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A 21st century redevelopment for an outstanding 'laboratory of the social sciences'

The British Library of Political and Economic Science  - the internationally renowned library collection of the London School of Economics and Political Science - is to have a newly refurbished home for the 21st century.

The £24.6 million redevelopment of the Lionel Robbins Building at the heart of LSE's campus, between Aldwych and Lincoln's Inn Fields, is planned to start in October this year. Completion is expected to take 18 months.

The Library currently occupies five of the six storeys of the Lionel Robbins Building, which was converted in the late 1970s from a warehouse purchased from W H Smith.

The top floor is currently a base for LSE researchers, and the redevelopment will also provide much improved facilities for four LSE research centres: the Centre for Analysis of Social Exclusion; the Centre for Economic Performance; and the Financial Markets Group (all funded by the ESRC); and STICERD - the Suntory and Toyota International Centres for Economics and Related Disciplines.

Architects Foster and Partners are developing the plans for the £15 million Library and two additional floors, costing £6.6 million, to house the research centres. An additional £3 million will go towards provision costs.

Inspired by the founding vision of LSE as a 'laboratory of the social sciences', the new building is an imaginative, light-filled, open space with a centrepiece partially-glazed dome. The aim is to create a modern research and learning environment of the highest standard, reflecting LSE's excellent international academic reputation.

Funding for the redevelopment has been secured through a successful partnership of public and private sector financing. In addition to money from School funds and generous donations from LSE patrons and alumni, the redevelopment has been greatly assisted by an £8 million grant from the Higher Education Funding Council for England, a £6.6 million award from the Joint Infrastructure Fund (JIF), and a £4 million grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund.

The Library was founded in 1896, and is considered one of the greatest social sciences libraries in the world. Currently it contains more than four million items, including a 1776 first edition of Adam Smith's The Wealth of Nations, the archives of the Liberal Party and the Fabian Society, Charles Booth's 'Poverty maps' of London and a wide range of pamphlets, government and political publications.

While the redevelopment takes place, the Library will maintain its service to LSE students, staff and external users by decanting the collection to 25 Southampton Buildings, five minutes walk from the LSE campus. This building has been temporarily leased from the British Library and until recently housed the Science Reference Information Service. Library services and normal opening hours will be maintained throughout the book removal period.

LSE Librarian Jean Sykes said: "This redevelopment is a major project not only for LSE but also for all the users and friends of the Library worldwide who recognise its unique value as a collection of social science information. We are extremely pleased to receive such generous backing from funders; they have ensured that the Library, part of our national heritage, will be an even better resource in the 21st century."


Notes to Editors:

For further information contact:

Jean Sykes, LSE Librarian and Director of Information Services on tel: 0171 955 7218.

Judith Higgin, LSE Press Office, on tel: 0171 955 7582.

Katie Harris, Foster and Partners, on tel: 0171 393 6266.

Website http://www.lse.ac.uk/blpes|


  • The London School of Economics and Political Science has around 5,800 full-time students and 700 part-time students. About half of these are postgraduates. Around 42 per cent are from over 140 countries outside the European Union.
  • LSE has 18 departments and 27 research centres. In the most recent national research assessment exercise (1996) LSE was rated second out of nearly 100 universities in the UK, when the numbers of staff entered are taken into account. As a specialist institution of the social sciences, LSE is easily in first place.
  • The Lionel Robbins Building was purchased in 1978 and named after the economist Lord Robbins (1898-1984) who taught at LSE from 1929 to 1961.
  • The completed redevelopment will provide:
  1. enhanced study spaces and increased distribution of IT provision for Library users -almost one million entries through the library doors were recorded last year, so extensively is the Library used by students, academic staff and members of the public;
  2. completely re-designed circulation and orientation around the building - a central circulation zone with natural lighting through a partially glazed dome;
  3. expansion space for library materials;
  4. improved conditions for storage of collections;
  5. greatly improved environmental conditions - a well-designed high quality working environment;
  • The Joint Infrastructure Fund is a competitive initiative which seeks to transform the scientific research environment in UK universities. Established in July 1998, the £700 million fund is made up of £300 each from the DTI and the medical research charity the Wellcome Trust, and £100 million from the Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE).

10 April 2001