Any university library is one of the key centres of campus life and can even be likened to the "brain" of the community. It provides not only a place where students and faculty can pursue their studies, but also a range of opportunities for individuals to expand their cultural horizons and step beyond the boundaries of their chosen academic disciplines.
For this reason, the Hong Kong Baptist University (HKBU) has recently completed an extensive renovation and expansion of its library. This project, which was funded to the tune of HK$13 million by the University Grants Committee, took a year to complete and increased available space by almost 20 per cent. "The project was well overdue," says Shirley Leung, HKBU's librarian. "We were simply beginning to run out of space."
A comprehensive feasibility study was undertaken before the project was given the green light. "We carried out an analysis of shelving capacity and the library's acquisition rate," Ms Leung explains. Final approval was given in 2002 by the relevant university bodies and local architects Leigh & Orange were then selected after a tender process. Their key objective was to find ways of optimising space.
The expanded facility now has new audiovisual equipment plus two viewing rooms and an area for listening to music or watching videos. Three study rooms have been added for small group discussions and there is an extra area that can stay open longer than regular library hours during examination periods. One of the most welcome alterations, according to Ms Leung, is the improved section for newspapers and current periodicals. "It was just too cramped before and is now being utilised much more effectively."
In addition to receiving government funding, HKBU set aside HK$3 million for the scheme. There was also a HK$1 million grant from the Wing Lung Bank Foundation, some of which was for a visual arts project. As part of the university's cultural enrichment policy, the 23-metre wall facing the library's main stairwell was converted into an art gallery. "We have been able to conceptualise the space and create displays and exhibitions," says Ms Leung. There have already been exhibitions of Chinese calligraphy and of portraits of distinguished Chinese writers by the famous local artist Kong Kai-ming.
Students are taking full advantage of the improved facility and Ms Leung anticipates more changes ahead. "The government's education reforms will lead to more alterations in the university system and I envisage further expansion will be necessary in the years to come."