Diverse communities: library spaces

Study room - with braille signage Salt Lake City Public Library, Main Library, Utah, by Ellen Forsyth. Used with permission CC BY-SA 2.0

Study room – with braille signage Salt Lake City Public Library, Main Library, Utah, by Ellen Forsyth. Used with permission CC BY-SA 2.0

Inevitably when writing a series of articles about libraries and diverse communities, some of the posts will overlap a little and there were many occasions when an interesting link or story about a library could have fitted into more than one category.

While many uses of library space are directly related to services offered by the library (such as this use of library space to provide a morning’s entertainment for the local homeless population or the Danish Library Association’s recent announcement about public libraries welcoming Syrian refugees ) – the initial thinking of ‘library spaces’ related mostly to design, so here it is as an individual post.

Accessible design of the physical building is a priority if you are lucky enough to be building a new library – there are plenty of guidelines around on ensuring accessibility of the physical environment and products of a library. It’s more difficult if you have to retro-fit an older building and can seem almost impossible in a historic or heritage listed building. Web accessibility is just as important as collections and services are increasingly offered online.

However, as we’ve explored in other topics this past week, there are many forms of diversity in our communities. Library design is focused on providing spaces for communities with changing needs – we no longer build libraries where the books are chained to the desks. Instead, design awards are given to libraries that recognise the evolution of the library’s traditional role and provide spaces that meet the needs of the local community.

All libraries use space in different ways to allow for different parts of their community – a public library may focus on providing an amazing space for children or young adults, while an academic library tries to ensure (among other things) an ideal balance of quiet space and group study areas, with access to the internet and enough powerpoints to charge an increasing range of personal devices.

What has been your experience with library spaces and diverse communities? Are libraries keeping up with the challenges from their communities? How do we prioritise decisions in the face of funding pressures and resource constraints? What sorts of innovative and creative solutions to ‘library as space’ for a diverse community have you seen? As always, share your experiences and thoughts in the comments below, on our Facebook page, or on twitter using #interlibnet and #diversity to help us track and share the conversation.

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