem to be lacking sound proofing… I remember the first time I was sitting at the library computers listening to music on my ipod and suddenly heard what I thought was someone hoovering behind me. So naturally I looked and realised that it was the dryer in the disabled toilet. There seems to be something missing from above the ceiling (perhaps the wall) next to the bathroom as this is were the noise comes out of on every floor.

    It’s safe to say if you want somewhere to hang out in uni… go to the library and if you want somewhere to study go to Taylor library or the medical library.

    • I have to say that I’ve heard similar things from other students, particularly about the noise. Have you thought of writing to the university (or the student newspaper) to point these things out?

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