Model Programme for Public Libraries

Kultur styrrelsen



Billund Library Workshop

The local design workshops

The Model Programme for Public Libraries has carried out a mapping of Danish municipalities' new design and new construction of libraries. The mapping showed that almost two out of three of the municipalities asked are currently planning to carry out considerable changes. We also tested the municipalities' interest in participating in a tailor-made design workshop course. We did this because we thought that there would be clear mutual advantages to be gained from a dialogue about how local libraries can develop spaces and layout solutions that match new needs. It turned out that the interest in participating was great – 40 municipalities with a total of 47 library projects wanted to participate in the competition for three design workshop courses facilitated by Signal Architects, who are consultants on the Model Programme for Public Libraries. The three winners were selected after thorough deliberations and dialogues with a number of municipalities. Particular consideration was given to projects that were at a relatively early stage of their ideas development.

One of the three winners was Billund Library's local branch at the Billund Centre, which is to be re-designed in order to match new functions, including the function as school library for a new international school. Below follows a brief presentation of the results of the local design workshop course that was completed during the period April – June 2013. You can read the entire report here.

Location: the Billund Centre

The Billund Centre celebrated its 40th anniversary this year. In addition to the library, the Centre now includes a concert hall, a culture school, a church, a local history archive and some meeting rooms that all associations can use free of charge. The Centre is open from 8 am to 10 pm, seven days a week, and it serves as a social gathering point for many of Billund's citizens and forms the backdrop for many of the city's cultural activities.

The Centre's ‘houses’ are linked via a large communal area – an inner street with open square formations. The open area is the setting for many exhibitions, bazaars and trade fairs. The kindergarten, which was in the neighbouring wing, has now gone, and a temporary day-care facility has been set up. However, this will soon be moving into a larger day-care institution. Instead, Billund Business Promotion will move into approx. half of the lease area. From 2014, they will probably take over the entire lease.

The centre's cafe has been leased out. The church holds a number of different cultural events in addition to services. The local history archive has a couple of rooms at the Centre at its disposal. The Billund garden (marching band) uses the former children's disco in the basement, which also accommodates an amateur theatre and a creative workshop.

Billund Library

Billund Library constitutes an integrated part of the Billund Centre. Apart from a small lobby for recreation and a small staff section near the arrival area, the library consists of one large space where all core activities are to take place. As described earlier, the Billund Centre also has a culture stage, workshop facilities and meeting rooms of varying sizes, but these are located elsewhere in the Centre. The library is one of four libraries in Billund Municipality, where Magion in Grindsted is the main library, but there are also branch libraries in Vorbasse and Sdr. Omme. All four libraries are located in centres, and all include Citizen Service. Billund Library will soon be introducing longer opening hours, combining a serviced and self-serviced library. The hope is that the expanded opening hours will strengthen activities both at the Billund Centre and at the library.

Lobby: Part of the open communal area. Equipped with tables and magazines.

Arrival: Book displays, counter for library and Citizen Service.

Collection: Relatively dense and solid material presentation on tall bookcases in the library's adult section. The children's section is characterised by a lot of free space.

Special zones: Children's / family zone.

Staff: Front office, practical + small practical ‘workshop’. Offices, storage, sorting, Citizen Service.

Citizen Service: Located in the arrival area as a part of the library.

Future users

The LEGO Foundation and Billund Municipality share a joint vision for Billund to become the Children's Capital. The Children's Capital is to be a global meeting place for children and everybody who focuses on children's play, learning and creativity. This is a unique public/private venture with a joint vision about developing Billund as a very special place for, about and with children – for the benefit of the town, the municipality and children across the world. The Children's Capital is not a project with a closing date and one fixed objective; it is a vision that will continually develop and spark concrete projects. The first projects in the Children's Capital are under development.

Lego Hotel, Lalandia, Lego House. Children and families from Denmark and other countries come and stay here when they visit Legoland and Lalandia, and in future, they will also visit Lego House, which will become the library's neighbour.

Interaction with the library: The library can be an offer as a zone that provides calm and closeness for children and parents – a consumer-free area.

The International School is a new neighbour for the library, and collaboration agreements have already been made.

Interaction with the library: The library would like to be able to offer brand new possibilities in interaction with the schools: homework cafe, away-learning. A new, delimited ‘learning space’ at the library will make it attractive to use the library, not only as a material collection, but also as an asset in education.

Future users of Billund Library

The performative space

‘The performative space’ is based on creatively innovative activities carried out by the users. It aims at active creation, but the performative space can also be a creative and aesthetic learning space. It facilitates workshops of different kinds: writers' workshops, activities with in-house artists, innovation workshops, film workshops etc. The performative space typically requires the availability of tools and materials. Large table surfaces will always be useful equipment. Ideally, there should be room for people to be untidy and make a mess, and the space should provide safe storage facilities for the participants' work in progress. All things being equal, these are requirements that are not met best in an open area with a lot of activity. On the other hand, it might make good sense to move the activity out to the library's wider audience in order to attract new customers.

The figure below presents a summary of ideas developed by the table group who focused on the performative space during the workshop's exercise 2. If you would like to see the figure in a larger format, press the magnifying glass in the corner at the bottom right.

The meeting space

‘The meeting space’ is based on participation. Its offers range from participation in events about (local) political questions or current issues, over reading and study circles to facilitation of communities and networks. ‘The meeting space’ creates a setting for the passive community, e.g. guests reading in a cafe, over ad hoc-style meetings to recurrent, programmed meetings for external users, e.g. the local senior citizens' council. An increasing number of libraries have their own cafe and cultivate the architect Jan Gehl's point about the attraction of the ‘passive communities’ – where users prefer to be close to a high street and activity, even if as a starting point they bring along work that requires peace and quiet for concentration. However, a large number of libraries also choose to move workstations into peripheral zones, and in such cases it might be worth taking a critical view of which meeting spaces are used most.

The figure below presents a summary of ideas developed by the table group who focused on the meeting space during the workshop's exercise 2. If you would like to see the figure in a larger format, press the magnifying glass in the corner at the bottom right.

The inspiration space

'The inspiration space' is based on experiences. It will typically offer access to materials including literature, art, films, music, entertainment and games as well as events with artists and similar. At a time where ever more titles become accessible on different virtual platforms, the library's role is to a lesser degree to ensure that visitors find what they need, and to a higher degree that they also find what they did not know they needed. In this connection, it is a great challenge for libraries to guide the many different users efficiently and unobtrusively to experiences and activities that match their needs.

The figure below presents a summary of ideas developed by the table group who focused on the inspiration space during the workshop's exercise 2. If you would like to see the figure in a larger format, press the magnifying glass in the corner at the bottom right.

Learning space

'The learning space' is based on discovering and learning something new. It offers e.g. informal learning courses, e-learning facilities, talks, access to knowledge resources and question & answer services. At many libraries, learning activities are based on IT – they may even include courses in the use of IT. This poses special demands on ‘the learning space’. It is an activity that typically requires retention of attention to a shared task. It also poses demands on equipment, PCs and work tables. It may therefore be an obvious choice to allocate such activities to secluded, semi-closed spatialities. However, the library also needs to live up to an intention of providing a learning space for children, and in this case, it may not be a learning space in the style of an office environment that is needed, but a learning space that can support a more activity-based, playful approach to learning.

The figure below presents a summary of ideas developed by the table group who focused on the learning space during the workshop's exercise 2. If you would like to see the figure in a larger format, press the magnifying glass in the corner at the bottom right.

Make use of the 24-hour rhythm

All libraries have patterns in terms of their usage and in relation to time. If a library wants to use its settings and resources optimally, increased attention should be directed at whether it is possible to increase utilisation and the citizens' use of the settings by means of a systematic support of the 24-hour rhythm through décor and activity planning. This is why one of the exercises in connection with the design workshop in Billund focused on the library's 24-hour rhythm and on how to create room for more activities and users and at the same time provide appropriate settings for all of the activities.

The figure below presents a summary of ideas for users and activities that were developed at the workshop in connection with exercise 3. If you would like to see the figure in a larger format, press the magnifying glass in the corner at the bottom right.

The library's spaces – activities and connections

All libraries are different. They are of different sizes, and their number of large and small rooms varies. Some libraries are placed at one level only, while others stretch across several floors. Even so, most libraries – regardless of size and plan solution – have a number of zones in common.

As described earlier, the library in Billund consists of one large space that contains an adult section, a children's section and a Citizen Service function. In addition to this, a number of workstations for the staff are found in a semi-shielded area. However, as a part of the culture centre, the library has access to a large culture hall, well-equipped meeting rooms and workshops, all within a distance of max. 50 metres. Furthermore, the Centre is located on a large natural plot with very attractive outdoor areas with direct access from the library. One of the exercises in connection with the design workshop in Billund therefore focused on which particular requirements the different activities and users might have about spaces, facilities and interior design and layout, and based on this, where it would be most ideal for the different activities to take place.

The following wishes related to the use of spaces and settings for new activities stood out very clearly:

  • A desire to create stronger links to the Centre's other spaces
  • A desire to activate the attractive outdoor areas
  • A desire to establish a delimited learning space / meeting space in a part of the existing library space
  • And finally, a desire for the library to initiate and invite people to more creative, workshop-based activities, which could, however, take place elsewhere in the Centre.

If you would like to see the figure in a larger format, press the magnifying glass in the corner at the bottom right.

Indoors – challenges and possibilities

Within a short timeframe, the library is to serve as school library for the new International School, which opens in the school year 2013/14. Currently, a large part of the library is laid out as a children's section, particularly for young children, while similar facilities are not offered for the slightly older school children. At the same time, the possibilities for relaxation and cosy chatting are limited in the adults' section, which is characterised by quite a solid material presentation. The participants at the workshop were therefore charged with finding out where new spaces and settings were particularly needed in order to support the desired activities and special users' needs. Among the wishes and needs that emerged at the workshop, the following were particularly dominant:

The inspiration space: An area in the library that should be designed so that it is possible quickly to clear the space and make room for events for children and adults alike.

The creative workshop: A workshop for both children and adults that would facilitate creative courses – either for people to work on their own, or as controlled courses, e.g. with an invited in-house artist. (This could also be achieved by updating the existing workshop facilities at the Centre.)

Children's zones: Especially a zone for the slightly older children and the teenagers. Focus on clear marking of transitions. It would be an obvious choice to let the zones overlap with computer areas. In addition to this, a special zone for the youngest children that would invite to and have tools for calm activities and imaginative play. Ideally with places for parents and teachers to stay in the peripheral zone.

The learning space: A special delimited space for learning courses and teaching for large groups of children and adults alike.

Outdoors – challenges and possibilities

The Billund Centre and the library are located on a large natural plot with very attractive outdoor areas with two direct access points from the library. There is currently no interplay between the library and the immediate outdoor areas. The participants at the workshop were therefore given the following design challenge: How do you create linking spaces between the library and the town, which can contribute to a vibrant urban space, and which would ideally attract more visitors to the library?

The participants came up with a number of ideas and activities that could contribute as ‘red carpet’ elements, partly to attract more users, and partly to expand the library's space – not least during the summer season where there are quite a few tourists in Billund and thus potential users of a free cultural offer as an alternative to LEGO and Lalandia.


Outdoors play installations: Challenge children to play and learn – use their bodies in new ways.

Children's workshops outdoors: Possibly in connection with the children's area indoors. Thematised workshops run by librarians or free experiments.

Greenhouse / orangery: Possibility of relaxation and project work that becomes visible throughout the year.

Knowledge path: Incorporated possibilities of activating information and experiences. Inspiration path that invites people inside. Is to rouse curiosity with the locals as well as with visiting children from across the world and direct them towards the library's indoors and outdoors areas.


As their last exercise during the workshop, the participants had to phrase dogma for the good partnership at tomorrow's library in Billund: How the centre's different institutions could improve their collaboration in order to deliver relevant services to Billund's citizens, both at the strategic long-term level and at the day-to-day operational level.

Make your own contribution via the Facebook group

If you have comments to this case, please feel free to contribute via the Facebook group.

01. Aug 2017 at. 09:47

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