What does a 21st Century Library Look Like?

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MarkSmash
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What does a 21st Century Library Look Like?

Postby MarkSmash » Thu Jul 26, 2012 6:05 pm UTC

Greetings all:

My city council in Calgary, Alberta has approved funding to build a new Central Public Library for the city. Instead of using the existing building, we will be building a new one from the ground up. Given that we live in the age of the Internet, social networking and digital publication, what role should a city library have and what services should it provide? In terms of architecture, what should it look like? What aesthetics would you consider important for its interior?

On the reverse side of this question, are there any past services that a library provided that should now be considered obsolete?

The Long Now Foundation has been developing the concept of a 10,000 year Library:

http://longnow.org/essays/library/

Howard Besser at Berkley has written some ideas of what a 21st Century library would be like:

http://besser.tsoa.nyu.edu/howard/Papers/peters.html

Given that this library is being built from 'scratch', it could technically be a prototype for a 22nd Century library, so if you have any freaky, space-brother batshit crazy ideas, don't hesitate to include them.

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Re: What does a 21st Century Library Look Like?

Postby Роберт » Thu Jul 26, 2012 6:22 pm UTC

I like the idea of having public hackerspaces available in libraries.

Obviously there's internet access, books, DVDs, and CDs.
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Re: What does a 21st Century Library Look Like?

Postby Ormurinn » Thu Jul 26, 2012 6:43 pm UTC

MarkSmash wrote:In terms of architecture, what should it look like? What aesthetics would you consider important for its interior?


Something classical - looking, and you want it to be open, and airy. Big windows. columns and dressed stone maybe. Call back to the great ages of learning as well as looking towards the future - I've always wondered what kind of miracles we could work in architecture if we mixed modern technology with traditional sensibilities. Whatever you do, don't go Brutalist.

Indoors, pale colours - and use woods and natural materials instead of plastics where you can. As a former cleaner, please tile the floors. Have a grand entryway too - this is something as serious as learning we're talking about here!

Flight of fancy, have an outdoor ampitheatre?
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Re: What does a 21st Century Library Look Like?

Postby Zamfir » Thu Jul 26, 2012 7:41 pm UTC

Ormurinn wrote:Call back to the great ages of learning

Come on, there has never been a time or even an isolated society as obsessed with learning and knowledge as the present world.

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Re: What does a 21st Century Library Look Like?

Postby Ormurinn » Thu Jul 26, 2012 8:14 pm UTC

Zamfir wrote:
Ormurinn wrote:Call back to the great ages of learning

Come on, there has never been a time or even an isolated society as obsessed with learning and knowledge as the present world.


What about ancient Greece or the age of discovery? The Victorians used van-de-graaf generators Wimshurst Machines and dissections as party amusements!

EDIT: got mixed up
Last edited by Ormurinn on Thu Jul 26, 2012 8:52 pm UTC, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: What does a 21st Century Library Look Like?

Postby Zamfir » Thu Jul 26, 2012 8:43 pm UTC

I am kinda skeptical about the Vandegraaf generators in the days of Victoria, since Vandegraaf was apparently born in 1901... I suppose sure they had other sparky machines though, and interested audiences. But don't underestimate: the Discovery Channel provides that kind of stuff on a daily basis, as mass entertainment.

Or think of the numbr of titles and number of copies sold for pop-sci books of all kind. Compared the meagre amount of books of any kind that were published or sold in the 19th century ( not to mention in ancient Greece). Which is of course made possible by of the huge number of literate and highly educated people in modern industrialized countries, where all kids are send to daily school for many years.

At best, Victorian England was a start of the things to come, in many ways the place that pioneered the modern world. But since then there has only been spread and intensification of the social importance given both to education and to expansion of collective knowledge.

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Re: What does a 21st Century Library Look Like?

Postby Ghostbear » Thu Jul 26, 2012 8:59 pm UTC

The difference between things like ancient Greece and the age of discovery is that learning was generally focused on a few people. In the modern era, we try to educate everyone -- the number of people that use their knowledge for discovery and advancement is staggering compared to the past. The ancient examples appear more impressive because we can attribute more fundamental discoveries to them than we can to the modern era, but the reason we don't seem to have as many is because all of the "easy" problems have already been solved -- none of us can be the inventor of calculus or the person that first invents radio, because people have already done that.

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Re: What does a 21st Century Library Look Like?

Postby MarkSmash » Thu Jul 26, 2012 9:10 pm UTC

Ormurinn wrote:Something classical - looking, and you want it to be open, and airy. Big windows. columns and dressed stone maybe. Call back to the great ages of learning as well as looking towards the future - I've always wondered what kind of miracles we could work in architecture if we mixed modern technology with traditional sensibilities. Whatever you do, don't go Brutalist.

Indoors, pale colours - and use woods and natural materials instead of plastics where you can. As a former cleaner, please tile the floors. Have a grand entryway too - this is something as serious as learning we're talking about here!

Flight of fancy, have an outdoor ampitheatre?


It's amazing how we have a nostalgic connection to heavy oak tables, wood panelling, floor-to-ceiling bookshelves accessible by ladder, study lamps with green-glass shades, not to mention the weighty silences accompanying the sound deadening red carpet. In a sense, this view conveys wealth and privilege of a Victorian household.

I've appreciated the use of special projects rooms at the University Library, with the conference table and whiteboard for brainstorming.

With respect to an outdoor ampitheatre, what about a 24 hour lecture hall where anyone could give a presentation and anyone could listen?

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Re: What does a 21st Century Library Look Like?

Postby MarkSmash » Thu Jul 26, 2012 9:23 pm UTC

Zamfir wrote:Or think of the numbr of titles and number of copies sold for pop-sci books of all kind. Compared the meagre amount of books of any kind that were published or sold in the 19th century ( not to mention in ancient Greece). Which is of course made possible by of the huge number of literate and highly educated people in modern industrialized countries, where all kids are send to daily school for many years.

I've been toying with one floor of the library being the 10,000 most important books section. The books themselves would be printed on plastic pages like the book Cradle to Cradle. These books would be non-biodegrable, resistant to abuse and, if the book was to lose its relevance, a special chemical could be applied to the pages, washed off and another book printed on it.

I suppose the exercise would be for the library goers to continually ask the question, "What's important to society?" The fact that books are printed on non-biodegradable plastic would break us free of the notion of books needing to printed on paper.

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Re: What does a 21st Century Library Look Like?

Postby Sheikh al-Majaneen » Thu Jul 26, 2012 9:33 pm UTC

Carve it from a mountain in a geologically stable place (which is ideally also fertile). Build down instead of up, with immobile stone bookshelves reaching up to the roof and acting as support structures for the entire library. Not very 21st century, but very LongNow.

Hell, the 21st century is a big place. Put it in an asteroid. Not that that is in your town. Though you try to have your town moved to the asteroid's vicinity, ideally placed in one of the earth-moon system's most stable lagrange points.

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Re: What does a 21st Century Library Look Like?

Postby Zamfir » Thu Jul 26, 2012 9:34 pm UTC

The difference between things like ancient Greece and the age of discovery is that learning was generally focused on a few people. In the modern era, we try to educate everyone -- the number of people that use their knowledge for discovery and advancement is staggering compared to the past.


I thnk the OT is deeply tied to this. With modernity, the typical meaning of the word 'library' changed: from elite places that collect and preserve books, to places that aim to make them widely available. While at the same time, normal people built up book collections at home that would be called private libraries in earlier days.

And at the moment, libraries seem be gradually losing that access function. Not because people care less about such access, but because it is becoming ubiquitous and no longer needs a physical place.

I can imagine that, perhaps, physical libraries (or something like them) can become relevant as places of assistance, instead of access. Where people show and teach how to find information( including books) that you could access anywhere, if you knew how.

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Re: What does a 21st Century Library Look Like?

Postby EdgarJPublius » Thu Jul 26, 2012 9:36 pm UTC

One thing I would love to see in a library is a 'loud/quiet' division. In the 'quiet' section you would have traditional Library stuff like quiet reading areas and internet connected computers.

While the 'loud' section would be more community/activity focused. Tables for playing board games/RPGs, perhaps TVs and ethernet ports for LAN gaming(I feel a modern library should definitely include board-gaming and some form of video gaming, though actually lending out video games has all sorts of challenges)

You could divide the two sections with sort of 'mid-range' spaces like conversational-nooks and/or areas where smaller groups could play games as long as they aren't being too loud.

Conference rooms and small lecture halls is also great for a library.

I like the idea of a Hackerspace in the library. It could be as simple as loading design software and some IDEs onto the library computers, and maybe having a few Replicators available for use (I have to say, the idea of printing out parts for a RepRap Prusa Mendel at a library excites me)

Part of the reason I want conversational areas and other 'loud' library sections is to enable collaboration and sharing of knowledge/experience. This meshes very well with the idea of a hackerspace (in fact, it's one of the principle uses I get from my local hackerspace).


As far as outside goes, a full-on amphitheater isn't necessary (nice to have though), but some sort of open area where a stage or projector screen could be set up for movie nights and small concerts is a must.

Depending on local climate, I'd like to see some sort of shaded area and/or an open firepit as well.



If nothing else, I love the idea of a public library serving as a sort of community center were small events could be held and where people can just hang out.
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Re: What does a 21st Century Library Look Like?

Postby Ghostbear » Thu Jul 26, 2012 9:44 pm UTC

Zamfir wrote:And at the moment, libraries seem be gradually losing that access function. Not because people care less about such access, but because it is becoming ubiquitous and no longer needs a physical place.

I can imagine that, perhaps, physical libraries (or something like them) can become relevant as places of assistance, instead of access. Where people show and teach how to find information( including books) that you could access anywhere, if you knew how.

This is definitely a changing aspect of libraries -- in a purely physical sense, who will need a library 50 years from now when you will (probably) be able to store every book ever written on something that fits in your pocket? I suspect that the access functionality will remain a significant part of libraries even then due to the legal issues, though. Copyright will be a big limiter for the distribution of knowledge through books (and other mediums as well), and it'd seem not all that far-fetched to imagine libraries ending up as entities that subscribe to several different copyrighted works lists that allow them to make any of those works available to anyone inside their buildings. Instead of dedicating their space to bookshelves, they'd dedicate everything to working and reading areas -- you sit down somewhere, connect your reading device to their network, and digitally access whatever books interest you that their subscriptions allow.

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Re: What does a 21st Century Library Look Like?

Postby omgryebread » Fri Jul 27, 2012 1:07 am UTC

Ghostbear wrote:
Zamfir wrote:And at the moment, libraries seem be gradually losing that access function. Not because people care less about such access, but because it is becoming ubiquitous and no longer needs a physical place.

I can imagine that, perhaps, physical libraries (or something like them) can become relevant as places of assistance, instead of access. Where people show and teach how to find information( including books) that you could access anywhere, if you knew how.

This is definitely a changing aspect of libraries -- in a purely physical sense, who will need a library 50 years from now when you will (probably) be able to store every book ever written on something that fits in your pocket? I suspect that the access functionality will remain a significant part of libraries even then due to the legal issues, though. Copyright will be a big limiter for the distribution of knowledge through books (and other mediums as well), and it'd seem not all that far-fetched to imagine libraries ending up as entities that subscribe to several different copyrighted works lists that allow them to make any of those works available to anyone inside their buildings. Instead of dedicating their space to bookshelves, they'd dedicate everything to working and reading areas -- you sit down somewhere, connect your reading device to their network, and digitally access whatever books interest you that their subscriptions allow.
A lot of this is stuff libraries can and should do already. Subscriptions to scientific journals and academic journals are expensive. Things like the Cook Political Report are something normally only people working in the field can ever read. It would be really cool if libraries could work out distribution deals. Libraries get access for a fee, and some agreement that the materials in question can't be taken out in digital form?

In addition, finding some of that can be really confusing. A student doing a paper might not know where to find case law for agricultural decisions in the state of Maryland, so a place they could go and receive professional help would be great. Thankfully, the field of library science seems rather receptive to the changing nature of their work.

The main advantage a library has over the internet is librarians, so any library should be designed with that in mind. I think a good library would be a very open floor plan. The center should be open from floor to roof, and the upper floor (or floors) should have reading areas near the center railing that look down on the main floor. The main floor should have a big desk right in the middle of the floor staffed by at least two librarians. Interns should be working throughout the building, probably with an apron or something to identify them as library staff, so people can get help easily. It would be really awesome if it had money set aside for the librarians to actually engage in writing papers and developing theory on library science, so they stayed on the cutting edge.

I like ideas about permanently-open community spaces. It's great to give people a place to gather around information, and would provide an ideal meeting space for things like drama groups or reading clubs. EdgarJPublius's suggestions for a loud space and conference rooms really let a library be a community place while also still being always open for anyone to get information. It's really annoying going into a library to get some book of political history in Maryland and find that there's a children's group meeting there and they use the government and legal section of the library because no one ever needs a book from there, and a bunch of the librarians are tied up in the event and you can't find one to give you help with the Dewey Decimal System.

I really think Brutalism would work well for the building. Something like Warren and Mahoney, though, understated and simplistic. The Christchurch Town Hall they designed is grand, beautiful, but also not overly ornate. Decor should be minimalist. Bookshelves should be black or made of a light wood like beech. Floors should be beech, or simple geometric black and white tile. It's stupid, but the computers and their desks need to look sexy. Lots of very comfortable chairs, sofas, tables. You want people to stay, so it should feel more like a lounge than a bookstore.


And, most importantly: it needs a Starbucks (if you're going to get uptight about Starbucks, just insert whatever coffee place you want in here). You can prohibit certain books from entering the cafe area and coffee from leaving it, or prevent coffee from entering some areas of the library, but there really really needs to be a source of caffeine.
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Re: What does a 21st Century Library Look Like?

Postby wumpus » Fri Jul 27, 2012 1:49 pm UTC

Going on how the fight over imaginary property is going, closed.

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Re: What does a 21st Century Library Look Like?

Postby Ghostbear » Fri Jul 27, 2012 1:57 pm UTC

omgryebread wrote:A lot of this is stuff libraries can and should do already. Subscriptions to scientific journals and academic journals are expensive. Things like the Cook Political Report are something normally only people working in the field can ever read. It would be really cool if libraries could work out distribution deals. Libraries get access for a fee, and some agreement that the materials in question can't be taken out in digital form?

Yeah, I should probably clarify that I meant something far, far, far more broad than that. Something like having a licence subscription for individual publishers -- a "Penguin Books" (and every other major publisher) subscription that lets up to n people read any book published by Penguin while on the Library's network. Lots of libraries will have subscriptions for journals or papers, but not really for book lists. I was thinking something that's basically a giant digital catalog, since books are rapidly moving out of the physical realm and into the digital one.

I agree about the assistance from librarians and community spaces.

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Re: What does a 21st Century Library Look Like?

Postby Puppyclaws » Fri Jul 27, 2012 3:38 pm UTC

In re: architecture, F. brutalism, and double-F. anything classical. Why make it look like every other library? My own tastes run to something like Gehry's Stata Center, or Art Deco or Gaudi's Modernisme style; a public building with no greco-roman columns or concrete block shapes for once. Internally a mix of large spaces and smaller ones is always good, so that one person or group cannot dominate a space and create excessive problems in what is supposed to be a "quiet" area (this is my problem with entirely open designs that have multiple floors interconnected). I like the idea of some public "loud" spaces for gathering as well, that multiple people have mentioned (and if we can combine libraries with the playing of Euro board games as somebody else suggested, I may never leave :D).

MarkSmash wrote:I've been toying with one floor of the library being the 10,000 most important books section. The books themselves would be printed on plastic pages like the book Cradle to Cradle. These books would be non-biodegrable, resistant to abuse and, if the book was to lose its relevance, a special chemical could be applied to the pages, washed off and another book printed on it.

I suppose the exercise would be for the library goers to continually ask the question, "What's important to society?" The fact that books are printed on non-biodegradable plastic would break us free of the notion of books needing to printed on paper.


The problem with this is that you could only use public domain books, because there is no way that any publishing house is going to let YOU print THEIR books, especially on something that doesn't wear down as fast as paper.

As much as people tout the conversion of data from books to digital formats, it is not going to happen very quickly; it is going to be even slower with libraries, because of how publishing companies work with libraries. Their goal is to sell licenses for individual books, not their whole backlog of titles published. And, they want renewals of those licenses every so many years, because since physical books would have to be replaced over time (due to wear), they feel digital books should have to be as well. So far digital distribution has been something of a bust for libraries; not only is not saving them much, but the borrowing restrictions (and the fact that you don't have to go to a library to check them out) make for long wait times on a lot of titles that would just sit on the shelf if in physical book form.

And of course, digital content requires costly equipment to use. Yes, yes, "everybody" has a computer nowadays, but a computer is a horrible thing to read something as long as a book on. I don't think digital reading devices are going to become so ubiquitous that the physical store of books will be obsolete any time in the 21st century.

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Re: What does a 21st Century Library Look Like?

Postby Роберт » Fri Jul 27, 2012 3:44 pm UTC

Since no one's really commented on hackerspaces, an article on them:
http://www.npr.org/2011/12/10/143401182 ... ckerspaces
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Re: What does a 21st Century Library Look Like?

Postby Sharlos » Mon Jul 30, 2012 10:05 am UTC

This video is a very interesting analysis of what libraries are used for these days.

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Re: What does a 21st Century Library Look Like?

Postby Mambrino » Mon Jul 30, 2012 5:07 pm UTC

Given that the definition of library is not going stay same for the next century, I think an ideal library would be able to adapt easily. A mixture of different spaces and rooms, which could be easily renovated to serve purposes so something completely different that we maybe can't even imagine them yet.

I support the idea of quiet/loud/"something between" areas. Visual indicators for each zone could be useful: Possibly classical (Victoriana themed perhaps?) materials that creat an awe-inspiring yet cozy atmosphere in areas where people should remain silent, and something more colourful and vivid where they are allowed to talk normally?

Where this new library building will be constructed? I generally detest brutalist architecture, but depending on the surroundings (eg the neighbourhood is already full of concrete buildings) it could work better than something neoneoclassical. Or not.

Is a park / patio an option? Trees are nice.

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Re: What does a 21st Century Library Look Like?

Postby KestrelLowing » Wed Aug 01, 2012 2:15 pm UTC

Mambrino wrote:Given that the definition of library is not going stay same for the next century, I think an ideal library would be able to adapt easily. A mixture of different spaces and rooms, which could be easily renovated to serve purposes so something completely different that we maybe can't even imagine them yet.

I support the idea of quiet/loud/"something between" areas. Visual indicators for each zone could be useful: Possibly classical (Victoriana themed perhaps?) materials that creat an awe-inspiring yet cozy atmosphere in areas where people should remain silent, and something more colourful and vivid where they are allowed to talk normally?

Where this new library building will be constructed? I generally detest brutalist architecture, but depending on the surroundings (eg the neighbourhood is already full of concrete buildings) it could work better than something neoneoclassical. Or not.

Is a park / patio an option? Trees are nice.



I really like the idea of having the architecture/design indicate where someone should be quiet or is free to talk. I think that, as humans, we're very susceptible to those type of cues and I think that, in general, the quiet/loud places would be followed if designed correctly.

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Re: What does a 21st Century Library Look Like?

Postby Charlie! » Thu Aug 02, 2012 6:45 am UTC

A good children's section, and maybe a meeting room especially for groups of children (e.g. school groups, local organizations). This means having a person there to keep an eye on kids, lots of color, lower shelves, furniture that kids will enjoy, children's books, a space with some toys, and maybe some mural work.
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Re: What does a 21st Century Library Look Like?

Postby EdgarJPublius » Thu Aug 02, 2012 8:22 am UTC

Practically speaking, if you have a 'kid friendly' area with someone watching it, that area will become a daycare, whether that is it's purpose or not. Even if you don't have someone who is there to watch kids, and especially if it's free.

I've seen it happen to toy stores, comic shops, public pools and a number of other not-daycare spaces.
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Re: What does a 21st Century Library Look Like?

Postby IcedT » Mon Aug 06, 2012 9:36 pm UTC

I'm not sure about a 21st Century library, but evidently a 31st Century library looks like this:
Image

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Re: What does a 21st Century Library Look Like?

Postby Nattlinnen » Sun Aug 19, 2012 7:22 pm UTC

MarkSmash wrote:In terms of architecture, what should it look like? What aesthetics would you consider important for its interior?


The most beautiful library is the Phillips Exeter Academy Library. The second most beautiful is Stockholm Public Library. Conclusion: Round and square forms in harmony.


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