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Tuesday, 4 July 2017

The woes and wows of being re-floored… one Librarian’s nightmare.

Claudette Kercival                                         Mukesh Kemrajh


The mammoth reflooring project of The EG Malherbe Library which reached completion on 27th of  March 2017 …literally left us floored!

For the 29 odd years that this library has been in existence, users have enjoyed the luxury of cosy carpeted floors.  In the latter months of 2015 it was decided that the flooring would be replaced with cork. I am keen to see whether this piece will elicit some conversation as to the reasons behind the selection of this floor covering as well as its appropriateness and durability for library spaces.

I have reservations about the following issues:
  • the appropriateness and suitability and longevity of the flooring
  •  the skill level of the awarded contractor
  • the level of workmanship and the quality of completed job
Below is merely an anecdotal account of my borderline nightmarish experience on the 3rd floor.

One may wonder ‘why the woes’.  It was simply because, the ‘wows’ were short-lived no sooner had the project begun.

So let’s uncork this series of fortunate or unfortunate events for some… 

The project which commenced on 26th March 2016 was scheduled for completion in 6 months…upon reflection that was wishful thinking of a very aspirant service provider, who was replaced before the project had been completed!

Much to the dismay of staff and users alike the project laboured on until finality a year later on the 29th of March 2017.  In addition there were the student protests, non-functioning lifts and a shortage of material (cork) which further hampered/delayed the project

Needless to say, it was indeed a colossal task, which most certainly warranted the judgement of contractors who understood precisely what this extensive project implied for the library services, collections and operations.  Sadly, this was not the case.
  • Each floor had to be cordoned off. This meant restricted access to the study space and     collections by students and staff.
  • Staff offices had to be re-located until each floor was completed
  • All furniture, shelving and computers had to be moved.
  • The carpets had to be removed which was not a pleasant task at all, as this meant the resurrection of 30 years of dust in a sealed building.
  • Thereafter the embedded carpet glue had to be scraped off the concrete
  • Boxes of the treated cork were then installed with not the friendliest of smelling glues.
  • Several coats of varnish were then applied to the cork which sustained a very short-lived splendour.  Unfortunately, when real traffic trampled on these floors, the lustre soon dissipated.
As per the proposal…
  • We were assured that no books were to be moved off the shelves.  Instead, hydraulic jacks were going to elevate the shelves so that the cork could be installed causing minimum disruption to the collections.  Alas, this was not the case resulting in all shelves and books being in an utter disarray.  
  • We were also assured that all collections would be covered with heavy duty plastic, protecting the collection from the dreadfully injurious dust.  Regrettably, this again was not the case which resulted in further cleaning efforts for library staff.
  • A glaring omission was the lack of ‘project management’ and simple attention to detail which would have made some difference… but then who are we mere mortals to note that!
In the month of September 2016, when the proposed date of completion had come and gone, several disgruntled users began voicing their dissatisfaction which in turn prompted a random survey of 120 users which revealed the following:
  • The respondents were made up as follows:
o   13% Postgraduates
o   82% Undergraduates
o   5% Staff
  • 25% (predominantly undergraduates) of the respondents welcomed the new look and commented on its modern look and hygiene.
  • 62% felt that the money spent could have been put to better use to upgrade more necessary facilities.
  • 87% responded that their study and access to information was disrupted during the project
  • There were concerns about the durability of the flooring.
  • There were concerns about the slippery nature of the flooring.
Clearly an assessment of pros and cons should have been undertaken before embarking on this project.
So there you have it … one Librarian’s perspective!

Barely covered shelves

 Clearing of furniture

Cordoned off floors

Laborious manual removal of carpets
 Note the piles of books mish mashed  to be re-shelved

 The final product…notice the glare