Today’s post is part of our series on Libraries as Place, guest hosted by the Queensland University of Technology Information Studies Group. This post, The Challenge of being a ‘place’ was written by Dr Andrew Demasson:
When talking about the library as ‘place’ most conversations will revolve around the type of place the library is. Is it a place of community, of learning, of authority, of noise, of silence, etc. What I’d like to talk about instead is the challenge the library faces in being a ‘place’. That is, how can they fit with their own vision of ‘place’ while also being the type of ‘place’ that other people want and a place of significance that a community can be proud of?
My answer if very simple. The library needs to know itself and remain true to itself. It can’t bend and twist to accommodate fads and trends (corporate or otherwise). It must have the conviction that the way it understands itself as ‘place’ has merit and fits with the way it wants to be understood by others.
When the library doesn’t know what it is, it loses its sense of place. When the library doesn’t understand where it is, it loses its sense of place. When the library tries to impose itself on people it forgets its place. People will see the library in the way they want to see it. Denoting it as their ‘place’ isn’t the job of the library or council or any other body. It’s the job of the people who use it; the patrons. Every person will have their own opinion and every one of them will see the library as a place that is unique to them, is special to them and has significance for them.
If anything, that is the job of the library. It needs to present itself in a way that it is comfortable with but which allows others to freely interpret it in a way that enables them to develop a special relationship with it. That is when the library truly becomes a ‘place’.