Thursday, January 20, 2011

Looking at Non-library Public Spaces for Inspiration

It’s good to look beyond libraries when getting ideas for library interiors. I’ve been looking at pictures of the recently remodeled Groninger Museum in the Netherlands. I’m especially intrigued by the museum’s new info center, one of the coolest areas in the new building. In the middle of the room, desks with hoods covering computers create private booth-like spaces for browsing. Visitors here will feel they have entered a special place.
Here are some comments from the Spanish designer Jaime Hayón:
“The idea behind the info center was to come up with a new approach for this sort of space that is traditionally cold and impersonal. Our aim was to integrate the latest technology into it without making this visible. The center would retain a homey feel to it and would be functional as well as flexible. The table with niches allows for privacy and concentration and it also provides plenty of traditional table surface for any other use”.
What can we learn from looking at this space? Perhaps the most important lesson is that it does not have an institutional look or feel. How many new school libraries can claim this? This info center is cool, and don’t we want our students to feel that their school library is cool? While it is not likely that a school library would ever receive the kind of funding that this museum info center received (most of the furniture is custom designed), this is not a reason to dismiss the concepts as out of reach. With some creativity, ingenuity, and a willingness to look beyond what has been done in the past, I maintain that a school library space can be created that is the coolest space in the school.

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