Transforming a building to prevent risks: the case of the National and University Library Strasbourg (France)

BLIN, Frédéric (2019) Transforming a building to prevent risks: the case of the National and University Library Strasbourg (France). Paper presented at: IFLA WLIC 2019 - Athens, Greece - Libraries: dialogue for change in Session 152 - Preservation and Conservation.

Bookmark or cite this item: http://library.ifla.org/id/eprint/2516
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Language: English (Original)
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Abstract

Transforming a building to prevent risks: the case of the National and University Library Strasbourg (France)

Built between 1889 and 1895, internally fully transformed in the 1950s, the main building of the National and University Library Strasbourg was in 2004 diagnosed with a major potential risk. In case of a fire, the whole building would collapse and destroy all its remarkable collections in less than 15 minutes. Still traumatised by the complete destruction of the Strasbourg library in 1870, local, regional and national authorities decided to create a fully new and safe library within the original walls of this historical building, one of the architectural landmarks of the city. Between 2010 and 2014, four years of moving collections away and in again, of destructing all inner structures, of building new spaces for the users and for the collections, have led to one of the most beautiful libraries in France, joining original elements to modern facilities. Preventing risk was the core of the decision to launch this 65M€ project. The new library now responds to antisismic norms, has a relatively good inner climate stability due to new windows completing restored original ones, has climate control in all stacks and special fire security measures in two historical ones, even has a cold room for storing photographic documents. Cost issues were dealt with from the beginning, leading to some compromises on climate control. All stacks are free from any water pipe, smoke evacuation facilities have not been forgotten, and exhibition areas respond to all official norms. Four and a half years after the completion of the project, it is possible to draw an assessment of its successes and shortcomings. If the overall situation is nowhere close to comparable to what it was before, communication issues, compromises to reduce the costs, constraints of the original building, but also things not as well planned as they should have been, have however impacted the final result. And new themes have appeared since, linked to sustainable development and – very sadly – to security against terroristic acts, that had not been so actual 15 years ago and need to be addressed today. The improvement of the building is a continuous process that is included in the institution’s strategy; reducing risks still is an essential part of it.

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