Model Programme for Public Libraries

Kultur styrrelsen

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Denmark's first literature playground

Photo: UNO Koncept A/S

The playground in Bibliotekshaven by Gladsaxe Main Library, which was inaugurated in August 2016, is Denmark's first literature playground. It is an example of an outdoor space that links play, learning and movement. It also represents an idea as to how libraries can make their offers visible outside the building's walls, while at the same time contributing to the development of urban spaces.

Developed after extensive citizen involvement

The playground was developed based on the wishes of children, adults and senior citizens in the neighbourhood. Children, parents and senior citizens were given the opportunity to dream up ideas for the use of the lawn by the Main Library: What would be a fun and challenging playground? And what would it take to encourage children and adults to return over and over again? Citizens were involved in collaboration with BY X – The City of Copenhagen's knowledge centre for citizen involvement at children's level. Read more about how to involve citizens in the development and design of libraries here.

Inspired by Nordic children's literature

The new playground takes the form of a large bookshelf with famous children's books. Here, you will come across the more than four-metre tall book about Tall Peter Madsen, classics such as Hodja from Pjort and new classics such as the books about Miss Ignora and Antboy.

Photo: UNO Koncept A/S.

Playground equipment has been incorporated along with small literary universes, so that you can visit Mustafa's Kiosk, play in Mimi's cave, and climb on Cirkeline's dots. Lots of quotes have also been used, which may inspire people to stop – and later dig into the world of books.

In addition to the bookshelf, the playground features a stage and an open area inspired by the Danish nursery rhyme "Okker gokker gummiklokker", where you can seesaw on a fountain pen or spin around on a carousel disguised as the hat of Mr Madsen, the teacher.

Next to the open area, a sandpit has been devised where the youngest children can play in shops from the children's story Palle Alene i Verden (Palle Alone in the World). Photo: UNO Koncept A/S

Literature and words become tangible objects, and visitors can enjoy a physical exploration of the treasure trove of Nordic children's literature, both older and more recent classics.

Linking play, learning and movement

The playground is intended to serve as both a tool and a venue for learning activities that can strengthen the language development of children in day-care centres and early school years. The playground equipment speaks to children aged 2-10, and the literary theme addresses both children who can read and those who have yet to crack the code. The playground also appeals to the children's parents who may recognise rhymes, figures or books from their own childhood.

Photo: UNO Koncept A/S.

The garden presents completely new learning activities, while at the same time, classic offers, such as library introductions, are linked to movement in a new way by taking place outdoors. For instance, the playground has its own e-wall, which inspires children to move and learn while they play.

E-wall. The interactive wall can be used for quizzes and games, and is a popular tool for bringing literature alive, making it accessible to children. Photo: UNO Koncept A/S.

Library and town merge

The playground has been constructed as a part of Gladsaxe's urban planning programme, GladsaxeLiv. The aim of the programme is to improve everyday life by developing the places in the town that people already visit, and by drawing life from the buildings out into the open.

The path that leads across the bookcase leads up to the new door to the library's children's section. Photo: UNO Koncept A/S.

With the new playground, the library has been extended out into the town. Builders have also knocked a hole through the bricks into the children's library, making it possible to walk straight in and continue the adventure indoors. Whereas the library used to be hidden away behind the walls, the offer and the brand have now been made visible outside, and the new entrance makes it possible to integrate indoor and outdoor spaces.

A garden for all and a place for co-creation

In addition to play, the garden is to be used for theatre performances, concerts, creative workshops and movement activities.

Here, children can exercise their arm muscles in real Gummi Tarzan style. On the book is an excerpt from the novel. Photo: UNO Koncept A/S.

The stage has been set for lots of activities with the library as the driving force, but a further ambition is that others can add content to the garden, e.g. families celebrating children's birthdays, or going geocaching or treasure hunting among the books. Other cultural institutions can too take initiatives for activities and events, and the garden can be a place where library, school, day-care centres and children together come up with new ideas.

Photo from the library garden's inauguration day. Photo: UNO Koncept A/S.

The garden is an exploratorium for co-creation – a place where you play together and find out what such a space can be used for.

Photo: UNO Koncept A/S.

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.

18. Jan 2017 at. 15:40

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