Building new libraries and redesigning existing libraries







One of my main interests – and I believe also a main interest for many people working in the library sector – is library design. Whenever I visit a new city I always try to visit at least one library – to try and get a feel for how the libraries there work, and to see if there are any good ideas that I can “borrow”.

All over the world we are seeing new libraries rising or existing libraries being redesigned. As the role of the library is changing to meet tomorrows needs, we are slowly but surely seeing libraries around the world undergo a significant design transition.

It seems to me that there is an important shift going on from solely space planning for collections, equipment and associated physical infrastructure to a stronger focus on design for people, community outcomes, experience and innovation. We are seeing a shift from designing buildings with fixed spaces for books – to designing much more flexible spaces that may be used for many different purposes by many different kinds of people at different times or even at the same time.

The role of the library is changing and that calls for buildings old or new that meet the new needs.

But where do you start if you are planning a new library, rebuilding an existing library or are interested in redesigning your library or part of a library?

One of the sites that I have found useful as a source of inspiration is the Modelprogramme for Public Libraries. Here you can find inspiration if you are interested in how to optimize the interior design of your library or if you are involved in the planning of a new library. The Modelprogramme is about homing in on and describing a number of decisive design principles in relation to elements that concern the new public library. The website is quite big and has inspiration, specific cases and design guidelines.

If you are interested in reading more about the spaces and design issues that should be considered when building a new library and seeing pictures from best practice examples from 17 libraries around the world, you should read the report Building Libraries for Tomorrow. Here Patti Manolis and I have done an international survey. The report also has an extensive literature review where you can find a lot of the relevant ressources and literature about designing and building public libraries.