Model Programme for Public Libraries

Kultur styrrelsen



The Flexible Workshop

This design challenge describes a number of measures that can contribute to creating flexible workshop functions at the library, thus supporting the library as a place with an active culture production.

An increasing number of libraries provide a setting for users' own active culture production. Cartoon drawing, writers' school, spoken word, hacker labs, inventors' workshops etc. Whereas there can be great qualities in moving these activities out into the common areas and inviting visitors to join in spontaneously, many of the performative activities are of a recurrent character, gathering a regularly returning group of participants, and they pose special demands on tools, materials and table space. This calls for the establishment of special workshops at the library.

The examples below show ways in which these workshops' flexibility and functionality can be supported.

Incorporated robustness. Design with robust floors, preferably with dirt-repelling surfaces. Possibility of displaying works on walls. Large table surfaces with robust, dirt-repelling surfaces will always be good to have in a workshop. Robust washbasin for cleaning of work tools and similar.

Mobile labs with materials, tools and storage facility. In order to make sure that workshops can be used for a variety of purposes, different thematic storage areas or mobile labs can be set up. A ‘designer lab’ with sewing machines, dressmaker's dummies, fabric, scissors, patterns and other inspiration material as well as room for works in progress. A ‘hack lab’ with old computers and other materials for the next session, tools, inspiration materials and room for works in progress. In this way, a generic workshop room can quickly be converted to accommodate a specialised function. Mobile labs are also suitable when a common square is to be prepared for a particular performative activity, and afterwards, they can easily be packed up and rolled away again, so that the space is ready for other purposes.

Different users at different times

Morning: Workshop for young children accompanied by a teacher or a kindergarten teacher, offering an extension to the children's visit to the library's material collections. Activities could include painting, drawing or an adult reading aloud. Afternoon: Workshop for older children as an alternative to after-school clubs. Ideal as a planned, recurrent activity: painting, drawing, poetry workshop, manga, newspaper editing. It would be an obvious choice to attach an internal or external specialist competence to the activity. Evening: Workshop for adults. Ideal as a planned, recurrent activity: painting, drawing, poetry workshop. Here, too, it would be an obvious choice to attach an internal or external specialist competence to the activity.

If the same workshop is to be used by a variety of user groups and age groups, it would be ideal to equip the workshop with height-adjustable chairs and tables. Using the workshop for different users at different times also calls for a booking principle, which may mean that the function is to a lesser degree a freely accessible space for all of the library's users.

Worth considering in connection with the library's creative activities:

  • Should the local library stake on a ‘reactive’ strategy in relation to the creative activities, awaiting the users' ideas, a ‘breadth strategy’, offering a little bit of everything, or should the library stake more proactively on being able to supply more quality through fewer activities – a choice that might also contribute to creating a library that appeals more to some users than to others?
  • To what degree should the performative activities that can take place in the library's spaces be dependent on the library staff's own framework conditions and core competences? To what degree is the library prepared to and able to enter into collaboration with external capacities?
  • What new demands does the culture-producing library pose on the staff's competences as event makers? And as PR workers? To what degree are these competences already available among the staff? To what degree do you need them? What are the possibilities of drawing on local, relevant, external competences – e.g. from the municipality's culture department?

Make your own contribution via the Facebook group

If you have examples or ideas of how libraries can create efficient settings for the users' performative activities, or if you have comments to this article, please feel free to contribute via the Facebook group.

05. Jul 2017 at. 11:49

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