McClay Library Opens at Queen’s University in Belfast

One of Northern Ireland’s newest landmark buildings, the £50million McClay Library at Queen’s, was officially opened on Tuesday 6 July by one of Queen’s most famous alumni, Nobel prize-winning poet Seamus Heaney.

Speaking ahead of the opening, Queen’s Vice-Chancellor Professor Peter Gregson said it was particularly appropriate for the red-letter event to take place during the University’s Summer Graduations.
Professor Gregson said: “During this graduation week, the highlight of our academic calendar, we celebrate the achievements of our students, and the timing for the opening of the McClay Library could not be more appropriate. For it is our students, present and future, who will benefit from this magnificent new building, the treasures it houses, and the services it provides.

Seamus Heaney described the McClay Library as “a fitting monument to one of the University’s greatest benefactors, an enhancement of its architectural profile and intellectual possibilities.
He added: “The redbrick walls of the new structure match those of the venerable Lanyon Building, and will stand as a symbol of both continuity and ongoing development.”

Last month the library was officially named after the late Sir Allen McClay. Lady Heather McClay, who will attend the opening, said the library was an appropriate way to remember Sir Allen.
“Allen spent his entire life learning, even in his older years. As he set up and grew Galen and then Almac he always said that he was learning every day. He held Queen’s University in very high regard and was acutely aware of the role universities play in driving an economy forward. He would be very pleased to have his name associated with the library and I am hopeful that what he achieved in business can inspire future business leaders in Northern Ireland.”

The McClay Library is the centrepiece of a transformed campus which enables Queen’s to fulfil its ambition to provide a world-class educational experience for current and future generations of students from around the world.

Illuminated by a multi-storey open atrium, the impressive building accommodates 2,000 reader places and houses 1.2 million volumes. Ground floor facilities include IT training rooms, a Language Centre, Library and Computer support areas and a cafe. The upper storeys house the University’s Special Collections, subject-related enquiry points and a vast range of printed works.

Among Queen’s Special Collections are the papers relating to Seamus Heaney’s award-winning translation of the Old English epic poem Beowulf, which was published by Faber in 1999.

Hailed as a model of sustainable design, the building was designed by Boston-based architects Shepley Bulfinch, who had previously designed and developed major academic libraries at Yale and Harvard, and who worked in association with Robinson Patterson Partnership, Belfast.
Shepley Bulfinch President Carole Wedge said: “Not only does the McClay Library give Queen’s a new physical landmark, but it also reflects the University’s commitment to scholarship, the environment, and the future. It is part of the legacy of my colleague, the late Sandy Howe, who was the Library’s design architect.”

In conclusion, Professor Gregson added: “The McClay Library is a shining example of the power of international collaboration and its benefits to the people of Northern Ireland.”

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