European Library Tour

Aha Moments

  1. The Scandinavia libraries that we visited pay far more attention to attracting the young adult, male (18 – 30 years old) audience than do we. They are successful, as well. They accomplish this by having made a leap we have not yet made. We accept, as our central and core role, the provision of information and material that people consume. Many of the Scandinavian libraries that we visit have transitions to see part of their role as providing space where people can come to create. I was blown away by the Malmo Creation Zone, the Helsinki 10 Branch, the Amsterdam music editing area, etc. There was a consistent message that the library is a place for creativity to thrive and flourish.
  2. In most libraries, the reference model has made the full transition from a static reference point where staff roost to a concept of reference service that requires staff to be on their feet and moving. For them, it seemed to involve three key elements:
    1. cell phone access to so that staff can communicate with each other and so that calls to the library can be answered;
    2. Some form of visible identification (vest or uniform) so that customers recognize staff; and
    3. A reference station that is less a desk-between-use and more of a touch point where staff can go to reference an account or the catalogue or resources. I loved, for example, the Almere model, where the branch was peppered with stand-up reference stations and where there are several such stations within a zone where staff were working. Even where there were sit-down desk, we only saw one (the music cardboard desk in Amsterdam Central) that made it difficult for a customer to view the same screen as staff.
  3. A true sense of library as space, with many more options for viewing computer screens (not just a desk and chair) and many more options for quiet study and mixed use, recognizing that customers use the library in different ways.
  4. Living Room vs. Kitchen – Kari Lamsa at Helsinki 10 stated that he does not want his library to be the living room; he wants it to be the kitchen. He thinks the living room is too passive. And, thinking about it, he is so right. We have talked a lot about creating living room spaces in libraries, but maybe that idea is dated. The kitchen is really the place where people come together, and where things are created. It is a space that is interactive, stimulating, and nourishing. I love this vision.
  5. Just Do it! – A message which seemed to be repeated at many of the libraries was to act without fear: don’t be afraid to make mistakes. “Allow room for failure, not all ideas work.” And, sometimes, it is okay not to plan, not to weigh the pros and cons and possible impacts, to just do it. So, I think it is a lack of fear which fuels innovation. A good message for us.
  6. the idea that, in the future, customers will not be booking computer workstations but rather chairs so they can do a variety of things especially using WiFi and their laptops/tablets
  7. Those book trucks that start out vertical but can be flipped horizontally for easy shelving of materials (never seen them before)
  8. Libraries should appeal “to all the senses”
  9. Shelves/tables/chairs on wheels so that library space can reallocated as performance space (e.g., the Lounge in Malmö)
  10. “we want to be a better friend than Google”