Model Programme for Public Libraries

Kultur styrrelsen



The Library as a Performative Space

The library's performative space supports the users' creativity and innovation. It is to support the users' own creative efforts through workshops, facilities and programs that the users do not have access to at home. It is also to serve as a learning space with different kinds of workshops: writers' workshops, film workshops, innovation workshops etc., and support production environments in the local community. The content of the performative space can be artistic and creative efforts, innovative design and product development or technological innovation.

In principle, the performative space can be directed at all citizens. It can be the ‘hobby people’ who seek facilities and new inspiration; young people from the creative entrepreneurial environment looking for places where they can produce and present their own creative efforts, or creative entrepreneurs who need workplaces and meeting places. It is common to these different types of performative spaces that they involve a high degree of user involvement in relation to interior design, facilities and learning.

By using the “Communal table” Køge Library has created a performative space, that changes according to the user’s need. Read the case here. 

Positioning in spaces and buildings

In principle, performative activities can take place anywhere in the library space, depending on the extent to which the activity creates noise, demands peace and quiet for concentration or requires special facilities. It should preferably be visible in the sense that it clearly signals what the possibilities are so that people from outside become curious about what goes on.

Artistic and creative activities

More quiet creative activities, such as sewing, knitting workshops and making Christmas decorations in paper can take place in an open corner arranged for the specific purpose in connection with a large common square at the library. The creative workshop at Garaget in Malmö is an open workshop that is to serve as an inspiring place for children and adults with a wide offer of materials, tools and hobby literature.

A number of activities can be of recurrent character, gathering a regular group of participants for a long-term creative course, and they can pose special demands on tools, materials and table space. They also need to allow people to make a mess and deposit their work in progress so that they can come back and continue working on it the next time. This calls for the establishment of special workshops or activity places at the library.

The library's new activity places

Several libraries in Copenhagen have set up a Demotheque as an underground library based on the DIY culture where young creative people can produce and exhibit their works. These can be e.g. poetry collections, cartoons or DVDs. At Herlev Library, they have taken the idea one step further by setting up Demotheque 2730, a zone for young people aged 15-25, with Mac computers for image and video editing, an open stage for events, and cafe events and workshops. The space is designed with a view to creating an atmosphere, energy and flow based on workshops and input from the library's ‘youth ambassadors’. Old cinema seats and plywood boxes on wheels make the décor funky and flexible.

The Demotheque at Herlev Library. Photo: Dorte Skot Hansen

Specialised activity spaces

Creative activities such as sound recording require more delimited, soundproof rooms with suitable equipment for these specific tasks. At Helsinki’s Library 10, separate audio and video studios have been set up for practising, recording and editing sound and images. Musicians can borrow an instrument, use a soundproof rehearsal room, record and edit a demo and finally play live at the library's small stage. Myllypura Media Library also has practice and recording facilities.

Music and recording at libraries. Photo: Signal Architects and Library 10

FabLabs and hacker spaces

Other activities that can take place in the library space include e.g. Hacker Spaces, Maker Spaces or Tech Labs, which emphasise recycling or a fix-or-modify culture within IT. In such places, it is possible, for instance, to build mechanical tools or make jewellery out of old computer parts, as is the case at Aarhus Main Library's Tech Lab.

Fab Labs are a concept that originated at MIT in Boston. Here, users can develop prototypes of their ideas on a 3D printer following the motto ‘Dream it. Make it. Share it.’ Copenhagen Fab Lab is based at Valby Community Centre, where the actual printer is a part of the equipment, while four libraries in Copenhagen have PCs with the necessary software. Other libraries, such as Meeting Point in Helsinki, make a 3D printer available without taking part in the actual Fab Lab concept.

Innovation-facilitating spaces

Spaces for innovation can also be more open office landscapes for creative entrepreneurs with an emphasis on access to meeting facilities, coffee and PCs. At Meeting Point in Helsinki, Urban Office offers everything that is needed for the work process, right from paper clips to technical assistance. Here, it is also possible to rent an ‘office’ with soundproof, movable walls for work or meetings.

Urban Office. Photo: Signal Architects

When the public creates experiences

At quite a few libraries, the audience is invited to use the stage to entertain others – here at De Nieuwe Bibliotheek in Almere, the Netherlands, where the library has set up a piano for visitors to use close to the entrance.

Quite a lot of creative processes have the presentation on stage as an incorporated culmination. It is therefore an obvious choice for libraries to create a connection between creation and mastery in workshops and the presentation and performance on the ‘stage’. An increasing number of libraries have established stages, which could easily be activated for this purpose. Other places for staging and presenting results from performative activities are arrival areas, cafe environments and other large gathering places.

Make your own contribution via the Facebook group

If you have examples or good ideas about how to create good settings and invitations for performative activities in library spaces, or if you have comments to this article, please feel free to comment via the Facebook group.

07. Jul 2017 at. 11:17

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)