Model Programme for Public Libraries

Kultur styrrelsen



The Cafe

This design challenge describes a number of versions, functions and locations of the library's cafe. The cafe can primarily contribute to strengthening the library's function as a meeting space, but it is also an incorporated extra facility that invites the public to stay a little longer.

The library cafe is an incorporated spatial surplus that can tempt people to stay a little longer, encourage spontaneous visits, and ideally it can be an open invitation to make use of the library's other functions.

It should be able to accommodate groups of people who speak, relax or work together as well as the soloists.

A cafe can thus contribute to supporting the library's function as an open, public meeting space, where citizens can meet others in casual contexts within the library's settings. It would be an obvious choice for the cafe to offer the library's visitors the opportunity to work for a short or longer time with their laptops, read books or newspapers and take their time to enjoy a cup of coffee, close to other people and visual and auditory impressions. Some users may have a need to change from a quieter zone at the library, where they have spent some time, in order to recharge their batteries with a snack and new experiences. Other users of the cafe position themselves here throughout their entire visit. It is therefore particularly important that the cafe interacts efficiently with the library's material collection. E.g. 14-day lending material, new material, culture calendars etc.

Example from the interplay between outdoors and indoors at a cafe in Copenhagen. Photo: Morten Jerichau

The cafe in the library's study zone

When placed in a part of the library where a lot of students spend some time, the cafe can be a facility that contributes to creating a study area with surplus energy, where students can buy a cafe latte and a quick sandwich and thus sweeten and prolong their stay at the library.

! : However, the library needs to decide whether the cafe is to feature up-scale, professional service and cafe prices or whether it should be a cheaper alternative, which could be attractive to students.

The cafe in the immediate urban space

Here, the library's cafe interacts with its immediate environment and can apply specific qualities both outside and inside. If openness has been established between outside and inside, the cafe can serve as an obvious attractor for excursions further into the library.

The cafe in the arrival area

Here, the cafe can contribute to supporting the library's function as a meeting place, playing one of the classic cafe trump cards: the chance to watch other people and be a part of a community – actively or passively.

! : There can be a risk that people do not move on from the cafe in the arrival area. That its identity becomes more cafe than library, that young people will remain there who would explore a material collection if the cafe and study workplaces were located elsewhere in the library.

The cafe in connection with a common square

Here, the cafe can contribute to drawing visitors further into the library space, tempting them to extend their stay with experiences and material presentations. If the common square and the material collection have been converted into a stage with seating, a cafe in the area can be the background for buffets and similar.

! : If the material collection in the common square is primarily intended for quiet concentration, it should be re-considered whether this is the right place to have a cafe.

Finally, planners can consider placing the cafe ‘as far in and as high up as possible’ at the library. Here, the cafe can contribute to drawing visitors further into the library space, tempting them with experiences and material presentations to make them extend their stay. The cafe could be located in an end gable with large windows that provide a view over the urban surroundings. In such a location, the cafe function is unlikely to disturb anybody. One advantage is that by the time visitors reach the cafe, they have already passed through the material collection and can withdraw to read/listen and have a cup of coffee.

! : On the other hand, this position can result in the cafe not being fully utilised as a potential attraction for visitors who come in spontaneously and are encouraged to venture further into the library's experience spaces.

Behaviour and activities

The library cafe can constitute the background for conversation, a workplace for soloists or small groups, quiet concentration or an intimate stage for music, readings or similar.

Make your own contribution via the Facebook group

If you have examples or ideas of how the library's cafe can be designed and located so that it provides the best possible interplay with the library's functions and the users' needs, or if you have comments to this article, please feel free to contribute via the Facebook group.

05. Jul 2017 at. 10:34

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