Model Programme for Public Libraries

Kultur styrrelsen



Spaces for Older Children and Tweens

Whereas Danish public libraries, especially those that are located near large cities of education, experience great success in terms of attracting young students who use the library as a study and workplace, the libraries find it particularly challenging to create spaces and settings that match the wishes and needs of 7-12-year-olds and the youngest teenagers. Whereas 72 per cent of the libraries questioned place the user group of young children and their adults among the three user groups that their library is best geared towards with its current set-up, only 6 per cent of the libraries place young people, and 19 per cent place children aged 7-12 in the top three.

Danish libraries' assessment of which users their current interior design is best geared towards. The figure shows the percentage of libraries that place the shown user groups among the three user groups that they believe they are best geared towards.

Older children consider the library a free space away from parents and teachers. It needs to be a place where they can hang out, be noisy, fight monsters in computer games along with others, chat on the Internet and do girlish things together in a ‘girls' cave’ as at Tårnby Library. In order to achieve this, the library must be designed as a robust experience and meeting space, preferably at a distance or isolated from other zones. At the same time, the library should preferably support older children's search for knowledge in an updated edition of ‘the knowledge temple’, where they can delve deeply into books and other media in peace and quiet. There needs to be gaps for bookworms and listening places where you can lie down. Finally, the library can serve as a performative space, as at Balagan at Malmö City Library, which supports the children's storytelling abilities and their own creative activity through play with images, text and sound.

Naturally, the library also has a function as a learning space for children. In relation to children, creative, playful learning is often best placed in the open children's library, because this form is more inclusive and suitable to this approach to learning than the closed space. However, in the course of just a few years, homework cafes have also gained considerable ground at Danish public libraries. They are run in very different conditions, from delimited and closed learning spaces to activities that take place at the heart of the children's library.

Game zone, open learning and play area, Aalborg Main Library. Photo: Peter Søholm Simonsen

Case: Aalborg Library 

Quite a few libraries also have efficient interaction with day care institutions and schools and often open their doors to visits from large groups of entire school classes who make short or long visits to the library. Read more about the design challenge The learning space.

Tips for creating attractive settings for 7-12-year-olds

Shielded spatiality: One solution can be to design with a view to shielding children against behaviour regulation from other users of the library. By establishing an independent spatiality, there is no reason why the children's library should be located close to the library's centre with access from the central traffic area.


Minimum regulation: Minimum regulation could be an objective for the children's library. This will entail that activities and noise levels can get a bit high, and it is therefore important to offer many possibilities of seeking out small spaces within the large. One solution could be to incorporate dens and eagle's nests in bookcases, where children can find peace and quiet or enjoy being together with just one other child.


Play and learning: Another objective could be to link learning and play, for instance by creating a large open space on the floor between installations for running and other physical activity, or by offering the possibility of climbing on the bookcases.


Programmed activities: A third objective could be to offer children learning experiences. For instance, recurring activities such as reading groups for children, manga drawing, newspaper editing, rap workshops etc.

Make your own contribution via the Facebook group

If you have examples or ideas of how libraries can create attractive settings for 7-12-year-olds and the youngest teenagers, or if you have comments to this article, please feel free to contribute via the Facebook group.


08. Jun 2016 at. 15:20

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