Issue 38 (June 2017)
Focus on: Physical space
Coordinators: Jordi Permanyer and Ignasi Bonet
Deadline for submissions: 31/10/2016
Author’s guidelines: https://bid.ub.edu/en/authors-guidelines
Now well into the twenty-first century, we find that the technological paradigm has shifted resulting in profound social and cultural changes. This shift has brought a multitude of changes, from the way we work, how we communicate, our leisure habits and learning processes right through to our interpersonal relationships, to name but a very few.
Documentation centres have moved from analogue physical media to virtual documents, and the need for physical space to house these collections has given way to the need for connectivity to access them digitally.
We may well ask whether it makes sense to dedicate space to libraries, designed under the paradigm of the post-industrial society of the twentieth century. It would seem to be necessary to rethink and to transform the spaces dedicated to libraries but, in the face of these profound changes, the question arises of what form this evolution should take in order to meet the new demands.
The goal of this paper is to explore possible avenues, and to indicate potential approaches to transformation. To stimulate the debate, and contributions to it, we propose the following avenues of exploration:
1. The library as a third place. For years, many studies and analyses have defined the public library as a third place: a place for meeting and socializing, both individually and collectively. It remains, therefore, an essential element for strengthening civil society, democracy and social commitment, in addition to contributing to the generation of a sense of place, giving meaning and character to the urban space where it is located. The new paradigm of the global network society would seem to reinforce this need.
2. User-oriented spaces in the library. The aim of the library continues to be that of a promoter of information, education and cultural activity, but the contextual changes suggest a reformulating of the services provided, which in many cases is already being done, based on the demands and interests of users. It needs to be seen to what extent this user-centred reformulation will entail a renewal of the conception of the use of spaces within the library. There are some recent developments which suggest possible avenues of success: recreational spaces, spaces for children, space for group work, silent rooms, etc.
3. Spaces for learning. The transformation of the paradigm of education and professional training (there is a need today to prepare for future demands, which are absolutely unknown and in a process of constant change) requires a rethinking of the areas dedicated to training and learning as stimulators of collaborative, interactive work, which is focused on creative and dialectical processes that use information, but in which the collection is not the key element. The future evolution of university learning and research resource centres (CRAI) could be crucial in this respect.
4. The library as a content generator and a creative space. New social practices and the cooperative generation of content (collective writing, wikimarathons, blogger and YouTuber get-togethers, etc.) require spaces that allow for conversation as a central activity, without interfering with other activities, and with some privacy (formal work rooms, auditoriums, informal work zones, etc.).
5. The increase in the internal diversity of library spaces. The increase in the provision of services entails greater complexity and diversity in the design of interior spaces. For example, the need for conversational processes (presentations, inaugurations, working groups, literature circles, etc.) should be catered for alongside the traditional silent reading rooms. Silence (concentration and individual production) needs to be made compatible with dialogue (information sharing and collective production).
6. Physical space and virtual space as complementary elements. The user perceives the library and interacts with it largely through the virtual interface (Web, social media, apps, etc.), in addition to the traditional perception of the physical library building. These two planes of perception and interaction need to be consistent and to complement each other. Moreover, much of the content is audiovisual. The integration of digital technology devices into the physical space of the library and their evolution (PCs, information screens, laptops, tablets, etc.) is a new challenge in the interior design of library spaces. The physical visibility of digital collections (intangible) is also a challenge.
7. The library space as a facilitator of citizen participation. The library is a public facility par excellence and as such it should be put at the service of the public at a time when, in the context of globalization, the demand has appeared for individual and collective empowerment: public participation in decision making on issues that affect the common good can be channelled through services (information, debates, exhibitions, etc.) and spaces (auditorium, exhibition hall, lobby, etc.) offered by the library. The very design process of the library itself and its spaces could be open to public participation. There are successful examples in this respect.
8. The requirement for spatial flexibility. Services can be offered based on new demands that are detected, but it is impossible to design spaces that will respond to long-term needs and to future technologies, which are, in principle, both unknown and uncertain. Given this fact, the design of spaces with maximum flexibility appears to be a strategy that can offer some guarantee of long-term success.
9. New spaces for new formats. The role of cultural revitalization entails the hosting of events in multiple formats (lectures, exhibitions, concerts, receptions, etc.), which requires the design of new areas that until recently were unheard of in libraries (auditorium, exhibition hall, a stage in the lobby, bar, etc.), turning them into major urban cultural amenities.