Model Programme for Public Libraries

Kultur styrrelsen

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Herning Library – the library as a community centre

Moving to the city centre, Herning Library in Denmark has become a central meeting place for local citizens. With its novel approach to the positioning and exposure of the collection, the new children's services, and the wide range of activities held in the building, the library now serves as a modern community centre at the heart of Herning.

Photo: Søren E. Jensen.

In August 2014, the Danish Herning Library moved from the edge of the city to a new location in the heart of the city. One of the main objectives of the move was to create more life in this part of the city centre. The building that now houses the library used to be a supermarket, but it had been vacant for several years. Following a complete renovation, the library opened in the building, which features approx. 6,000 m2 distributed across four floors. Some 4,500 m2 are dedicated to communication and activities aimed at the users. When Herning Library was awarded the Renoverprisen 2015 for the best renovation in Denmark, the stated reason was that the library had succeeded in creating a cultural centre for the benefit of the citizens of Herning.

The library connects the railway station and the bus station to the pedestrian high street and the city's many educational institutions. The municipality's intentions of creating a large, modern community centre that also provides space for contemplation are particularly supported by the entrances on either side of the building. The building also serves as a concourse between public transport facilities and the city, and it has become an interior urban space and an extension of the pedestrian street. The library has become a new meeting place in Herning city – a modern community centre where users can freely gather, learn, experience culture and get wiser via physical and digital media.

Raw New York style

A lot of attention has been given to the interior design of the new library, which appears attractive, inviting and informal in its raw New York style. About 90,000 recycled bricks, lots of rough service lamps, and some 1,300 metres of ventilation ducts have been used for the renovation. A large open staircase where visitors can sit leads from the ground floor down into Dybet (The Deep), where 90 % of the materials are displayed on densely packed steel shelving.

The collection

The open staircase, which stretches from street level down into the lower level's large materials collection, Dybet. Photo: Søren E. Jensen.

The five kilometres of shelving in Dybet contain 450,000 items, including everything from novels, non-fiction literature and specialist books to children's books and music. As the majority of the materials have been placed on the library's lower floor, the ground floor can be used for people to sit and read, exhibitions, events and activities. The 10 % of the materials that are not kept at the lower level are on display at street level.

Ten inspiration islands expose the library's physical materials in an attractive way. New purpose-made display modules are continually stacked in new ways, forming settings for features of different themes, be that materials of current interest or particular genres or topics.

Inspiration island with an attractive presentation of materials. The display modules are often moved around and rearranged in order to create dynamic and vivid presentations of the library's materials. Here, the modules have been placed along the interlinking passage that runs from one door facing the railway station to the other door facing Herning's pedestrian high street. Photo: Søren E. Jensen.

The themes change every week, and the idea is to address all target and interest groups, and, not least, to convey the many topics and levels represented in the library's collection – narrow and wide, complicated and simple. The purpose is to inspire users to discover exciting reading experiences and new knowledge. In addition to the physical displays, which are often supplemented by digital content, the many digital offers are visualised on big screens located throughout the library.

Digital exposure of future events. Photo: Søren E. Jensen.

Always something going on

The many fantastic stories and the enormous content of knowledge that the library contains are communicated to the library's users through different activities taking place every day of the year.

Debate event at the library. Photo: Søren E. Jensen.

At least one event or learning activity takes place every day, and on some days, there will even be up to eight different activities. Activities can, for instance, consist in a library introduction, a course on the use of tablets, a debate event, stories being read aloud to children, a knitting café or something completely different.

The knitting café takes place on the library's open ground floor. Photo: Søren E. Jensen.

Whenever possible, activities and events are held in the open library space in order to attract and inspire users.

BøH-landet – mostly for children

The youngest library users aged from zero to six years have been given an area entirely of their own, i.e. BøH-landet (the Backwoods), which continually features a variety of activities. Bøh-lænderne (the children's communicators) often start an activity and have a chat with the young users. Here, the relationship is important, and the children and their adults can both play and concentrate on reading.

Photo: Søren E. Jensen.

BøH-landet has been designed with unique furniture, creating a very special landscape. Angular passages, small seats, a hill and a tower invite children to use their imagination and sit down to read some of the many delightful books. The floor has interactive tiles, each of which is combined with small exercises for children to resolve and pass on to each other.

BøH-landet is always staffed. The themes for the youngest children change six times a year, surprising the children and giving them new knowledge about interesting subjects. The area has room for reading aloud, treasure hunts and funny challenges.

Photo: Søren E. Jensen.

A commercial café serves coffee and the best raspberry pastries in town, and the library is open seven days a week all year round. The youngest children can frolic in BøH-landet, and the older ones can explore the collection in Dybet or sit on the ground floor to read, drink coffee or participate in activities and events. This is a place that has something to offer any visitor, and there is no doubt that Herning Library has succeeded in bringing people together in this new community centre. Read more in this review of Herning Library.

18. Sep 2017 at. 13:57

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