Model Programme for Public Libraries

Kultur styrrelsen



Presentation of Material Collection

This design challenge describes a number of ideas as to how the library can benefit from working with dosing and presenting its material collections with a focus on special functions and zones.

The library needs to present its analogue and digital material collection as clearly, accessibly and attractively as possible. In addition to surprising and inspiring, the exhibited materials should also be placed in a context so that visible connections, thematising and sub-divisions are created. Furthermore, it is essential to continually go through the old contents and renew the collections as needed, balancing between breadth and depth in all collections, the library's priorities and users' verdict, i.e. to what extent are the materials being borrowed?

In connection with their planning and space allocation regarding presentations of the different material collections, it is important that libraries consider right from the beginning how the relevant areas at the library can be utilised for other functions in connection with the transition to new technologies.

The presentation of the materials should both enable more purposeful users to find the materials they are looking for by themselves and ensure that ‘grazing’ users with more time available find inspiration for new experiences. In principle, one does not exclude the other: The more purposeful user can also be tempted by the unexpected, just as the shopping, seeking user can feel safer in a library space that is laid out in a clear way.

Naturally, the big challenge is to find exactly the presentation formats that ensure that the library materials are appealing and presented in the clearest and most inviting way possible.

In 2014-2015, Randers Library has worked on a project where the registration of users' presence triggers changes in the content of communication, in order to provide a fuller user experience. Read the thematic case here.

Case: Bibliotheek Floriande

The approach to presenting materials depends very much on which function the library wishes to support, or which needs a given space/function connection is to accommodate. Tall bookcases, densely thematised material, classical alphabetisation etc. support knowledge acquisition. This design approach, on the other hand, hardly promotes another important intention about creating attractive settings for informal or formal meetings. This would speak in favour of a zone division of the library where the presentation of the material collection is varied and graduated in weight and number.

The material collection in the library's learning space

Create clear access to materials within delimited, easily recognisable thematic areas. In order to support the intention about the library as a learning space in the classical sense of knowledge acquisition, it is less important to aim at surprising by presenting just a few titles with high visual clarity and ‘let covers and titles do the selling’ than it is to ensure access to many titles and materials.

If the learning intention is to be supported, many things would indicate that a tightly structured division of the library's materials in thematised collections is necessary. Here, tall bookcases with a lot of material can be supplemented by attractive workstations for small groups and soloists. Tall bookcases can also serve as room partitions in this connection.

The material collection in the library's performative space

The materials that are placed close to the library's workshop facilities can ideally be adapted thematically to the activities that take place in the workshops. A creative workshop for children can offer a number of DIY books for inspiration.

The material collection in the library's meeting space

Materials that interact with the library's intention of being a meeting space should play a more secondary role. This can be achieved by means of e.g. a low bookcase or a ‘quick reader’ box of recently published thrillers, updated journals, culture calendars and similar items placed in the library's cafe. It could also be boxes of books that move out and are offered to the public outdoors, in the library's transition zone.

The material collection in the library's inspiration space

The presentation of the library's material collection is to inspire and encourage experiences – pick me up, read me, listen to me! However, at more and more libraries, you can borrow and return materials without the staff's intervention. It is therefore worth considering whether parts of the library's material collection – e.g. selected material about animals – should be moved out of the library and instead be offered as lending material at the Zoological Museum, at zoos, Naturama or similar places.

Presentation of the material collection in the different zones

  • The transition zone – move materials out into the urban space – the immediate surroundings or further afield. The SpotMobile, the beach library, the library cafe with boxes of books and similar.
  • The arrival area – presentation of new titles, highly topical subjects, culture calendar etc. Titles available for short lending periods only. Floor-walking librarians as experience guides.
  • The common square – offers many possibilities of thematic linking and interaction in the presentation of materials. If clarity and a high level of transparency in the space are of the essence, it would be an obvious choice to work with low bookcases. If, on the other hand, smaller spaces within the space are required, where visitors can find peace and quiet and withdraw a little from the community, taller bookcases can be used as room partitions.
  • The material collections – here, the materials take up a lot of space. However, it would be an advantage to present a mixture of appetising covers, new materials and titles, and to provide access to the many titles available within well-defined, recognisable, thematically delimited fields.
  • The study zone – here, the materials take up less space. At large libraries, it would be preferable to organise the interplay between materials and study workplaces in thematic sections: social sciences organised as one thematic field, languages as another, arts and music as a third. For smaller libraries, the challenge is to create attractive study workplaces, e.g. by utilising the edges of spaces – establishing high tables with linked-up PC equipment.

Read more about the library's zones here.

Make your own contribution via the Facebook group

If you have examples or ideas about how to work with dosing and adapting the presentation of material collections in the library's different spaces and zones, or if you have comments to this article, please feel free to comment via the Facebook group.

08. Jun 2016 at. 15:18

The dialogbox begins her. You can click on Accept cookies button or Enter button to close the box. The button is the last element in the box.

Accept of cookies

We use cookies on to improve our website so to meet the needs of our users. We use, among other things cookies to keep statistics about the traffic on the page so we can make sure that the content is relevant and easy to find. You may at any time delete cookies from 

Read more about cookies on
Cookie and privacy policy

(dialog box ends)