Model Programme for Public Libraries

Kultur styrrelsen



Vesthimmerland's Libraries transformed on a small budget

In collaboration with a local production school, Vesthimmerland Municipality's libraries have demonstrated how the Model Programme's tools can be used to transform a small local library on a small budget. The result is a new expression, satisfied users and a flexible library with many new possibilities.

Changes on a small budget

Aars Library, a small local library in Vesthimmerland Municipality in Denmark, worked intensively with the Model Programme's principles and tools in 2015 to develop an interior design concept on a small budget and based on flexibility and anti-institutionalisation. With just 644 m2 spread across one large room, a limited budget and a principle about keeping the library open throughout the entire process, there was plenty of work to be done when the refurbishment commenced.

The existing Aars Library had bookcases as far as the eye could see, which meant minimal space for activities. In addition, furniture had been gathered over many years without attention to creating a uniform expression. In other words, a classic example of a library space designed on the collection's premisses.

The 'Hack your library' project was launched based on a wish to create a library space for people and with space for the many new functions that the library has worked with for several years – inspired by the four-space model. The project has also aimed to become an inspiration to other libraries by showing that the Model Programme's ideas are not dependent on big grants or the construction of new libraries – they can be implemented on a limited budget in already existing buildings.

Overview of the new library's areas and zones help users find their way.

Local anchoring

The project focuses particularly on establishing local anchoring through collaboration with the local Kongshøjgaard Production School, with Vesthimmerland Municipality's Centre for Competence and Clarification, and the inclusion of the library's users.







During the refurbishment period, students from the metal course and from the text writing course on the production school Kongshøjgaard helped carry out practical work at the library.

Kongshøjgaard Production School helps students get closer to job opportunities and education, and the main idea with the collaboration was to create a teaching case for the metal and textile programmes, giving the students the chance to work with a type of task that they might encounter after graduation.

Similarly, collaboration was established with the Danish Centre for Competence and Clarification about the affiliation of unemployed young people. In addition to Kongshøjgaard Production School, designer Anne Halskov was involved in the project from the very beginning. Anne Halskov was in charge of the visual expression and design, while Kongshøjgaard Production School handled the practical execution and construction.

At the beginning of the project period, a library construction site was set up, where news were continually published to create openness and involve the users in the entire refurbishment process.

In addition to these collaborative efforts, the local anchoring of the project was created through a targeted dialogue with the users who were continually involved via interviews, generation of new ideas, inputs for improvements and voting.

The users were encouraged to place a sticker under the particular car they thought the children's library should buy.

The users' needs

The users were asked to write down their thoughts about the library's old interior design. Each user was asked to write and stick a red note in the place in the library that he/she liked the least. Green notes were to be attached to the user's favourite place. Finally, the notes were gathered and provided inspiration for the new design. Here is an example of a note about the user's experience of the newspaper reading area. The user enjoys sitting by the day’s paper, but is often bothered by either loud children by the arcade machines or loud grownups skyping on the computers nearby. The newspaper reading area should therefore be placed somewhere a bit quieter.

The first step in the transformation of the library space was to get a clear idea of the users' needs as a basis for selecting improvement potentials. The user surveys showed a number of conflict points, which primarily came down to insufficient space for activities and the user groups' inappropriate positioning in relation to each other.

The surveys also showed that the users' movement patterns were concentrated in a triangular route, and that the library had several unutilised areas. It was evident that it was necessary to rethink the space in order to optimise the use of the relatively few square metres.

A plan showing how the users move around the library.

Taking the Model Programme's zones as the starting point, the library was successfully divided according to functions, thus minimising the conflict points. At the same time, it was necessary to prioritise the use of the available space. As a consequence, all materials were arranged in a compact setup in order to release square metres, accommodating the wish for new activities and more seating and study places. The space is now designed to favour the users' needs over the collection.

A new library experience

The refurbishment has had an impact on the number of visitors from day one. Declining visitor numbers have been replaced by a five per cent increase. Furthermore, users spend more time at the library, and new user groups have been added.

Pop-Up Exploratorium, which can be held at the library after the refurbishment.

The users' evaluation of the new interior design singles out the aesthetic expression in particular. The users feel that the library seems larger, that it has become brighter, that the style is homely, and that it is now more clearly laid out. Three interior elements are given special mention: 1) the space for children and families with children has improved, 2) the young people are pleased to have their own space, and 3) the division of the library into zones has created a very clear layout.

The new interior design has made room for a greater variety of activities and target groups, which is in line with the Model Programme and the four-space model. Above all, this is evident in the flexible utilisation of the Square, where the activity level has gone up and space has been created for event types that could not be held at the library before.

Reading quiz in the autumn of 2015. This is not a new activity, but after the refurbishment, the settings are much better suited for such activities.

The interior design measures are simple, but effective: The dark brick walls have been painted white, the house structures create spaces within the space, and the majority of the furniture is on wheels.

The compact setup in the material zone does not only release square metres, it also preserves the classic library atmosphere. There are books as far as the eye can see, and a sofa suite makes it a natural choice to sit down among the bookcases.

The main idea of the design concept is 'the town in the library', which is reflected in the many house constellations and the naming of the zones. The house structures are made of metal and wood, which enhance the anti-institutional expression, and the majority of the furniture is on wheels so that the library can easily be adapted according to activities and the users' needs.

The Square is the library's multifunctional heart where everything can take place. Due to its flexibility, the space is highly functional so that it can both accommodate newspaper readers and in just a few minutes be set up for 100 people to attend a talk. Here, senior citizens attend an 'Electives for Senior Citizens' event where they are invited to try out local offers. Electives for Senior Citizens is a part of the development project 'Small Combustibles'.

The playground has become a favourite place for families with children. Children can move around and play here, and the varied seating invites both small and large groups of children to sit and read or listen.

The workshop has been extended and features state-of-the-art technology. The long worktables have facilities for creating everything from T-shirt prints to 3D prints.

The gamer space is the young people's special area where they sit side-by-side playing computer games and PlayStation in the shadow of the skyline on the end wall. The sense of community and fun has been given pride of place here.

The library's own designer has drawn many illustrations, and the recognisable style is repeated everywhere, its personality and humour adding signature value to the expression. The illustrations were made on the workshop's vinyl cutter. The illustrations are flexible and can be removed from the walls and replaced with other drawings or writing.

The new interior design has given the library more personality, identity and humour, and it has become a place where anything can happen. The project has created such positive results at Aars Library that the concept will now be rolled out to the municipality's three other libraries in 2016.

18. Sep 2017 at. 14:03

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