Model Programme for Public Libraries

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The Library's Spaces and Zones – What should they contain? Where should they be placed?

All libraries are different. They are of different sizes, and their number of large and small spaces varies. Some libraries cover one level only, while others stretch across several floors. Even so, most libraries, regardless of size and plan solution, have a number of zones in common.

One of the library's great design challenges is to create clarity and efficient interaction between these different zones. The menu at the right presents a number of the more concrete spaces and zones at the library. These are presented with solution galleries with suggestions for interior design and facilities that can optimize the functionality and user experience. In addition, they give proposals about positioning and interplay with other activities and functions. The described spaces and zones do not constitute a complete list, just as a given library may not necessarily contain all of them.

Regardless of size and plan solutions, most libraries have a number of zones in common. Figure: Signal Architects

Four key spatial intentions

In addition to the concrete suggestions concerning decoration in the menu at your right, we will beneath here go through the four-room-model, which - as an abstract tool - can be used in the consideration about functions in the spaces and zones of the library. The four spaces beneath should be seen as intentions according to certain rooms in the library. One physical room can have more than one spatial intention.

At most libraries, four spatial intentions coexist – outworked and mixed in different ways: learning, experiencing, meeting and creating. 

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 can 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.

Reflections from the vision group

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.

Reflections from the vision group

The meeting space

‘The meeting space’ is based on participation. It ranges 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 rooms are used most.

Reflections from the vision group

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 good activity out to the library's wider public in order to attract new customers.

Reflections from the vision group

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10. May 2016 at. 13:13

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