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The Hive at Five: From Design to Delivery

Blog by Laura Worsfold, Business Development Manager, The Hive, Worcester

In the last 6 years, I have had the great privilege of opening, delivering and leading The Hive in Worcester ; home to Europe’s first integrated public and university library, Worcestershire’s Archives & Archaeology Service and Worcestershire County Council’s Customer Service Hub. Over the past 5 years, this award-winning building has had many prestigious visits (including HM The Queen, who officially opened the building in 2012). Having celebrated our 5th birthday in July 2017, and after one such recent visit earlier this month by John Glen, then Minister for Libraries, it felt like an opportune moment to reflect on the original vision and how the innovative model has helped us to transform both university and county library services in Worcester.

Design and vision
The project was 10 years in the making and came about as a result of the University of Worcester needing a new library and Worcestershire County Council's need to move out of an old Victorian building. A site was identified (formerly the Council's waste collection site!) and talks began. The partnership between the University and the County is unique and due to the huge commitment on both sides, The Hive came into being. The site was of great archaeological significance and there was a lengthy consultation period covering everyone from Board members and Governors down to key target groups; students, children and families, schools, disabled communities and businesses, to name but a few. This consultation included staff who were fully involved at all stages of the process.


Design Statement:
The Hive is a £60million PFI and the client was involved in every stage of the design and construction, extremely unusual in the PFI sector. The team consisted of representatives on both sides.
A destination in itself. The building should inspire, excite and welcome, but not intimidate through a sense of grandeur or self-importance.”

The vision of a truly integrated building and service remains true and although challenging at times, the partnership still adheres to its original vison, values and principles.

Service delivery and impact
Since opening in 2012, The Hive has gone from strength to strength, with:
• 4 million visits
• 62,780 new members, 40,800 children or young people
• Over 4 million issues
• Over 10,000 school children
• Student satisfaction risen 13% in the National Student Survey (NSS)
• University staff satisfaction with library services 98%
• 8,690 logged enquiries (2015-16), 51% by university members

Alongside these facts and figures, we also get great qualitative feedback from our users and visitors:

“The library was a big 'selling point' of the course for me.” – NSS response, 2016

“I would like to highlight the fact that we have a wonderful library in Worcester. Great workspace, friendly staff and tons of resources.” – NSS response, 2016

"At the wonderful Hive, Worcester, I found myself hoping that like them, other universities could combine with local libraries..." Michael Rosen at the Hive's 5th Anniversary

Our wonderful staff make all of this happen. Simply put, they are the best asset we have. We have around 200 staff in The Hive, and we ask a tremendous amount of them. A member of the front of house team might be running Bounce and Rhyme in the morning, supporting a first time computer user at lunchtime, and helping students discover reading list materials for their assignment in the afternoon. They work with each customer in the same positive and friendly way and because of this we consistently receive great feedback from our users.

The nature of the building means that we have a huge number of opportunities for people to get involved, students and public. Alongside our paid staff, we have around 110 volunteers in 15 different roles, contributing 20,000 hours this year alone. Volunteers can sign up as digital champions, meet and greeters, or work with events, code club, work club, children’s activities or more besides.

Alongside this, we have a vibrant cultural, educational and particpatory programme designed to bring our communities together, with all of our activities being open to all of our users. We are truly an example of cohesion, joined-up thinking and commitment to lifelong learning across all ages. We try to aim high, our programme is carefully considered and we offer something new and modern in a predominately historic city.

What’s next?
A new 5 year Strategic Plan for The Hive is in production and one of the many lessons learned has been that we have to remain flexible; adapting to changing circumstances and customer needs. A new 5 year Strategic Plan is in development, looking at prioritising and building on our many achievements, but also identifying where we want to grow our audience and improve our facility. There are plans to develop the exterior site, something that will add to the regeneration of this are of Worcester and to work more closely with the LEP and Economic Development on measuring our impact on the city. We are also looking at evaluating other areas with regard to the Hive's influence on our education providers, literacy and our social impact on visitors. We also aim to continue to be a frontrunner in terms of design, building functionality and the service we provide and to continually improve our service for those who use our facility both now and in the future.

There are so many wonderful spaces to discover at The Hive, but my own special place in the library is on Level 4, our only silent study area where I can sit and look out across the gold-cladded roof to the Malvern Hills beyond or up on the roof itself, such an amazing feat of engineering and genuinely feeling like I am in the pyramids of Egypt! The Hive is so much more than just a library.