Model Programme for Public Libraries

Kultur styrrelsen

Realdania

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The Good Welcome in the Arrival Area

The arrival area is the area that all of the library's users pass through to find their way further into the library's spaces and collections. The zone's most important function is thus to make the visitors venture further into the library's experience spaces. However, it can also be the common room and the setting chosen by many of the library's users who are not so much searching for the collections as for a meeting place or a place to study. Many libraries have organised a newspaper reading room in the arrival area. Many have established a cafe function in order to attract stray customers and create life. More and more libraries set up Citizen Service in the arrival area, not least with a view to ensuring that the users of Citizen Service do not need to walk through the entire library in order to make use of this function. Finally, the arrival area is often the place where quick material lending or returning take place when the visitor does not have the time or does not wish to go further into the library space.

Mixing it right: In other words, there are many functions that could benefit from being placed in the library's arrival area. It can be a great challenge to prioritise the many possibilities to ensure that the arrival experience is characterised by spatial surplus, where the ‘functions’ and their users are not so dominant that the invitation to venture further into the library's experience spaces is blurred. Conversely, it is probably not enough for the arrival area solely to serve as ‘the red carpet’ that is to draw visitors further into the library's spaces. The arrival area should also signal life and presence.

Important ingredients in the good welcome

Be welcoming: If the library is quite sizeable, and if its visitors are not necessarily all regular customers, there can be an important signalling effect in positioning a reception or information post in the arrival area where new visitors are welcomed, and where they can ask for help and be guided to the right functions. If a library does not want to have a reception, an alternative worth considering would be to work with pro-active staff who welcome visitors as part of their other tasks.

Invite people to stay: The arrival area should signal calm and surplus energy. It should be clear that the library offers an alternative to motorways and supermarkets. An alternative to getting through the shelves fast, finding your goods and moving on in your programme. A lounge area, a cafe function, a newspaper reading space or a study area can contribute to slowing down the pace and encouraging relaxation, presence and life in the arrival area.

Many users choose to position themselves near the library's cafe in the arrival area where they can work with laptops, read books or newspapers while enjoying coffee or a snack. This signals life and relaxation. Photo: Copenhagen Main Library

Clear signage and guidance: The arrival area should create overview and guide new users to the many different functions and thematic material collections. It can be an advantage to operate with easily recognisable and consistent functional pictograms, colour codes or similar.

Event and culture calendar: The arrival area is an obvious place to present an updated digital or analogue event and culture calendar. This can also serve as a supplement to the reception for more self-reliant customers. This can be used partly to describe the library's own activities and cultural offers – today and onwards – but the culture calendar can also easily go beyond the library's own framework.

Examples of different designs of culture calendars. Analogue and digital. Photo: Signal Architects

Present just a few, but good things from the material collection: There can be obvious advantages in presenting a changing, clear choice of new titles. This may be ‘manually’ on low tables with ‘covers up’ – or it may be digital presentations of new titles supported by interviews with writers and/or reviews by other users or the staff.

Presentation of material collection. Photo: Signal Architects

Exhibit the users' own culture production: If the library provides a setting for various creative workshops, it would be a good idea regularly to exhibit the participants' production, demonstrating that the library is more than just its material collection, and that the building is there for the users.

Make your own contribution via the Facebook group

If you have examples or ideas of how libraries can welcome users and which functions it would be an advantage to place in the arrival area, or if you have comments to this article, please feel free to contribute via the Facebook group.

20. Sep 2013 at. 16:22

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