Every space tells a story: Is your library the community’s living room? 6xCs to shaping your narrative.

In the libraryI have a soft spot for libraries. I started my teaching career in a primary school as the teacher librarian. This isn’t usually the first job for a young graduate, but it was mine. I loved reading to the children, making author and theme related display, but most of all, seeing the children explore the world of literature and their own passions for learning.

Learning Spaces

Learning Spaces Making more effective learning environments  is an online journal by Imaginative Minds

The most recent edition (Vol 2.2  2014) has an article “Libraries for the future of all users” (by Lee Taylor).

The key function shift from one of “collector” to “connector” – where the primary purpose has moved from one of collecting books, information or music, to one providing a range of people the opportunity to use this space to connect intellectually and physically – a kind of “living room” for the city.

Have you ever considered the library as your school of community living room? This can happen when there is a shift from “collector” to “connector”.  Prioritising people over things.

What characterises a people-focused, future-focused library?

It’s a place for connection, where people’s needs are understood. In this article Taylor makes connections with new community libraries in the cities of Newcastle and Manchester in the UK, by Ryder Architecture. Both of these projects:

  • minimised staff spaces
  • maximisation of public/shared space
  • book collections mechanised for efficiency
  • provide varied places for different types of work
  • variety of collections that respond to community interests
  • welcoming entrance space

These points contrast to the libraries of the past:

  • books front and centre
  • command and control culture
  • task and process oriented staff
  • large designated staff work spaces to hide away
  • one large controlled space where silence is reinforced
  • facing barriers to entering

The architects decided that to make the library the community living room the users needs were important, that it was a shared and community-owned space. This meant that the designed included things like easily accessible power charging points and that the design was able to accommodate mixed mode study. I think we can all relate, I often have my laptop, iPad, mobile phone, paper, pens spread out around me when I’m working.

Newcastle City Library and Manchester Central Library are characterised by welcoming entrances. Generous and comfortable, a space to linger, where library-users can catch up for coffee.

So if it time to rethink your library, where do you start?

If you are thinking about making changes to a space, to make it more person-centres there are a few things to think about. I have synthesised these into 6xCs

  1. Community: All stakeholder needs considered
  2. Connection: Design space for connection and working styles
  3. Collections: Placement and storage of resources, books, artefacts
  4. Communication: The verbal and non-verbal messages conveyed
  5. Comfort: Fit out meet users’ needs  – furniture, air, light, technology, modes
  6. Cool: The space is interesting, attractive, inviting, fun and quirky

Here is a process to facilitate your team’s thinking and action steps for change:

1. Articulate the aspirations of the 6xCs for your context

  1. Community
  2. Connection
  3. Collections
  4. Communication
  5. Comfort
  6. Cool

2. Gather your working group, go on a field trip and have lunch together.

Visit recent developments in your city how do these spaces interpret the 6xCs:

  • City offices with a variety of places for working and connecting
  • Community libraries
  • Incubator/co-working spaces
  • University libraries and social spaces

Look again at your 6xCs and create a statement of aspiration for each.

City sights

3. Develop your strategy

A. What is the current situation?

B. Describe the library what you want to see.

C. What are the pathways from A to B? Can you prioritise them?

D. What are major barriers and obstacles to achieving your B?

E. Now, what will you do:

  • Within a week
  • Within a month
  • This year
  • Within 2 years

This is the kind of process I enjoy working through with groups – Identifying their A, dreaming about their B and then developing the strategy to get there. Let me know if I can help you with your change process.

I’m also thinking about a Library Learning Space Study tour to the UK. Looking at community, university and school libraries. Interested?

@anneknock

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