A PIONEERING project to create the first joint university and public library in Europe has won a prestigious award.

The University of Worcester was tonight crowned winner of the Contribution to the Local Community category at the 2013 Guardian University Awards.

Judges chose the university to receive the prize for its partnership with Worcestershire County Council in creating Worcester’s new £60milliom library, The Hive.

The state-of-the-art building has welcomed 600,000 people through its doors in Sawmill Walk, the Butts, in just 224 days, seeing a 105 per cent increase in borrowing.

Judges felt it had created “a real legacy that could be replicated in other institutions”.

University vice chancellor Professor David Green said: "This award is the latest in a line of national and international awards for a truly inspirational building dedicated to learning.

"When we first set about developing Britain’s first university and public library we had a vision to create a building that would bring the community together and inspire many more people into discovering the joys of learning, study and creativity.

"By creating a new library, alongside an outstanding archive and community services in an imaginative partnership with the Worcestershire County Council we have put the University at the heart of the community.

"The public benefit is immense and the students and staff of the University now enjoy a much bigger, better and more inclusive library with built in opportunities to volunteer and positively engage – particularly with children."

Anne Hannaford, director of information and learning services at the university, said: "Our vision for The Hive has always been to create an inspiring space, which people enjoy visiting for many reasons: to study and learn; to find new and exciting books and historic objects; to find out information; and to get support and advice.  Some people just enjoy sitting and reading, looking out across the wonderful views.

"We have worked alongside our partners at Worcestershire County Council to make this close connection between the University and the community. The Hive has so much to offer in terms of sharing resources and expertise for the benefit of everyone."

Councillor Adrian Hardman, leader of Worcestershire County Council, said: "We are delighted the university has received this prestigious award. The partnership and joint working towards a common goal between the University of Worcester and ourselves has allowed The Hive to flourish to become a superb building which the community and students can enjoy, learn and study together within. It is wonderful to see the university recognised in this way."

Alan Rusbridger, editor-in-chief, Guardian News and Media, said: “The Guardian University Awards honour the outstanding contributions of the UK’s best universities and individuals who are driving innovation and delivering outstanding results in the face of radical reform and budget cuts.

“Our ten award categories were keenly fought and in this first year we have seen outstanding competition. All of our winners have shown that they are among the best in the education business.”

The awards, running for the first time this year, celebrate the best of Britain’s universities and act as a benchmark for excellence across the higher education sector.