“WE are a believer in books in this library,” announces Anne Hannaford, the University of Worcester’s director of information and learning services and one of the driving forces behind the city’s new golden structure.

Mrs Hannaford is leading us around The Hive, the new riverside home of Worcester’s library and history centre, which after almost 10 years of planning opens to the public today.

This, you might think, is a pretty obvious thing to say for a woman who has just overseen the creation of a £60 million super library, but it’s soon apparent that an enormous amount of time and energy has been put into the design of this building to allow as many people as possible to discover and enjoy books.

Like all cutting edge designs, the golden-cladded riverside Hive has proved controversial, but step inside and you can’t help but be impressed.

The space is light and calm. A floating wooden staircase cuts through the centre of the building, stretching towards the wooden-lined roof – natural matierials are a key part of this design, inviting you to explore its five levels.

Naturally ventilated, the building will be heated using biomass boilers and use water from the river Severn to provide supplementary cooling, creating a low energy healthy environment. The decor has splashes of vivid colour – all taken from the palette of Worcester Royal Porcelain (nothing in this building is an accident). Some Roman remains have been left exposed in the foyer and it is dotted with archaeological finds discovered during the building work.

On every level large windows display the newest panoramic views of Worcester.

The ground floor houses Worcestershire County Council’s hub, a café and the children’s library. The upper floor houses the county council’s history centre and archaeology service.

It is no coincidence that the children’s library is on the same level as the café and hub, encouraging customers to step behind the brightly coloured reading wall into a space designed especially for children. There’s even a bridge to an outdoor turret where lessons can take place beneath Scots Pine trees. Among the children’s books – housed on mini bookcases – is a wet play area for clay modelling and the like.

“We asked the children what they would like and they told us bridges and round rooms, so that’s what we have given them,” says Mrs Hannaford.

But it is the unique collaboration between the University of Worcester and Worcestershire County Council which makes this building so special. The Hive is Europe’s first fully integrated and jointly run university and local authority library.

It is staffed by both university and council employees, working side by side. Its stock is freely available to students and members of the public.

This level of integration perhaps could not have happened anywhere else in the world.

Privately, the people behind this project admit that other universities – traditionally territorial institutions – thought they were ‘bonkers’ when the the project was first announced.

They put the success of the partnership down, in part, to timing – two organisations which were looking to expand at the same time in the same city, which happened to share a common ethos and a very strong creative relationship – something I’m assured is “very rare”.

The unique model not only gives the people of Worcester access to even more books – roughly 250,000, it allows the library to open from 8.30am until 10pm seven days a week.

Library users will immediately notice there’s no desk – checking books in and out is totally automated, and silence, unlike the outside of this building, is certainly not golden.

Mrs Hannaford talks about a desire to create a “buzzy purposeful” atmosphere although the building is designed to encourage less noise as you move up through the levels.

Nowadays, of course, the buzz word is ‘virtual’, and this library also embraces technology.

Mrs Hannaford happily points out that every available window has a built-in seat.

“To encourage people to curl up with their kindles,” she says. Yep, “their kindles”, not “their books”.

The library is littered with stations where laptops can be plugged in and wi-fi is available throughout.

Quite rightly the people behind this project are very proud, but most of all it would seem they’re excited for the people of Worcester because, at a time when so many places are seeing their libraries close, Worcester has a brand new shiny one bursting to be explored.

• The Hive will be officially opened by the Queen on Wednesday, July 11.

The Hive - The Facts

• Contains 12 miles of archive collections.

• Has won an international award for the building’s design and is shortlisted for two national awards.

• Will house a quarter of a million books.

• Contains 800 study stations.

• Is anticipating more than a million visitors a year.

• Is made up of 10,000m of public space, over five floors.

• Has more than 26,000 records of historic monuments and buildings.

• Has special in-built homes for bats in the turret.