In 2014, amendments to the Public Libraries Act of Norway came into force. The revision included an enhanced role for public libraries:
…to promote the spread of information, education and other cultural activities through active dissemination and by making books and other media available for the free use of all the inhabitants of Norway. Public libraries are to be an independent meeting place and arena for public discussions and debates.
Of particular significance is the emphasis on the “active” role of public libraries and the use of the public library as a “meeting place”. What does the new approach mean for libraries? How should public libraries respond to new directions? How are any changes planned and implemented? What consequences are there for the design of “library rooms”? How is the rethinking of the design of physical library space undertaken? This blog posting outlines two projects in Troms in Norway, which have proactively changed the role of the library, the first through examining use of library space and the second through presenting libraries as houses of literature.
The renowned Staats- und Stadtbibliothek Augsburg (State and City Library of Augsburg) is housed in a veritable nineteenth-century Palace of Books created in 1892– 1893 by the architects Fritz Steinhäußer and Martin Dülfer. Like many nineteenth century libraries, its viability in the twenty-first century was in doubt as costs of maintenance and renewal escalated and the role of the library was questioned. Successful initiatives have ensured improved prospects and a worthwhile future. Planning is underway for the renovation and extension of the building to ensure the preservation and appropriate presentation of Augsburg’s valuable collections and cultural heritage, and quality service delivery for an important region of Germany.
James Campbell and Will Pryce in their world history of libraries comment that it is hard to reconcile talk of a crisis in library design due to spending cuts and the decline in importance of printed material with “the continued explosion in library construction in the first decade of this century and the large number of library buildings currently being built. For a construction sector in crisis it seems to be a remarkably healthy one”. The Designing Libraries website records over 60 UK library projects completed in the five years from 2011 – 2015, the majority of which are refurbishments or extensions. Some were very significant enhancements of older buildings including historic buildings of major architectural importance. Trends include an increasing focus on user requirements, community awareness, energy efficiency and sustainability. While it became more difficult to secure funding for library buildings, librarians who were fleet of foot, had adjusted to meet new demands and remained at the heart of their respective communities, were able to make the case to funding authorities to provide attractive, well-designed physical spaces to deliver increasingly varied and electronic services. It is not possible in a blog to do justice to the various developments and more detail can be obtained from a chapter in British Librarianship and Information Work 2011-2015 on which this blog is based.
The building under consideration for conversion to alternative use was originally a heat and power plant built in the early twentieth century. It was partially dismantled during the 1960s and extended so that the local university, Leibniz Universität Hannover (LUH), could use it for teaching technical and engineering subjects.
The building has now become available for re-use. Is it possible to convert the building into a library space? Can a building originally constructed as a heat and power plant be re-purposed as a library? A glimpse of the initial planning and thinking is provided.
Does it Fit?
The Technische Informationsbibliothek (TIB) is the German National Library of Science and Technology and as such takes responsibility for collecting materials for all areas of engineering, as well as architecture, chemistry, information technology, mathematics and physics; it is also the University Library for Leibniz Universität Hannover (LUH). As a national specialized library, it plays a significant role in the national information and research infrastructure of Germany.