Model Programme for Public Libraries

Kultur styrrelsen



Involve the users from the start

Today, public libraries form new, dynamic relations with their users based on the motto ‘make it your library’ as a part of the concept of co-creation and public involvement. The idea is to future-proof the library in relation to a number of purposes: creating a better foundation for the library's services by adapting to users' changing habits and expectations; attracting new user groups, particularly children and young people; and creating innovation and quality in the library's content, communication and design of the spaces where this takes place. The user perspective covers many concepts, which are closely related.

In the following, we distinguish between user involvement, user-driven innovation og user takeover

User involvement

User involvement happens when the library involves users in the process of developing the library's offers and interior design. A great variety of methods are used to gather knowledge about users' habits and expectations. These methods include touch-point interviews – short, simple interviews here and now, cultural probes – letting the users tell their own story through photos and diaries, and more dialogue-based workshops such as Village Square and World Cafe, where users and library staff can meet for discussions and concrete ideas development about the library's future. A good Danish example of use of the workshop method is ‘Experimentarium – Ideas Workshop for Children’. Here, the purpose was to collect 9-13-year-olds' ideas for content, layout and design of tomorrow's library. It consisted of a five-day intensive workshop where the children created their own visions for the Multimedia House in Aarhus through play, learning and experiences.

User-driven innovation

User-driven innovation can be seen as a more radical utilisation of users' experience. Here, selected users are given the opportunity to develop a new product in practice. This can be e.g. through the involvement of lead users and first movers, where the users themselves are innovative experts. In the Mindspot project, a group of young people aged 14-20 has served as innovative power. They have submitted proposals for and have participated in organising a whole string of events and activities focused on the young people's own communication. These have included a 24-hour film marathon, concerts with young bands, and the interior design of the Spot Mobile, a caravan that moves out to where the young people are: the beach, the town square and the festival.

In the Netherlands, the library De Tweede Verdieping in the city of Nieuwegein contributes to the social and cultural development in the city by developing ‘local files’. In dialogue with the local community, important societal issues are identified, which are of particular concern to Nieuwegein's citizens. These can include, for instance, how to separate state and religion – quite a conflict-intensive issue in a Dutch context. The library contributes to building accurate knowledge about the issue through own research, anthropological studies in the local area and interviews with key stakeholders; most often, external experts are also linked to the task. Following this approach, reports, or so-called ‘local files’ are prepared, which deal with the issue based on local surveys, expert knowledge and evidence. Once this is done, local residents are invited to a debate where attitudes are coupled with knowledge and evidence, and people collaborate to create quality forward-looking solutions. A summary of the debate and the work that has gone into phrasing solutions is subsequently included as a part of ‘the local file’.

Article about ‘the local file’

User takeover

User takeover happens when the library hands over an activity or a space to the users' care. This comes with responsibility based on a prior, clear agreement about the purpose of and the settings for the activity. This can be e.g. homework cafes, where volunteers help children and sometimes adults, too, with their homework, or IT classes where expert users undertake teaching of fellow citizens who are weak in relation to IT. In other cases, it can be a matter of handing over the actual library space for local activities, as it happens when Garaget in Malmö lends keys to local associations and citizens' open events, or when the Open Libraries are used for events that are run entirely by citizens. Or when a room is placed at the disposal of young, creative entrepreneurs for them to unfold their project for six months at a time, as it is planned at Elsinore's new library. In this way, relations to the local community are strengthened, while at the same time, new user groups are drawn in.

Creative workshop at Garaget. Photo: Nille Leander

This is what Garaget has to say about itself:

Garaget is a 580 m2 venue that can be used for many different purposes. The venue can be borrowed for various events free of charge in the evenings and at weekends. If you borrow the venue, you will be given full access to it and will be responsible for it. You can use the venue for your specific needs, but you are responsible for restoring the venue to its original state and for cleaning it up afterwards.

If you want to hold an event at Garaget, the following must be observed:

  • The event has to be free of charge and open to the general public
  • No alcohol can be served
  • You have to book the venue no later than 7 days before the event
  • You have to send in the marketing material no later than 5 days before the event

You need to have:

  • An idea of what you want to do at the venue
  • Enough people to help you carry out the event

We will offer you:

  • A 580 m2 venue
  • A small kitchen with a microwave oven, fridge, freezer, coffee machine, dishwasher, various crockery and kitchen equipment
  • A small stage with some stage lighting, a PA unit, two microphones and a video projector
  • Standard chairs for approx. 100 people
  • Some seating groups
  • Help with marketing
  • Tips and advice

Make your own contribution via the Facebook group

If you have examples or ideas of how libraries can improve user involvement, or if you have comments to this article, please feel free to contribute via the Facebook group.

09. Feb 2015 at. 17:10

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