New library spaces

The role of libraries is changing and their spaces, services and staff structures are evolving to reflect this.

Library spaces are evolving just as the role of libraries is changing.  They no longer need to be designed as vaults to protect collections.  They are being reconfigured to reflect learning styles and support collaborative working and study.  They are providing community and social spaces.  Speakers at ILI shared their experiences of creating new library spaces and bringing together digital and physical collections.

Trends in library spaces

  • Flexible, futureproof design
  • Functionality, beauty, innovation
  • Green buildings
  • Libraries as centrepieces for campus – and community
  • Library buildings of architectural significance
  • Media rooms
  • Modern libraries must be more flexible to accommodate alternative learning and project styles
  • More daylight (glass technology has changed and protecting collections from daylight is no longer a priority)
  • Open, airy buildings and spaces
  • Spaces to work quietly still needed
  • Study, reflection and collaborative spaces are important
  • Support increased levels of self service

A new library building for NUI Maynooth

The old library building at the National University of Ireland, Maynooth, was too small and not fit for purpose.  The new library building was ten years in the planning.  The library team spent time conducting extensive literature reviews,   presenting to faculty and researching the needs of students.  The students’ top requirements were sometimes contradictory.  They expressed a desire for a green space with a low carbon footprint with lots more power points for their mobile devices! 

The new library provides more study spaces, places to eat, drink, socialise, and work collaboratively.  It also houses the special collections in a new, top floor location that celebrates the rich history of the institution.

 A new library building for the people of Birmingham

The newly opened public library in Birmingham has received a great deal of positive feedback – from the international press as well as from the local community.   The new library offers new services and aims to provide a better digital customer experience, bringing together the digital and real collections.  Digitised assets in the physical spaces and interactives offer informal and playful experiences.  The library has created its own apps, trails and curated collections, geolocated trails around the city.

Lessons learned

  • Creating a new library can be a once in a career opportunity
  • You need a strong vision which people can respond to
  • New buildings may require new staff structures
  • Be prepared to be flexible and stubborn!
  • You need to pay attention to staff spaces – not just public spaces
  • Some people may need to be convinced of the importance of physical space
  • You can never have too many electrical outlets!
  • Stay creative
  • Use your instinct
  • Engage with stakeholders
  • Enjoy the journey!

New library spaces were being discussed at Internet Librarian International by Rebecca Bartlett (Library of Birmingham; Sharon Bostick (Illinois Institute of Technology); Seth Cayley (Cengage Learning); Hugh Murphy (NUI Maynooth)

The photograph of the Library of Birmingham is by ell brown via Flickr.