Model Programme for Public Libraries

Kultur styrrelsen

Realdania

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Thisted 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 is Thisted Municipality, which is to refurbish its main library, a classical library building from 1938, in connection with a climate renovation. At the same time, the library is to be re-designed as an Open Library, and it is to open up for close collaboration with surrounding cultural institutions. You can read the entire report here. 

Four cultural institutions and a park

BIMOBUKO – a complete cultural offer in a neighbourhood for Thisted's citizens.

Since 1938, Thisted Library has been located by the park Christiansgave in a beautiful, neo-classical building. A new music school is now to be established within the same plot. On the other side of the park – to the northeast – you find Thisted's community centre, Plantagehuset (The Plantation House), with the youth section ‘Urthuset’. The four institutions, which are all located within a radius of a few hundred metres around the park, are working closely together to see BIMOBUKO create a stronger, multi-faceted, but joint culture offer aimed at Thisted's citizens, the many tourists and other good souls. The wish is that the park Christiansgave is to be included as an active part of the BIMOBUKO initiative.

BIMUBOKU is: a breathing space, a free space, a welcoming space, an everyday space, a world space, a test space, a games space and an interspace.

Thisted Library

Thisted Library is fully a two-level library. You arrive at the library via a wide, quite solid neo-classicist staircase with a platform by the entrance. From here, you enter the library's first space – a high-ceilinged, large room which, in addition to a counter for pick-up of reserved books, contains a large part of the library's analogue material collection and music. From this central space, there is access to two smaller sections on either side – one for adults and one for children. In addition, there is access from the arrival area to two large 75-80 m2 rooms, which are currently used as staff office and for administrative functions. The library has 10 librarians and 9 administrative employees.

The basement section includes a large central space with a huge material presentation as well as a number of thematised material collections in smaller rooms, a lunchroom, two meeting rooms and two workshops as well as a news room, where people can read newspapers in peace and quiet.

The Library and the Music House will be sharing a garden facility and a terrace, which currently appear somewhat worn. Less than 50 metres from the library, the library has set up BIMOBUKO's development department in an old villa. On the other side of the road, the park opens up as an attractive, albeit somewhat run down outdoor space with playgrounds, an amphitheatre and winding footpaths in the undulating terrain down towards the community centre.

Future users

With the establishment of a new music school next to the library and improved collaboration between library, music school and Thisted's community centre, Plantagehuset, with its youth section, Urthuset, the four park institutions are joining forces in staking on being able to create several and more attractive activities for more visitors. The library also expects to be able to attract more visitors to the offers and activities that will take place at the library and within the library's / BIMOBUKO-initiated projects, which will take place at one of the other three cultural centres around the park or in the attractive outdoor terrain.

  • Improved interaction with and more visitors from the local day care offers and schools
  • More children and young people who come alone or in small groups after school, participating, for instance, in recurrent ‘club activities’, homework cafes and similar
  • More networks and citizen groups that get together in connection with local initiatives with the library as a setting and facilitator
  • More adult users who participate, for instance, in recurrent culture dinners – with or without children
  • More tourists who visit the library or other activities at BIMOBUKO during the summer season.

Future users of Thisted 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.

The 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 Thisted 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

Thisted Library is located by the park Christiansgave. On the other side of the park – to the northeast – you find Thisted's community centre, Plantagehuset, with the youth section ‘Urthuset’. In the near future, the construction of a new music centre will be initiated within the same plot of land, and this will become the library's closest neighbour. The four institutions are located within a radius of a few hundred metres. One of the exercises at the design workshop in Thisted therefore focused on what particular requirements the different activities and users might have in relation to spaces, facilities and interior design. Three wishes related to the use of spaces and settings for new activities stood out very clearly:

  • The wish to strengthen the great hall's function as the library's primary inspiration space, among other things by reducing the material collection here; more comfortable chairs for slightly longer stays, and the establishment of a small culture stage that can both form the background for small, intimate events and fill the entire hall with spectators for larger cultural events.
  • The wish to create a delimited learning space that visiting school classes and day care offers can use for stays and learning activities. During afternoons and evenings, the same space can be used for learning activities targeted at adults or as a meeting space for local citizen groups.
  • Finally, the wish to activate the attractive outdoor areas, both on the library's own plot of land and in the park nearby.

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

The library is currently characterised by quite a massive material presentation and tall, densely placed bookcases in its most attractive space, the high-ceilinged hall, which is connected to the arrival area. From the hall, there is access to two smaller sections on either side – one for adults and one for children. From the hall, there is also access to two large 75-80 m2 rooms, which are currently used as staff office and for administration. The basement section includes a large central space with a huge material presentation as well as a number of thematised material collections in smaller rooms, a lunchroom, two meeting rooms and two workshops as well as a news room, where people can read newspapers in peace and quiet. One challenge that applies to the entire library, but maybe in particular to the basement section, is to create an overview of the many different spaces and facilities by means of clear overview plans in connection with the arrival area and clear signage that would highlight the different spaces' functions.

New possibilities:

  • Strengthen the hall's function as an inspiration space and meeting place: With the establishment of the new music school, it is necessary to ensure that the large hall on the ground floor can fulfil the function as a joint meeting place, maybe with an attractive cafe environment. Ideally, the hall would to a greater degree invite its audience to stay a little longer. This means that it is necessary to think in terms of attractive comfortable furniture and its positioning. It might be an advantage to place some seats close to the arrival area, others by a newly established cafe function, and yet others withdrawn to the window section at the back of the hall. It is also a wish that a ‘culture stage’ should be established in the hall to form the backdrop for both intimate cultural events and larger events that can fill the entire hall.
  • Reduce the material collection: This poses demands on flexible furniture so that the hall can quickly be adapted for a given activity. However, the new view of the classical reading hall speaks in favour of a marked reduction of the hall's material collection in order to create room for the new functions, and of using lower bookcases in order to improve clarity in the re-designed space.
  • • Create room for workshops and learning spaces near the hall: Currently, the staff occupy two very attractive 75-80 m2 rooms, which can be accessed from the great hall on the ground floor. By moving the staff out of the rooms, it would be possible to create, for instance, a ‘learning space’ and a ‘flexible workshop’. These are two wishes that were given high priority by the participants at the workshop. It could also be considered whether the IT-supported workstations for visitors, which are currently set up in the large library space in the basement, could be moved up into one of the current staff rooms. In this way, the ground floor would offer both a learning space and a PC-supported study zone.
  • • Increase the staff's accessibility and the interaction at BIMOBUKO: Moving some of the staff's workstations into the hall would improve the users' experience of accessibility. Moving the majority of the workstations to the villa for BIMOBUKO's development would strengthen the possibility of coordinating the day-to-day collaboration and thinking ahead. If instead the staff workstations are kept at the library, they could be moved down into the basement where they have been placed before.

Outdoors – challenges and possibilities

Thisted Library is located by Christiansgave, which is a large green park area that constitutes a very attractive outdoor area – a sloping park with a playground, an outdoor stage and a path system.

There is currently no interplay between the library and the immediate outdoor areas. The library also has a green immediate outdoor area, which is also underutilised. The participants at the workshop were therefore given the following design challenge: How do you create linking spaces between the library and the outdoor spaces that 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 a ‘red carpet’, partly to attract more visitors and partly to expand the library space – not least during the summer season.

Including:

  • Active outdoor area for children close to children's section
  • Reading pavilions in the park / stations with inspiration
  • Stage in the park, writing school platform / music school, library outside
  • An active route that connects the library with neighbours, the city and the locality, QR coded

Kick-off

What should our first framing event be?

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. 09:43

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