JANUARY 31, 2024
What qualifies a public library as "modern" in 2024? Is it cutting-edge architecture and innovative interior design?
That's certainly part of the equation. The fact is, a public library has never really been just a place to check out books and that is especially true in the 21st century.
Our ideas about what constitutes great library design evolves as the needs of patrons grow and change. If the local branch is to be an important hub — a critical part of a community's social infrastructure, as some have argued — library spaces must serve the needs of the widest possible range of users.
Whether it's in a new building or an upgraded older one, the modern library is likely to contain meeting rooms, maker spaces, a teen area, a reading room, an environmental education center or game development labs, with each of these spaces designed to maximize energy efficiency and take advantage of natural light.
At its best, the modern library should be a space for mindfulness, where visitors can retreat from the stress of daily life to cultivate attention and focus skills.
For our Future of Libraries report in 2022, we spoke with Elif Tinaztepe, a partner and design principal at Schmidt Hammer Lassen Architects, about how to improve the design of public libraries. She reminded us that great library design should support individual and societal health and well-being. After all, not only is a public library a place to learn, to work and to meet others, but it’s also a place to just be in the present moment — one of the core ideas of most mindfulness practices.
Tinaztepe told us that the important questions to ask when thinking about new public library design include:
How might we design safe and welcoming meeting spaces to support gender equality? Spaces where regardless of ability or disability, everybody has the same level of quality of experience? Can we also support mental fitness in the way we design spaces, with the way we bring daylight in, with the way we make it comfortable and safe for people?
According to the American Library Association website, "As champions of lifelong learning, libraries are a place to quench curiosity, access technology and explore new ideas, hobbies and careers."
Libraries offer a vital space for continuous personal growth, providing access to an array of books, technology and workshops. Individuals committed to their own development use these resources for research and skill acquisition. They're community hubs where people of all backgrounds can come to learn, explore and grow.
For lifelong learners, libraries are invaluable in fostering a culture of perpetual learning and curiosity. Additionally, libraries often host events and speakers, providing lifelong learners with opportunities to engage with thought leaders. This enriches the lifelong learning experience by connecting them with real-world insights.
Let's take a look at some ways that libraries can meet the needs of any patron looking to become a lifelong learner, whether for personal or professional reasons.
Digital transformation is an ongoing process, and libraries continue to explore innovative ways to integrate technology into their services to meet the evolving needs of their communities. Because it's never too late to make a New Year's resolution, libraries might even resolve to expand their digital resources and explore new technologies, such as virtual reality and augmented reality, to enhance the user experience.
Here are some other resolutions that modern libraries might consider making to enhance their services, engage the community and stay relevant in the digital age: