McClay Library wins national award

The McClay Library at Queen’s University Belfast has won a national award for its outstanding architectural design and facilities.

The Society of College, National and University Libraries (SCONUL) Award is presented every three years to a UK library that best meets the needs of users and staff. The £50 million McClay Library at Queen’s is joint-winner of the 2013 award with The Augustine House Library and Student Services at Canterbury Christ Church University.

Named after the late Sir Allen McClay, one of Queen’s greatest benefactors, the Library opened in 2009, and a major enhancement project has just been completed. It was the most significant building project at Queen’s since the construction of the iconic red-brick Lanyon building in 1849.

Queen’s Acting President and Vice-Chancellor, Professor James McElnay said: “The McClay Library is a landmark building for Queen’s and for Belfast, and reflects the University’s commitment to scholarship, the environment and the future. With 10,000 people passing through its doors each day, the Library is an invaluable resource for all our students, providing a world-class study environment and support. This award is recognition of the building itself and also of the high quality of service delivered by Library staff.”

Hailed as a model of sustainable design, the McClay Library accommodates 2,200 reader spaces and houses 1.2 million volumes. Illuminated by a multi-storey open atrium, the impressive building includes IT training rooms, a Language Centre, Library and Computer support areas and a café, alongside the University’s Special Collections and the impressive CS Lewis Reading Room, which is accessed through a hand-carved ‘wardrobe’ door.

Elizabeth Traynor, Assistant Director of Library Services at Queen’s, said: “The McClay Library has transformed the University’s library service and more than doubled student usage. Students visit more often, stay longer and satisfaction levels have increased. Extended opening hours, an increase in self-service book issue and return, a laptop lending service, group study rooms, full disability access and roving advisors are just some of the highlights of the student support service on offer in the Library, and we are delighted that this has been recognised by the SCONUL judging panel.”

Ann Rossiter, Executive Director at SCONUL, said: “Providing access to knowledge is vital but is only one part of what an academics library does. Libraries are at the heart of their institutions and one of their most important functions is the provision of a place and atmosphere for learning. Our winning libraries offer a blueprint for how libraries can transform learning.”

The McClay Library was designed by Boston-based architects Shepley Bulfinch, who had previously designed and developed major academic libraries at Yale and Harvard, and who worked in association with RPP, Belfast. This is the latest in a number of awards for the building, which received the prestigious Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors Award for Sustainability in 2010, defeating other prestigious property projects from around the world.

For more information about Library Services at Queen’s visit

Media inquiries to Anne-Marie Clarke at Queen’s Communications Office Tel: +44(0)28 9097 5320 or email

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