Designing libraries in the 21st century: lessons for the UK

This important new report by Gemma John is a study of new libraries across Europe and North America and what design means for both user and staff behaviour.

20 January 2017

undefinedThe Ramp in everyday use
The ramp at Dokk1, Aarhus

The report provides an overview of how design is being used as a tool to enhance the experience of customers and change the behaviour of staff in public libraries in twelve locations across five countries in two international contexts.

It suggests that the most successful designs are those that are the simplest – open plan with good visibility across the floorplate and excellent connectivity - allowing staff and customers greater freedom to change the form and function of the public library over time. Yet, the simplest designs are not always the easiest to achieve, since open plan floors are often noisy, and flexibility involves careful planning.

This report, then, provides critical insight into the key challenges and opportunities for library and architecture professionals today. It offers in-depth feedback on the design of public libraries in the Netherlands, Finland, Denmark, USA and Canada. It shares the views of staff and customers on the current and future design of public libraries in these countries.

In so doing, it responds to the call from librarians for more ‘data’ on how people interact with library services and spaces, and also the call from architects and interior designers for more information on the relationship between people and buildings. How can librarians and architects work together to gain a better understanding of how people shape buildings and how do buildings shape people to ensure that the public library is still as relevant tomorrow as it is today?

undefinedRobots on the Ramp
Robots on the ramp at Dokk1

About Gemma John

Gemma John is a design researcher at Foster Partners. Gemma has a background in social anthropology. The study is a result of a travelling fellowship awarded by the Winston Churchill Memorial Fund.

To read the full report, and to access more information and case studies on Gemma's blog, follow the links on the right of this page. 

 

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