Libraries – from storehouses to connected community places

The library sector is a great success story of an institution that has retained a core and historical function, while also remaining relevant by adapting to modern expectations.   Public libraries continue to uphold their paper collections with reading as popular as ever, while also embracing the modern and emerging technologies, broadening the activities that take place within and outside the four walls, and adjusting physical spaces to suit. As architect Richard Francis Jones has expressed,

“The library itself has been transformed from a storehouse of the collection and quiet individual study into a true community meeting place. It is now made up of a diverse interlocking series of spaces for study, casual reading, interaction, collaboration, children’s spaces, community spaces, language and IT support spaces, café environments, lounges and outdoor terraces and gardens.

It is a place where guidance and assistance is offered without obligation, where we can meet by arrangement or informally bump into our neighbours or visitors from out of town.

It is place where we can just be without having to buy. It is paradoxically the most grounded and localised community environment that at the same time facilitates and supports global interconnection.”

Libraries around South Australia are at different points in the journey from being storehouses of collection and curation to connected community places that accommodate a wide and expanding range of users and activities.  Making this transition impacts on the approach to service delivery in our libraries and requires Councils to embrace new design responses.

To assist Councils around the state, URPS, along with Philips Pilkington Architects and Lee Welch from the Write Alternative have recently been engaged by Public Library Services in the Department of State Development to undertake the People Places Audit Project.  We look forward to working with the library sector over the next six months as we develop a framework, practical tools and guidelines to assist library managers to undertake auditing of their facilities.  Benchmarking their libraries against national and international good practice will assist Library Managers in driving the changes needed to deliver connected community places.