Evolution of the Library

By Negeen Irani posted 04-17-2014 12:00



Technology has immensely changed our world. Spaces that formerly had set commercial and institutional functions have now transformed into more flexible spaces and in some instances, the nature of their functions have fundamentally changed or even become obsolete. Libraries are an example of this functional transformation. Technology has made it possible for thousands of books to be only a few clicks away in the form of audio books, pdfs and e-books. In addition, websites such as Amazon have made it possible for you to purchase books to use and resell them after use. Due to such technological advancements, our literary culture has changed; however, the necessity of libraries persists: they are still being built and used.

Architects are building new libraries every day and these libraries are being highly utilized by the community. Libraries have adapted and are currently being designed for a new array of functions. Libraries today now function as a multi-use space and even community centers. New library design incorporates the traditional stacks and check out functions along with study rooms and areas, computer labs, social spaces, event spaces, retail spaces and cafes. The library is no longer just a place where you go to read or to check out books. Today, you are more likely to bring everything you need to the library and just use it as a work space.

Comfort | The study spaces have less built in furniture and more home flexible furniture which you can arrange to fit your specific needs. The spaces in libraries are designed to be as close to a living room as possible. The design includes a variety of spaces which vary in comfort and noise level to accommodate for different work styles. The spaces include individual work spaces, group work spaces, study rooms, projection rooms, and outdoor spaces.

Technology | Digitizing the stacks has also done wonders for libraries; it has increased their online and in library traffic. Websites for libraries where you can search their collections by call number, subject, and author have made books much more accessible. In my opinion, Library Apps which lead you right to the location of the book in the stacks would be the ideal technology.

Case Study | Seattle Public Library designed by OMA+LMN located in Seattle Washington is an example of evolved library design. The Program includes a Central library for Seattle’s 28-branch library system, including 33,700 sqm of hq, reading room, book spiral, mixing chamber, meeting platform, living room, staff floor, children’s collection, and auditorium, and 4,600 sqm of parking. This design takes the library beyond storage of books and redefines it as an exhibition of information. The different types of information are all available and curated for effective use. The “living room” program is an example of the flexible work spaces which in this design is given hierarchy and functions as the main space.

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