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One for the books

Norwich High School for Girls' new library features flexible spaces for reading and collaborative working

Posted by Hannah Oakman | October 03, 2016 | Facilities & buildings

Over the summer holidays, Norwich High School for Girls completed a major refurbishment of the school library following a generous bequeathment from alumnae Franziska Bettelheim. 

Designing the library was a collaborative effort between staff, students and contractor Envoplan. The new library is a modern, flexible and dynamic space to foster student’s intellectual curiosity, while remaining highly functional and practical. 

By creating curves and shapes to explore, the girls are encouraged to search out and discover new books. Quiet corners, reading pods and snuggle stores give the girls a place to get away. Seating is set within the bookcases where students are enveloped by the surrounding literature and can immerse themselves in a book undisturbed.

The new library is linked to the historic Jameson Library by an impressive circular archway. Balancing modernity with Norwich High School’s tradition and heritage was central to the overall look of the refurbishment. Little touches such as using the wallpaper from the Jameson Library on the inside of the archway brings the two styles together.

There are limited fixed IT facilities in the room, as every girl at the school has access to their own iPad or laptop computer. The library is fitted with a collaborative working table, which features a large flat screen television. Students are encouraged to plug in their devices, present and share ideas with each other.

Folding tables and stacking chairs were sourced in order to create a flexible space that can adapt to the ever-changing needs of the school. The furniture is contemporary, although reminiscent of old fashioned school chairs and tables.

The girls played an active role in the design process; it was important to the school that the girls had a sense of ownership of the finished project. Envoplan, the contractors who carried out the work, fulfilled the brief and exceeded the schools expectations – they brought our vision to life.

Mrs von Malaisé, Headmistress at Norwich High School for Girls, said: “A library is the beating heart of any school and should inspire students to explore topics and stimulate their imaginations. Our fantastic new library is a dynamic environment which conveys excitement for learning and provides a whole range of spaces for different types of activity: brighter spaces for collaborative learning, and quieter ‘snuggle nooks’ for immersing yourself in a book on your own. The girls themselves have helped with the design so we know that they will love it! We look forward to seeing the space buzzing with life when they return to school.” 

Elizabeth Wraith, Librarian at Norwich High School for Girls, said: “I am thrilled with the finished space. It is stunning and most importantly the girls will adore it. It has been a labour of love and I feel that the library reflects the character and tone of the school. It embodies our community spirit, our emphasis on working collaboratively and our innovative approach to education.”

Ms Bettelheim attended the school between 1938 and 1944 after arriving in England on the Kindertransport which brought thousands of refugee Jewish children to Great Britain from Nazi Germany between 1938 and 1940. She flourished at the school and was a gifted academic. Following the completion of her secondary education at Norwich High School, she received a Major Scholarship to Newham College, Cambridge in History to read Economics.


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