This session was lead by Ruth Baleiko, a principal in the Miller Hull Partnership, and Dri Ralph, facilities design coordinator with the King County (Washington) Library System. It focused on the new design aspects of libraries. They displayed a lot of examples of furniture and library spaces that change the way people may think of libraries.
It’s difficult to explain without the pictures, but I will mention a few things here.
The first questions they asked were how to address the growing trends in libraries and how to display wares. They showed an example of an Apple store and asked if the audience could imagine a library looking like that. There was a resounding “no” throughout the room. Their solution to displays was melding flexibility and infrastructure. They showed a picture of shelving with drawers underneath for collection storage and a touch screen on the side so you can browse the digital collection right alongside the physical collection. There were seats, like those in a shoe store, in the aisles.
The next question was how to stay relevant.
There were a lot of examples of plentiful seating to emphasize people space and putting programs and people on display. They said that people are the best advertisement for what goes on in a library. In numerous libraries, there were large windows which allow people to see inside the library, even if it’s closed; seating in directly in front of the windows or bright and bold artwork that can always be seen. They also seek to create epic and intimate spaces and include something for everyone.
Another aspect was to allow staff to cope with growth. Their tech station idea had the ability to shift and move and was multifunctional as a check out station or a reference desk, whatever the staff needed it to be.
They wanted to encourage discovery in all ages. This was another reasoning for the artwork that could be seen when the library was closed. In one library, there were touch screens underneath the inspirational artwork that welcomed guests to: Locate, Explore or Connect. Another tool to encourage discovery is showing patrons what goes on behind the scenes through windows that show the automated materials handling system. (Sidenote: I saw this in the Denver Public Library and I stood at the window, watching for what seemed like 30 minutes) To influence and instill this in the next generation, some of their libraries have spaces where children and parents could form skills together. An example they showed had a window at child height that looked out into the garden and made an experience out of a rainwater system that drained water into the garden.
They continually push architects to do what’s right for the patrons, not what they think would look right or what is conventional.
They showed us an example of a library they’re working on now that tries to emphasis what the patrons do most there to set the tone of the library: use computers, meeting rooms and study rooms. They used interesting shapes for each and put the computers on display rather than off to the side.
Ruth, describing what Dri said to her about giving people an experience with the library design: “I wanna see rock and roll. I wanna break rules.”
They strongly believe that libraries are:
They operate in reality
Activities can coexist there
This session was an amazing example of what future libraries should look like; they should push the envelope of what was done before. It was awesome to see more examples of how people are adapting libraries, what they do and what they look like, to stay relevant in today’s society.