Level 3 James Joyce Library Reimagining

By Lorna Dodd, Deputy University Librarian, UCD Library

As we all emerge into a new, post pandemic world, our experience has emphasised the importance of campus life to the student experience and lockdown has highlighted the need for UCD Library to provide welcoming, accessible and safe learning spaces.

In recognition of this, in Autumn 2021 the Library received funding to both improve and increase student spaces on Level 3 of the James Joyce Library. Evidence shows us that libraries play a unique role on campus, facilitating social, academic and community engagement. They provide students with the opportunity to engage with learning outside of the lecture halls and labs, connect with resources and collaborate with other learners. The impact of digital transformation alongside the increasingly complex and multi-faceted nature of students’ lives has transformed how they engage with learning spaces, creating the need for more responsive, integrated and flexible university services. Because of this, it is critical for us in the Library to continue to not just refurbish spaces but to reimagine and develop them in a way that enables us to lead in the delivery of a high-quality student experience that places students at the centre of service development and evolves to meet the needs of a growing campus population. 

Part of this reimagining of library spaces included thinking about how to best curate and provide access to library collections for both students and faculty. This resulted in the commencement of a ‘Collections Curation Project’ which started in November 2021 and focused on reviewing the collections on the open floors to identify items that could be replaced with digital online versions, transferred to offsite storage or were no longer required. Because reviewing print journals is less complex than reviewing book titles, we started on Level 3 of the James Joyce Library which held runs of old science journals. 


In March 2022 the floor was cleared of print material, transforming what was a dark cluttered space to a bright open one, with views from Dublin bay to the Dublin mountains.

Once the space was cleared, we then began the process of reimagining how the floor could be used, shifting away from the old ‘exam hall’ feel to a more modern space that met a wide range of student needs. To do this we established a ‘reference group’ made up of key stakeholders including students, faculty, colleagues in Access and Lifelong Learning (ALL) and Library staff. The group worked closely with the architect to identify the evolving needs of library users and explored different kinds of spaces in other newly built academic libraries. 

We also invited students using the library to write us either a ‘love letter’ or a ‘breakup letter’. These were letters addressed to the library explaining what they really loved about the library, or what they really disliked about the library, and wanted us to change. This gave us rich and varied feedback about how students use library spaces and enabled us to develop a space that will meet the emerging needs of students.

The architect then developed a range of exciting drawings, providing a visual representation for how the floor will look when completed. These included a short video, moving around the floor, outlining the different kinds of spaces. These drawings show a transformed library space, consisting of a range of modern study facilities with comfortable high-quality furniture. Spaces range from casual seating to more formal study desks.

In September 2022 work began on replacing the dark, worn out carpets with new flooring, which instantly brightened the space.

To facilitate students during the busiest trimester in the Library, works were paused to allow study to continue until Christmas. In January 2023, Level 3 will close and refurbishment will begin. When finished, the newly refurbished floor will  include a new silent study room, charging facilities for laptops and mobile devices, exhibition space and two sensory rooms accessible to all students.

It is anticipated that Level 3 will re-open for students before the start of the 2023/2024 academic year. We are really excited about the improvements to library spaces and how much they will enhance the student experience. We also have really exciting plans to improve and modernise other parts of the Library and look forward to sharing them with everyone very soon!



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