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St John's College

The Learning Resource Centre

Design of the Learning Resource Centre. View from South Bailey. (c) Darbyshire Architects

The new Learning Resource Centre: a 21st-century learning space in a century-old College

“A library is not a luxury but one of the necessities of life.” Henry Ward Beecher (1813-1887)

Libraries lie at the heart of a university. A library that can respond to and provide for a full university education, encompassing both academic learning and personal and social development; is a space in which students can think, reflect, study, research, debate, share, and learn.

The importance of libraries to higher education is without question. It is why most of the UK’s university libraries have, in the last 15 years, been subject to major extensions, extensive redevelopments, or complete new builds. Over 11,000 people visited Bodleian’s Weston Library, Oxford, on its opening weekend in March 2015, following its three-year, £80 million transformation.

St John’s College, along with 12 of the 15 other distinct residential and educational Colleges that comprise Durham University, has its own library. Together with the University’s five library sites, College libraries provide students with a variety of learning resources and environments: from the individual and quiet, to the group and discursive; all tailored to meet their needs and, in the case of only John’s and University College, accessible 24/7.

St John’s College Library, located within the College’s South Bailey grounds in the former chapel, is no longer able to meet 21st-century study needs.

  • It has no shared learning spaces and can offer only 40 cramped, uncomfortable, and badly-lit individual study spaces to a growing student body. That’s a ratio of 18 students per study space.
  • It is at capacity, housing 30,000 books across the range of academic subjects taught at the University - typically core texts which, due to demand, are difficult to get hold of through the main University libraries; and a high quality collection in theology and ministry.
  • It is unable to accommodate the development of electronic resources which are fundamental to today’s learning.
  • It is accessible only via the main College building and requires a key which gives the holder access to the entire building (excluding individual residential rooms).
  • It can only offer restricted disabled access.

Our vision

St John's Learning Resource Centre will be a three floor building reflecting the scale of the adjacent Cathedral and College buildings. Teaching space and library space will feature over all three floors. The main entrance will lead to the main public circulation areas, flexible meeting and exhibition spaces. The first and second floors will provide book stacks and study areas, with views of the Cathedral Tower providing inspiration to hard working students and scholars. The south-west section of the site will include an external terrace – an outdoor sanctuary leading into the garden of the adjoining Etchells House. The outlook to South Bailey will be fully glazed.

The Learning Resource Centre will

  • Improve College’s facilities and enhance the learning experience for generations of Johnians.
  • Allow College to share its resources with other members of the University and the local community.
  • Enable College to grow and flourish as part of a top UK University.
  • Enhance College’s reputation as a centre of cutting edge ministerial and lay theological training
  • Develop the Durham World Heritage Site.

In addition, the College is running out of teaching space due to the growth of Cranmer Hall. John’s is unique within the University in that it is home to a theological institution; and it is the only College within Durham University to offer teaching. This aspect of College activity is one of the primary reasons for its foundation in 1909 and remains an integral part of its present day identity and reputation.

A 21st century centre for learning

The Learning Resource Centre will represent the first new build on the historic Bailey in decades. It will likely be the only such development in a lifetime. The intended site – opposite the main College building, just footsteps away from Durham Cathedral - sits within a distinctive boundary visible on the earliest maps of the city. It falls within a designated UNESCO World Heritage Site.

The Centre will operate as a working academic library and offer a new and enhanced environment for learning. Individual and group study space will be provided for students; along with audio-visual equipment in flexible teaching and meeting spaces - including video conferencing facilities for joint teaching with other UK and world-wide programmes.

It will offer the only purpose-built, sizable lecture space on the Bailey, suitable for conferences and events, and available for use by our neighbours – University Colleges and Departments, Durham Cathedral, and the wider local community. Opening up College’s outstanding theological collection to scholars, clergy and the local community will mark out Durham as one of the leading centres of church scholarship in the world.

Since 2006 College has invested over £6 million in an ambitious estates strategy which has revitalised our student accommodation, dining facilities and grounds. This new build now forms the next stage of that strategy.

Support the life of St John's

St John's College, Durham is a recognised College of Durham University and incorporates Cranmer Hall. Charity No. 1141701 Limited Company No. 113496 (England and Wales) VAT No. 334 6364 57.