Innovative Services


University Libraries are often seen as the academic heart of any institution. However, as a shared space they are also ideally placed to deliver services to students. Many Universities are choosing to create a building which is divided between the Library Service and Professional Student Services such as the Careers Service, Financial Services or International Student Services. Some Universities are even providing offices and meeting rooms for their Student Association or Guild. Many others are choosing to simply develop and enhance the services that they have traditionally offered. Several years ago we ran a survey for a London University, and we asked students about they types of services that they would like to see in the future. We got some interesting responses – here are some of the most imaginative:

• Practice rooms for musical instruments and performances

• Gaming rooms for those studying animation and to enhance problem-solving skills.

• Social Media Tailoring Service – what apps are right for you?

• Personal Branding

• Mentoring Service

• Life Coaching Service

• Meditation spaces

• Allotments and Beehives

• Sleeping Pods

• A Cinema Club

• Tech Rental – iPads/Laptops etc

• Start up Rental – Clothing, electrical goods, etc. for new students in accommodation

• Exercise space for physical and mental stimulation – Tai Chi etc.

• Child care and baby changing

• Gender-neutral toilets

Some of these are far fetched but to innovate means to make changes in something established and to do this you need ideas. As usual, we want your thoughts on the types of innovative services that your library can offer. Leave your comments here, email them to or watch out for the ‘Innovative Services?’ poll later this month.





Inspirational Places

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We want your new spaces to be both truly innovative and truly unique. For us, this means that we must work with the people that use these places the most to design spaces that are exciting, functional, comfortable and are beautiful. We must also be aware of the project in its context and examine the latest thinking and design practice in Universities, Schools and Colleges so that we can learn from others and pass this on.

As designers we are inspired by many things, often these have very little to do with design itself. But there are a few places that we frequently return to for inspiration, and we thought we would share these with you to try to get some discussion started.

The top row features Unite d’habitition in Marseille by the Modernist architect LeCorbusier. Now we know it’s a bit stereotypical of us to feature LeCorbu, but the principles that underlie this work have had an influence on our people-centred approach to design. In particular the notion that a community can be formed in one building by including streets, shops, offices and homes just like any other community. The roof even has a creche. The building was a success and has been widely (if often poorly) imitated.

The next row features the shops of luxury skincare brand Aesop. Aesop places a great deal of value on design, and each one of their shops has a different design usually utilising found objects or unusual materials.

The centre row is rather an eclectic mix and from left to right features, the bedroom of Eileen Grey, one of the first well-known female designers and we love the juxtaposition of opulent objects such as the zebra skin rug with more modernist engineered items. In the middle is a classic piece of Glasgow architecture – we are Glaswegians after all, and then one of our favourite projects ANS Bank Centre in Melbourne.

The fourth row shows another two favourites, on the left is the Why Factory at Delft Universtiy of Technology where the livid orange staircase to nowhere serves as a place for students to meet each other, watch the world go or gather for events. The structure of the staircase also houses several collaborative s meeting rooms over different levels. Next to this is an image of Glasgow Caledonian University’s Study Club which our designers completed last year. We are so lucky to have such talented folk here at Nomad, and we are always inspired by their work.

The last line shows Google’s Engineering offices in Victoria London. We could show a whole page of images from this project which we visited a few years ago. During our visit, our guide told us that when the designers asked the engineers at Google what they wanted the space to look like they unanimously answered, ‘The Death Star!’ These offices are full of wonderful innovations including tiny ‘hangout’ rooms, writable surfaces everywhere and sleeping pods.

These are just some of the spaces that inspire us. Now we want to know what types of spaces and places inspire you. Leave your thoughts and comments here or, if you have a specific place in mind copy a link into the comments box or email it to, if it is in the UK we might even organise a site visit for the design team.




Thanks to everyone who took part in interviews and mapping tasks at our pop up stall this week. In total, we managed to interview 101 students and staff and gathered 78 concept maps.

Over the next few weeks, we will be analysing the information that we collected from you which will form the basis for some polls that we will launch next month. Please keep checking back on the blog to make sure you don’t miss the polls which will explore some of the information that you have given us in more detail. In the meantime, we will continue to publish discussion stories, and we hope you will contribute to these.




Researchers Diary

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I am part of the Nomad Team visiting the University this week asking students and staff questions about their thoughts, feelings and the future of the Kimberlin Library.

We’ve been onsite for the past two days and had a great time exploring the University campus and some of the city, trying out some of the local restaurants including, Shivalli, which we would highly recommend!

Everyone has been extremely welcoming, and we’ve already managed to speak to over 60 people, gaining some interesting and valuable insights into how you currently use the library and what types of spaces, facilities, and events you would like to see more of.

We’ve also carried out over 50 concept mapping exercises where we’ve asked you to redesign the library. We’ve had an array of good ideas, from rooftop gardens, gyms where you can workout and study at the same time, and cinemas for education and entertainment.

Today is our last day on site, and we’re going to be in the Foyer of the Vijay Patel Building and the Kimberlin Library for the rest of the day so if you’d like to take part, come and find us!

Chris – Nomad Team


What is a library?


Ten years ago, in 2006, just before forming Nomad, our Principle Designers and Company Directors designed The Saltire Centre at Glasgow Caledonian University. The Saltire Centre was a new type of library and was widely hailed as the project which changed the model of the modern University Library. Truthfully, it was part of a group of groundbreaking projects in a handful of Universities across the UK including the earlier Learning Grid at the University of Warwick and the later Learning Commons at Sheffield Hallam University. Since the completion of these projects, there has been a revolution in the design of University libraries throughout the UK, USA and Ireland and we have been privileged to be part of this. However, despite a wealth of excellent work in the field, there is yet to be another breakthrough moment on the scale of these projects in the design of the University Libraries.

The stereotype of the library that we are all familiar with is that of the knowledge bank, the silent, timber clad temple of books. In some ways this image might always be a part of what a library is, but what else can a library be and what is it becoming? Over the years we have discussed many ideas including the following.

The Library as a centre for culture which embraces the arts and performance

The Library as a place where the local community can gather and meet with the academic community.

The Library as a place where outdoor pursuits are celebrated or mini agriculture is encouraged.

The Library as a place which simulates a range of working environments such as offices, shops or factories

Perhaps even a place where one can have a quiet glass of wine while reading a classic in the hot tub (we won’t say who suggested that one!)

We know that the University has been experimenting with the library spaces, and we believe that finding out more about your ideas for your library spaces could be the key to some innovative and unique thinking.

The #FutureLibrary Project is an ambitious and exciting project, and we urge you to get involved. So, we want to ask you, what is a library today and what should it be tomorrow? Leave your thoughts and comments here, speak to our team when they are on site this week and watch out for the ‘What is a Library?’ poll next month.


New Learning Spaces

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New Learning places and spaces have risen in popularity in recent years as has the interest in their definition and design. Most Universities have a variety of new learning spaces to meet different needs and many larger organisations such as the big retailers also have learning places and spaces for their staff.

So what is a new learning space? In our experience, their first function is to give people a range of study spaces supported by technology and they usually comprise the following spatial types,

1. Highly active areas such as cafes and coffee shops

2. Active area to meet informally

3. Collaborative spaces – focused places to work together on projects and presentations

4. Solo space – quieter areas for more traditional forms of study

5. Secluded spaces – places for quiet reflection

&, depending on the institution,

6. Creative spaces – places which support creative activities such as making and performing.

The other key ingredient is flexibility or adaptability. Flexibility is the trickiest aspect of a brief as space can be too flexible; we often use the analogy of a big stretched woolly jumper which looks a bit messy and does not fit anyone in particular. These are the essential ingredients that make up a new learning space, but we know there is more to it than that and that we must work with each group to understand what they need and want from their new learning spaces. We want to know what you think about your learning spaces on campus, which work, which don’t work and why and what do you truly need and want from your learning spaces? Leave your thoughts and comments here, speak to our team when they are on site next week and watch out for the ‘Learning Places and Spaces?’ poll next month.


Researchers on Site


Chris and Neil from our team will be on site between 25th – 27th October. They will be asking you about your thoughts and ideas for your future library spaces. If you have the time, please stop by and have a chat with them, they are very friendly, and you won’t be able to miss them as they will be located in our fabulous inflatable igloo at the following locations:

25th – The Kimberlin Library
26th – The Food Village
27th – The Vijay Patel Building

If you simply can’t spare the time then don’t worry we will be uploading a number of stories and polls over the coming weeks, and you will still be able to take part in these. We are keen to get as many of your views as possible so keep visiting the blog for opportunities and other news.

Looking forward to hearing your opinions