A World of Library Spaces

“Libraries are going through a transformation that puts them in a central role within the much-vaunted knowledge economy and moves them into areas as conceptually challenging as they are exciting.”

Jeffrey Schnapp, Faculty Director at metaLAB, Harvard

I love this quote and use it often. The transformation of libraries, and their future success, is critically related to their design. It is based on the notion of form following function. Today’s challenge is to create forms that can support functions that are likely to change more quickly than we have ever experienced before.

I believe the following are critical components to include in academic library developments to ensure their design (form) will enable future library functions:

  • Increasing importance and symbolism of the Library
  • Digital and technological enablement
  • Researcher space
  • Informal learning spaces
  • Shared services and holistic support
  • New ways of working
  • Wellbeing, sustainability and usability

I will expand on these components in my next blog post.

For now, I want to use this blog post to share some resources I use to keep up with library space developments. These resources allow me see what’s happening across the sector, globally, and help me to understand how library designs are acting as enablers for the ongoing development of library functions and services.

Designing Libraries
I’m sure you’ll be familiar with this fantastic resource. However, if not, I strongly suggest you check out Designing Libraries. Designing Libraries is the centre for library design and innovation: a resource for planning and design, a database of library building projects and a marketplace for services.

How do you design the library of the future?
Surely this question is the holy grail for people within the library sector, not least those responsible for the development and continuous improvement of library spaces. This fantastic blog post from Oxford University centres on the redevelopment of the Weston Library. Its a useful, thought provoking article.

Great estates
University Business is a online magazine that covers news, opinions and event reviews from the further and higher education sector. Their article, Great Estates, highlights the flurry of activity during ‘quieter’ periods of the year when Estates departments and facilities teams undertake projects, repairs and major work to get spaces ready for the new student intake.

The future of libraries
This is an interesting take on how library design and development aims to create libraries that are fit for the future. This Building Design and Construction article looks at libraries of the future being resource rich, providing access to physical and online collections, technology, and mentorship, in spaces that are flexible enough to grow alongside changing student needs.

Australia is leading the way in world class library design
The Australian Library and Information Association (ALIA) has announced the winners of the 2019 ALIA Australian Library Design Awards. ALIA CEO, Sue McKerracher, said: ‘The 2019 ALIA Library Design Awards show, once again, that modern library buildings in Australia are world class. We are fortunate in this country to have forward-thinking library leaders, imaginative architects, and councils, universities and school management bodies committed to innovative design.’ How do your library spaces stand up to those of our Australian counterparts?

Outstanding libraries across the globe
The BBC has selected nine outstanding libraries from across the world, including Calgary, Christchurch and Oodi in Helsinki – and Dandaji Library in Western Niger converted from a disused adobe mosque. Are there elements from these outstanding libraries that you would like to try in your own development?

“The next library is a place, still. A place where people come together to do co-working and coordinate and invent projects worth working on together. Aided by a librarian who understands the Mesh, a librarian who can bring domain knowledge and people knowledge and access to information to bear.”

(Seth Godin, 2011, ‘The future of the library’)

Thanks for reading,

Mike Kelly
Library Space Development Manager
The University of Manchester Library

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