Model Programme for Public Libraries

Kultur styrrelsen

Realdania

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Case: Arendal Library

Introduction

Arendal Library is an example of how an existing library can undergo modernisation and updating. The library opened in 1998, and in 2015, it underwent renovation. The renovation focused on meeting two challenges:

– After 17 years and four million visitors, buildings, furniture and equipment were worn and needed modernising.
– The building was not originally constructed with a view to automating the loan process, and it therefore needed optimisation.

In addition, the library was in general need of modernisation.

Entrance

'Intuitive' solutions

The physical solution is an interplay with the surroundings and a beautiful, characteristic design. For the renovation, it was important to ensure that the interior design would respect the architecture, so that everything would continue to be experienced as a whole.

The positioning of furniture solutions also had to be 'intuitive', i.e. it should make it easy for the users to find their way around the library and to 'decode' the location of specific collections, enabling them to find out how to use the different areas of the large library space on their own. Users need to be able to see where there are quiet zones where they can be alone or just have visual contact with others, and where they can find meeting places for social interaction. This will enable the users to access the individual areas depending on their needs the day they visit.

The design of the large library space must express that this is a place for everybody – regardless of age, education, job or other variables. All new furniture has therefore been created on the basis of standard measures and sizes that fit the human body, whether this is big or small. You can sit, lie down, lounge about, stand, sit on a bar stool, crawl into a den, be in an open area, be alone, be a few together or meet up with others.

Design and dialogue

The first floor is laid out as a place where families can be together and as an appetizer for what you can find when you move further inside and up in the library. Here, you can meet others for a coffee, and here, there is room for exhibitions, reading newspapers, play and creative activities.

The physical appearance of the furniture has been simplified as much as possible, so that the users can fill it with life. The furniture and equipment is to signal that it can be used for exactly what the individual user needs. This turns the interior design into a sort of dialogue between the library and its users as on the library's part, the aim has been to lay out the large library space so as to provide access to important functions. It is then up to the users to 'tell' the library how they want to use it.

Wall decoration

Planning process

The design of the library space is based on information that Arendal has gathered from traffic censuses, dialogue meetings with users, user groups and politicians, and from staff seminars.
Experience from the renovation shows that it is very important to spend time collecting such information before planning the design and layout of library spaces. In order to end up with a good process, it is important to reach agreement among the staff about the need for changes, just as the staff must have a high degree of influence. Likewise, it is important to secure the necessary external expertise early in the process.

Interior design is a way of thinking

The statement 'interior design is a way of thinking' has opened for a large degree of creativity, both in the ideas phase and in the practical solutions. With this statement in mind, flexibility in the library space has gained a completely new meaning: Flexibility is not a question of moving furniture or exhibition showcases around the room. Flexibility is finding solutions that facilitate the use of furniture and equipment for many different purposes where it is placed. Some of the solutions that work best at Arendal are shown here:

Caesar's bust

This type of arrangement can be used for exhibitions, as a stage for different events, or as a piece of furniture for visitors. Here, it has been placed by the entrance to the library and as such, it has an important function, considering that it 'forces' visitors to find their bearings in the space every time they pass through the doors.

Study area

This area covers an important need for a large user group of pupils and students in particular. The area has been designed to include power access, and it features good working conditions for both individuals and groups alike. The area can also be used for teaching.

The stage

This is an important new initiative. A former storage room has been turned into an area for different types of events and exhibitions. The room can be used in many different ways according to need. The stage has been planned so that it can be used as a production room for local, culture-related activities such as dance groups, theatre groups, puppet theatre etc.

Make your own contribution via the Facebook group

If you have any comments to this case, or if you have a library or a similar institution in Denmark or another country that you think, would provide other public libraries with inspiration for new interior design and layout solutions, please feel free to contribute via our Facebook group.

14. Nov 2016 at. 08:54

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