Research objectives

1.     To provide the means to better evaluate both typical and more visionary re-use strategies for Carnegie public Libraries:

1.1.  To record and disseminate the current uses and conditions of Carnegie libraries in the UK. To map community attitudes to these inherited buildings, to re-visit their aims and to promote dialogue regarding the future of these public buildings among disparate communities.

1.2.  On the basis of their environmental performance it will ask what are the viable alternative futures for public libraries that have been closed? What is the potential for salvaging their qualities for re-use/re-cycling? Can the standardised methods of building for Carnegie Libraries be used to inform their re-use?

1.3.  It will set out the typical problems for re-cycling that arise from the original plan/design of Carnegie libraries (eg some with/without structural barriers or compartmentalisation). It will identify how buildings are failing to perform and ask how can century-old architectural hierarchies of access and provision be re-interpreted and re-used?

2.     To determine which elements of Carnegie Library buildings may be identified as iconic and to classify them as such, making a catalogue that is both interactive and accessible as well as technically informative:

2.1.  Creating a gazetteer of building components common to Carnegie Public Library buildings in the US and UK will initially entail a desk-based survey together with web searches to ascertain the survival of these buildings. A task to record all the UK libraries will determine the scope of commonalities as well as providing the opportunity to better promote their architectural qualities through publication.

2.2.  From this initial review, key features will be ranked by their commonality in order to develop a systematic recording of components of Carnegie libraries in a new digital catalogue which outlines their purpose, aim and inception in principle.

3.     To provide better tools for the evaluation and informed conservation or re-use of these buildings taking account of demands for using Building Information Modelling protocols for public projects:

3.1.  To test whether a common Historic Building Information Model (HBIM) resource could be developed through which it would be possible to identify the means to economically refurbish these buildings through knowledge exchange. To develop economies of scale, identifying common elements and related issues leading to building decay.

3.2.  To develop a family of parametric building components for modelling Carnegie library buildings and so develop the start of an HBIM resource for the recording of a significant number of public libraries in the UK and USA.

3.3.  The research will aim to develop a methodology for multi-modal matching principles such as are used in computer vision. It will ask if visual matches between illustrations from historic technical literature and depictions of objects in current photographs can be automated. The many standard elements deployed in the design of Carnegie Libraries will be used to provide the basis for this.

4.     To use models to determine the environmental performance of these buildings as designed and to identify how they fail to perform today. To use focus groups to evaluate the impact of altering these perceptions of energy use:

4.1.  Using a selection of case studies surveyed in detail and accessible on a demonstration website, it will model the designed performance of these buildings and highlight potential opportunities for re-use, adaptation or simply repair.

4.2.  The larger historical context will explore the future of historic libraries in a digital information society / flexible post-Fordist society; as well as notions of mixed use, appealing at a time of financial stringency

4.3.  The research will address the question of whether the systematic provision of public resources necessarily has a restricted remit – is there a reason why it cannot evolve or change?

Task 1

The interactive map of the Carnegie Libraries of Britain was put together and refined from an initial assessment made in 2006 during Prizeman’s AHRC funded PhD research published in Philanthropy and Light: Carnegie Libraries and the advent of Transatlantic Standards for Public Space that had used a list supplied by Elizabeth East at the Carnegie UK Trust in addition with statutory lists and Gerry Blaikie’s excellent Scotcities website. In 2014 on a research internship from Calabria, Graziano Muratore assisted in creating a GIS map of Carnegie libraries for Wales.

Subsequently this research project set out to complete the task for the whole of the UK, first using relevant documents followed up by site visits. For the initial review multiple sources were consulted, including Carnegie lists of grants held in archives at the Carnegie Corporation of New York at Columbia University, the National Archives of Scotland. The gazetteer in Alistair Black et al’s book: “Books, Buildings and Social Engineering” provided the majority of publication references of reports in the contemporary architectural and library press. These were all pursued through online access to the Builder and the Building News where possible and in person for these and other architectural and library publications in the archives of Cambridge University Library, The RIBA and the British Library.

Web resources such as Welsh Newspapers Online and the British Newspaper Archive provided access to accounts in the local press of grants applied for, built and rejected. It also assisted in determining the date of replacement, re-use demolition or destruction of buildings that no longer existed. The location and co-ordinates of all buildings and their current state was verified using historic maps available through EDINA Digimap, the National Library of Scotland and the Public Record office of Northern Ireland. The identification and verification of architects and or designers was made possible using the Directory of British Architects 1834-1914 and the Dictionary of Scottish Architects.

The verification of buildings as designed and existing was made using Google Maps StreetviewTM in comparison with images taken from the original press coverage of the buildings. These data supported the creation of the GIS map and consequently enabled a complete photographic survey of all the extant Carnegie Library buildings in Britain.

Task 2

A selection of typical Carnegie Library buildings were identified in order to enable the creation of 3D digital models. The data capture for the library buildings’ recording was done using both Terrestrial Laser Scanning (TLS) and Photogrammetry (using Structure-From-Motion methods) with results post-processed as appropriate. In addition to this, 360o panoramic images were taken, which allowed the creation of virtual tours with navigation capacities similar to those of Google Street View. Most of these outputs can be found in the Explore Libraries page in this website.

Task 2

The state-of-the-art image classification code developed in this project for automating the recognition of early 20th century standardised architectural components (present in many buildings of the time as well as the Carnegie Libraries of Britain) exploits deep learning for performing the image matching task. This was based on the identification of building components common to Carnegie Public Library buildings in the UK developed using data from the photographic survey undertaken as part of task 1. The code is an open resource.

Task 3

Data captured in task 2, together with images and specifications from the technical literature of the time, were used as a reference to create a library of HBIM parametric components; which are required for inclusion in HBIM models and yet are often not translated into shared formats because of the lack of standardisation. Historic technical information was collected through multiple visits to the RIBA Library, the British Library, the and Cambridge University Library and its Faculty of Architecture and History of Art Library.

Task 4

The websites seeks to raise awareness regarding common challenges and current opportunities that people, librarians and professionals are dealing with, when it comes to maintaining Carnegie Libraries buildings in Britain and thus contains an interactive element with opportunities for public participation and aims to provoke transatlantic discussion of shared concerns. The website seeks to connect stakeholders, supporting the creation of a strong national network. All the outputs of the project are available for free consultation in the website. In particular, linking available data resources aims to significantly assist in the documentation, comprehension and conservation of Carnegie Library buildings.