Model Programme for Public Libraries

Kultur styrrelsen



Process Tools for the Development of Design Principles

This section presents process tools (4 exercises) that the Model Programme has developed and tested in connection with the local design workshops held in Thisted, Sønderborg and Billund, respectively, offering advice and tips to users who might want to make use of the tools to conduct their own design workshop.

In connection with the four process tools, a slide show has been uploaded, which can contribute to preparing an efficient framework and serve as inspiration in connection with a design workshop whose purpose it is to determine how to create life, activity and diversity in the library's spaces. Finally, the four general areas that the design workshop will focus on are introduced: the library as a learning space; the library as a meeting space; the library as an inspiration space, and the library as a performative space. With a little bit of preparation, most players with knowledge of the library field will be able to use the material to prepare an efficient framework and as inspiration in connection with a design workshop whose purpose it is to determine how to create life, activity and diversity in the library's spaces.


See also the new design tool kit from IDEO, developed in collaboration with Aarhus Public Libraries and Chicago Public Library.

How much time should be allocated? The amount of time to allocate will naturally be related to needs and resources. However, in order to have enough time to get through all four exercises and have additional time for breaks along the way, a minimum of four hours should be allocated.

Who should participate? Who and how many people should participate in a local design workshop is, of course, entirely up to the local organisers. However, if you wish to link the strategic management level to the operational level and also ensure user involvement, it would be a good idea to include the following players: the cultural department's management and key staff, library management and key staff, relevant representatives from local educational and cultural institutions, local artists and other dedicated people, and active young people.

Fixed table groups: It is recommended that the participants be divided into four table groups, who will stay together throughout the process, in order to ensure that the four focus areas are dealt with in the optimum way. If there is a large number of participants, it can be an advantage to work with more table groups with the same focus area, ensuring that all four areas are covered well.

The good process: In order to ensure good dynamics and progress, it is important that participants work continually on getting their ideas, wishes and needs noted on paper. This creates progress and helps structure the discussions, maintain important points and make everybody in the table groups commit themselves. It also makes it much easier subsequently to summarise the different groups' work precisely and loyally. It is therefore a good idea to start each exercise by having each participant write post-its with ideas, wishes and needs once the group has spent a little time ascertaining whether everybody agrees on how to understand the exercise. This should be followed by a discussion where the notes are reviewed, prioritised and structured, and during which the group should preferably work towards some kind of prioritised consensus. Resources permitting, it would be a good idea if the project manager and others could facilitate and set the pace. In order to ensure knowledge sharing and mutual inspiration, it is advisable to conclude each of the four exercises with a brief discussion in a plenary session, where, for instance, the facilitator asks each group to describe two or three of the ideas that they have discussed and worked with and that they believe could really contribute to creating more life and activity at the library.

Tools for workshops

INSPIRATION PRESENTATION: Give all participants a common reference framework

The Model Programme has also uploaded a short slide show based on the material from the Model Programme, which gives a brief status of the library in the year 2013 and the changes that the library is undergoing. The show also introduces the four general focus areas: the library as a learning space; the library as a meeting space; the library as an inspiration space, and the library as a performative space. With a little bit of preparation, most players with knowledge of the library field will be able to use the material to prepare an efficient framework and as inspiration in connection with a design workshop whose purpose it is to determine how to create life, activity and diversity in the library's spaces.

Download the inspiration presentation (slideshow) here 

EXERCISE 1: The library's spaces and the four-space model

In this exercise, each table group works with the same task. The participants are to work with the activities and functions that they can imagine their library or multi-purpose culture centre could offer within each of the four focus areas – first as gross lists under each of the four focus areas, and then as a prioritised list of the three most important or innovative activities and functions within each of the four areas.

EXERCISE 2: The library's spaces – zoom in on one of the four focus areas

In the next exercise, the four table groups are to work with each their own focus area. Each group starts with a brief discussion of which are to be the three most important activities to take place within their focus area. It may be worth spending a little time discussing whether to continue with the three activities the group decided on during the first exercise, or whether some of the activities suggested by the other groups might be worth working with and developing. The groups should then go on to answer four questions. The first question is about what characterises the users, their behaviour and their needs in connection with the selected activities. The next question focuses on which requirements the users who will participate in the prioritised activities will pose on spaces and facilities. The third question focuses on interior design and layout as well as equipment. And the final question deals with proximity and good neighbourhoods that can support and strengthen the settings, design and competences that are to carry the three prioritised activities.

EXERCISE 3: 24 hours at tomorrow's library

All libraries and multi-purpose culture centres have patterns in terms of their usage and in relation to time. This is why one of the exercises in connection with the design workshop focuses 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. It is recommended that the groups aim to fill one time slot at a time. Start, for instance, with the period from 8 am to 10 am. Which users can we and would we like to attract during this period? Which activities could be attractive to them? And which demands does this pose on staff and spaces? It can also be a good idea to divide activities into a number of general categories, e.g. ad hoc-based/spontaneous/self-managed activities as opposed to programmed/facilitated activities. And activities that can take place in many different parts of the library, preferably in connection with large, open spatialities, as opposed to activities that require delimited spaces and special facilities.

Download exercises 1-3 here 

EXERCISE 4: Dogmas for the good partnership at tomorrow's library

This is a short, concluding exercise that looks ahead and invites participants to continue collaboration and concerted planning and action. The participants in the four groups all have to answer the same questions, but their work with different focus areas will often influence their responses.

They have to write, in a brief format, five dogma rules for improved collaboration at the strategic level. These could be e.g. a permanent range of planned thematic initiatives where the library and external partners develop strategies together.

They also have to write five dogma rules for improved collaboration at the operational level. This could be e.g. an interdisciplinary development team from the collaborating institutions who join forces to develop, coordinate and implement activities in connection with a joint thematic initiative.

Download exercise 4 here 

Statement from Thisted

”The process tools that structured the workshop were extremely inspiring to work with. They were easy to understand for internal and external workshop participants alike. We found that the tools very efficiently helped us clarify and vitalise the four-space model in our own reality. This meant that we gained inspiration as well as learning from the work. After the workshop, it has generally been easier to speak on the basis of the model, as we simply understand it better and now connect it to something real.

During the first exercise, we practiced the separation of the four spaces, and we had productive discussions about why a particular activity should be placed in a particular space, which quickly improved our understanding of the individual spaces' function in the integral whole.

During the next exercise, we were to work in-depth with the individual spaces by continuing to clarify the ideas that had come up during exercise 1. Being forced to consider user groups, requirements to rooms and interior design and layout as well as necessary partners was productive – and very, very inspiring. Many new alliances and ideas for projects were discussed during this task.

The third exercise was the most difficult. Here, we had to work with 24 hours at tomorrow's library – and in this way link the many emerging ideas to an ordinary day.

All in all, these were hours that were extremely well spent – and the tools will be useful at many levels and in many contexts in the institutional development within the library and culture area.”

Karen Louise Erichsen, Head of Culture Department, Thisted Municipality

Reports from the three local design workshops

Here, you can read about a widely composed group of participants at the Model Programme design workshops held in Sønderborg, Thisted and Billund, respectively, and see a number of local design ideas, among other things.

  • Sønderborg Municipality – which is to build from scratch. With a municipal construction budget of DKK 94.6 million, a multi-purpose culture centre is to be built by the harbour. Sønderborg Harbour Association is to construct the building. Read more here.
  • 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. Read more here.
  • Billund Municipality – which is to refurbish its local branch in Billund. The municipality and the LEGO Foundation have formed a public / private partnership around the vision of creating the Children's Capital. The library is to constitute an element in this vision and at the same time, it is to be designed as an Open Library and a Danish and international Citizen Service centre. Read more here.

Make your own contribution via the Facebook group

If you have examples and ideas of how to organise and facilitate a workshop or similar that can contribute to clarifying new needs and developing proposals as to how they can be met, or if you have comments to the article, please feel free to contribute via the Facebook group.

15. Jun 2016 at. 11:06

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Download the tools for the exercises described in the article.

Exercises 1-3

Exercise 4 – Dogmas



Read more about the three library workshops

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