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Costa-nominated writer returns to celebrate library revamp

23 March 2015

AHSS Library after refurbishment

A creative writing graduate who was shortlisted for a celebrated literary prize is returning to the University to revisit the library that helped her hone her skills.

Joanne Meek is coming back to the University alongside more than 30 alumni and other guests to celebrate the redevelopment of the Arts and Social Studies Library.

She was a runner-up in the 2014 Costa Short Story awards with Jellyfish, the story of a woman who returns with her children to the coast that she once called home.

Joanne, who graduated from the University in 2014 with an MA in Creative Writing, following a BA honours degree in English Language and Communication in 2009, spent many hours in the library on Colum Road, poring over authors, carrying out research and fine tuning prose.

Writer Joanne Meek

"Initially, while I was studying for my undergraduate degree as a single mother, it was my only means of accessing the Internet and somewhere I could study in peace and quiet," she said.

"Later, during my MA in Creative Writing, I began to realise what a valuable resource the library could be for research, not just in my field, but for writing fiction too."

Joanne said her MA gave her the confidence to enter the Costa competition.

"Studying at Cardiff has allowed me to redefine myself and my life. I arrived as a mature student, new to the city, very unsure of myself and my capabilities," she said.

"I have always been proud to be a Cardiff University student. Being a part of the University gave me the confidence and motivation to keep trying, to develop, to continue to learn and achieve, even through some very difficult times; without this I would never have entered the Costa short story competition.

"As the only non-published finalist, it was a massive achievement for me to just be shortlisted, coming away with a prize was a very unexpected bonus.

"As a teenager I never imagined myself going to university, now I can't imagine my life without learning."

At the celebration on Tuesday, 24 March, Joanne will be reading an excerpt from Jellyfish to fellow alumni and senior staff attending the event.

Old exterior shot of the Arts & Social Studies Library
Credit: Institutional Archives, Cardiff University.
Interior shot of ASS Library from the 1970s
Credit: Institutional Archives, Cardiff University.

The University's Chief Operating Officer, Jayne Dowden, who graduated with a BA in Classical Studies in 1978, will talk about her memories of the library and further proposed developments, while Director of Library Services, Janet Peters, will outline how the refurbishment has benefited the University.

Jayne said: "A library plays such an important role for students during their University life. It's a place of study, a social space and, increasingly, a high-tech environment.

"That's why it's so important we provide state-of-the-art, attractive facilities catering for the needs of the modern student, as well as providing an extensive range and depth of resources for researchers.

"It's wonderful to be able to celebrate this fantastic refurbishment with so many alumni, and I'm delighted that Joanne Meek has returned following her recognition in the Costa awards."

Other senior academics and staff due to attend include: Professor George Boyne, Pro Vice-Chancellor, College of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences; Professor Dylan Jones, Pro Vice-Chancellor, College of Biomedical and Life Sciences; Director of Development and Alumni Relations, TJ Rawlinson; Professor Sioned Davies, Head of the School of Welsh; Professor Claire Gorrara, Head of the School of Modern Languages.

The event, sponsored by Bibliotheca and D&G interiors, will also include a reception, exhibitions and a tour of the ground floor and new facilities.

The library has undergone a major refurbishment with several additions such as a new short loan area, relaxed seating sections, plug sockets for laptop use and an automated book sorter.

Nearly half a million people pass through the doors of this library alone each year and make use of facilities such as wi-fi, plasma display screens and electronic books and journals, in addition to the huge print collections.

The ASS Library in the 1970s
Credit: Institutional Archives, Cardiff University.

The library building has been in existence since 1973 serving a huge section of the University's population, from linguists to historians, theologians to psychologists, forming part of a network of 14 libraries across the whole University.

There are further ambitious proposals too.

The University is spending around £450m on the first phase of a plan to transform its campus with new research, teaching and student facilities.

As part of this work, the University library and information resources on the Cathays campus will be brought together beside the Arts and Social Studies Library.

This will provide a focal point for students and researchers to meet and study, and for the public to engage with the University through exhibitions and special events.

A variety of high-quality study zones will be provided to make access to staff and the multi-disciplinary printed books, journals, special collections and archives as convenient as possible.