Model Programme for Public Libraries

Kultur styrrelsen

Realdania

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The Stage

This design challenge describes a number of versions, functions and locations of the library's stage.

The stage is a key facility in relation to supporting the library's intention of being the background for active culture production and a setting for cultural experiences and inspiration. The stage can be small, geared to intimate readings or to a play for a small group of children, or it can be big, formal and for the many visitors, for instance as the setting for a visit by Paul Auster. The stage may demand sound equipment, big screens and projectors as the background for talks or other formats that need to be supported by sound and/or images. The stage can form the basis for the presentation of the library's users' own culture production. Reading of own works, catwalk with own creations, performance.

The stage can encourage spontaneous expressions and ad hoc-based use such as the open piano, or it can be the professional setting for ambitious, real-time culture events, such as the International Writers' Stage.

The stage can also be and take place in many different parts of the library: In the transition zone, a stage that has been moved outside or a more permanent amphitheatre installation – cf. The library in the urban space and The library's interplay with the urban space – and a culture production can contribute to moving the library out into the urban space and inviting the city inside the library's spaces for different experiences. In the arrival area, it may be a visiting dance theatre group that entertains. In the common square, the stage may be a permanent fixture, cf. the Entressen Library, or it can be set up through the adaptation of a larger space, cf. the Calendar of Light at Malmö City Library. And the stage can be a specialised room/workshop at the library, cf. the Culture Hall at Rentemestervej Library or the multi-purpose hall at Ørestad Library.

Naturally, the great challenge is to find the stage format or the location(s) of the stage as a function that are most suitable for the individual library, its users and its existing physical framework.

Worth considering:

An outdoor amphitheatre or an indoor stage in a permanent setup can easily end up signalling an absence of life and activity, although the opposite is the intention, unless a high level of activities is maintained. It is also important to find the right balance between tightly facilitated activities and a total handover to users. The first case implies a risk of creating activities that do not resonate with the visitors. The latter implies a risk of a ‘Sing Star Amok’ effect, which can frighten off other visitors.

The stage in the library's inspiration space

The stage can encourage spontaneous cultural expressions and ad hoc-based use such as the open piano, or it can be the professional setting for ambitious, real-time culture events, such as the International Writers' Stage. The stage can form the basis for the presentation of the library's users' own culture production. Readings of own works, catwalks with own creations, performances. The stage can be small, geared to intimate readings or to a play for a small group of children, or it can be big, formal and aimed at a large number of visitors.

The stage in the library's performative space

The stage is for the users – it can encourage spontaneous expressions and ad hoc-based use, such as the free access to playing a piano, or it can be the starting point for long workshop-based courses where the participants present their work to a large or small audience as an announced event. This can be e.g. reading of own works, or a catwalk with own creations.

The stage in the library's meeting space

The stage in the library's meeting space should play a more secondary role. It can typically be the option of establishing a small, intimate stage geared to a short acoustic concert, a reading or a debate event.

Behaviour and activities

The choice of stage format and the positioning of the function very much depend on which type of culture production the library wishes to support.

The broken up urban square with the sunken stage space in front of and inside the new Birmingham Public Library, which was recently inaugurated, is a potent example of how the library uses the stage to invite the urban space's users to enjoy new experiences. It is not the book, but the experience, that is key to this invitation. Choir singing, piano concerts, beach volley, catwalks and fashion shows. If people want to increase the intensity of the experience and get closer, they have to walk through the library's ground floor – which to some extent retains the character of a covered urban square due to its informal meeting space – and down into the library's subterranean area, which makes it possible to be at eye level with one's experience and allows the library's other attractions to present themselves.

The broken up urban square with the sunken stage space in front of and inside the new Birmingham Public Library, is a potent example of how the library's activities invite the urban space's users to go exploring. Photo: Check website

Make your own contribution via the Facebook group

If you have examples or ideas of how libraries can design and activate one or more stages, or if you have comments to this article, please feel free to contribute via the Facebook group.

09. Feb 2015 at. 15:19

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