At a time when archives and libraries are feeling the pinch, it’s a delight to find one that’s been given a brand new purpose-built repository with all mod cons, and bells and whistles to boot. The Hive in Worcester was opened by the Queen last month and is a joint venture between the University of Worcester and Worcestershire County Council. The building houses the former Worcester Record Office, History Centre, library and archaeology service, and is a godsend for researchers who now have all their resources under one roof.
The building is light and spacious with a wide central staircase rising through the middle, and is fully equipped with computers, wireless and high speed internet access. There are plenty of places to work, comfortable armchairs, newspapers and magazines, plus a great café. All this is open for over 12 hours a day. The windows open so there is good air circulation and none of that ‘new building’ feeling.
The archive area is called Explore the Past and is in two sections. One is a self-service area of microfilms and readers containing commonly accessed materials such as parish registers, old newspapers, electoral registers, etc and which also has the local studies library. The other is a restricted area reserved for people looking at original documents for which a reader’s ticket is required.
The archive staff are fantastic and give new visitors an induction tour of the facilities and are on hand to ask if you need help. There are lots of nice touches in the original documents area: good-sized plastic trays are available to keep your laptop, papers, and other personal possessions together, with plenty of power sockets, and lamps on every table. There are designated tables for examining the catalogue indexes with handy ledges above if you just want to dip into a volume. Document retrieval from the storerooms is efficient and orders are delivered to your table. One major benefit in the self-service area is the ability to use a memory stick to transfer saved microfilm images directly to your laptop.
There are a few niggles: it can get quite noisy when there are a lot of people and while it’s lovely to see children in a library enjoying themselves, certain levels of over-exuberance can disturb serious study although it isn’t a major issue. There is no barrier to entering the original document area and staff are constantly having to tell people wandering in that it is a restricted area. A simple gate and some signs would do the trick.
Overall though, it’s a fantastic resource. No wonder it’s humming.