Tag Archives: atmospherics

Building Libraries ~ A Celebration

Last week was the opening of the Boyd Library and community facility in Southbank. This building is an old school site of a Girls High School that was shut down during lean times in the 1990’s. At that time the demographics of the city were markedly different to what they are now.

In the last 20 years, the shift in the demographics of the city of Melbourne has transformed the city and the need for services is a challenge. Many people have moved into the city, embracing the highrise lifestyle. Initially, it was believed that the demographics would be comprised of childless couples, singles and retirees. However, families comprise a significant portion of the groups that now reside in the city of Melbourne and the city still has no local school to service this community. The needs of the community have outpaced the delivery.

In terms of public libraries the City library of Melbourne Library Service is the busiest library in the State. The library opened a few years ago and provides innovative services and programs, including a gallery space, live performances and even hosting a cafe poet in residence. Amongst the vision of Melbourne Library Service is the building of libraries to service the needs of the changing demographics of the city of Melbourne. In the pipeline is the building of a new library at Docklands.

This post, is a celebratory post about the building of libraries and community facilities and is focussed on the Boyd library and community Hub. Today, the old school site incorporates artist studios, a library, a cafe, child and maternal health services, play group area, meeting rooms and an outdoor area. Last week was the opening and I attended. The opening was well attended with performances and activities for all to participate. Amidst the gloom of constant funding challenges for libraries around the world. It is great to celebrate a focus on building libraries. Fantastic!

Tall people and Dragons greet us.

Tall people at the entrance and the Dragon getting ready

Boyd Library ~ just a snippet from the opening day.


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Library Design for Community spaces

Silence is not so golden in the modern library  and this is a very interesting point to consider when thinking about the design of a library. As I have been musing about library design, the focus is on the purpose of libraries in communities and how library spaces and resources help to facilitate knowledge creation and conversation.

Lankes (2011) states “the mission of librarians is to improve society through facilitating knowledge creation in their communities”  (p. 31). With this in mind, the design of a library should accomodate resources, spaces and facilities that enable creation. Zoning spaces for groups, both small and large, quiet and loud areas with adequate access to technological resources and expertise helps fulfil this mission.

I have been visiting libraries over the past few months that have been recently built or refurbished to gleam an understanding of design principles applied to facilitate this mission. The following presentation was created after visiting City Library of Melbourne Library Service, Waurn Ponds Public Library and Lara Public Library of Geelong Regional Library Corporation and Deakin University Library, Waurn Ponds.

A better view of the photographs can be obtained from my Flickr photo feed.

Lankes, R.D. (2011) The Atlas on New Librarianship, The MIT Press, Cambridge, Massachusetts.

Armitage, C. ‘Silence is not so golden in the modern library’, Sydney Morning Herald, March 6, 2012.


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Building a New Library in North Fitzroy

I met with Anne Horrigan-Dixon today, from Friends of the Library in North Fitzroy, to have a chat about future directions for Libraries. She is on the Design Reference Group of the North Fitzroy Community Hub and has been behind the campaign for a Library in North Fitzroy for the past 25 years. She showed me the plans for the Community Hub. I accessed the plans from the North Fitzroy Community Hub site and linked them here. The lower level is the library of the building, the first floor  is the relocation of the Maternal Child Health Centre with Playgroup spaces and the second level is an area of community rooms providing access to multicultural senior citizens groups for meetings and activities. There is also a green rooftop outdoor space.

Upon close examination of the physical spaces, we discussed the adequacy of the spaces and what is missing. It becomes clear that the building may be inadequate and the current plans indicate there is room for an expansion of spaces. One area identified is the oversite of a teen space in the library. Gaming consoles would be a great addition here. City Library is a great example of such provision.The demographics of North Fitzroy are quite diverse and with the reopening of the High School a few years ago, it is clear that the teen demographic is growing. The local primary school is full capacity and has experienced growth for the past 5-10 years with no signs of growth abating. Another area identified is the lack of multiple zones in the library to accomodate and take account of different usage including the recognition of quiet and louder areas.

Anne has been visiting libraries that exist in community hubs in preparation for reporting to the Design Reference Group. Some areas identified include the following

  • Ensuring adequate computers for use by community. Investigating the type of computers purchased to ensure capability of multimedia production. Apple Mac discussed.
  • Ensuring adequate tables for private work and group work.
  • Comfortable and inviting seating for informal enjoyment of services.
  • multiple zones that take account of quiet and noisy areas of library spaces.
  • Larger Audio Visual enabled seminar rooms for the purpose of community access to workshops such as writing groups or other arts activities, author talks, provision of education, bookclubs etc.
  • Smaller Audio Visual enabled seminar rooms for the facilitation of small group collaborations.
  • Current technology enablement including application for connection to the NBN under the guidelines of a new building site, wireless enablement, website development with a consideration of mobile technologies, and the installation of RFID self checkout facilities.
  • Provision for information service provision of Gov 2.0 developments. Currently the plans include an information hub for Council Services being located within the library.
  • Development of Local History and Family History service.
  • Utilisation of adjacent outdoor spaces with paving and seating as an extension of the library.
  • Extending the library to include an upper level incorporating space currently not utilised but existing as a void to the library on the ground floor.
Here is a link to Standards and Guidelines for Australian Public Libraries published this year by ALIA.
We discussed a few other ideas and it became clear that the space as allocated may be insufficient. Anne is currently campaigning for a better design and the Surry Hills Library and Community Centre is suggested as an exemplar in design. The following clip is further elaboration.


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10,000 paper planes

Sometimes the library is just for fun!


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Melbourne City Library ~ virtually at home

No Piano Recital
No Piano Recital ~ cc licensed and shared by Henry Stradford

Just over a week ago, I was perusing the online catalogue and offerings of Melbourne Library Service. I was particularly interested in the e-resources they offered and discovered they offered ebooks and audio books, not only in English but also in other languages such as Chinese. The provider for their e-resources service is Overdrive. They also have links to other areas of access.

As I am looking into Overdrive as a potential service to subscribe to for the school library I am helping transform, I was curious about the offerings Overdrive can provide. My understanding, based on a communication thread on OZTLnet, is Overdrive is quite expensive and for a school with continually squeezed budgets, justification for such a service needs to be great. In the same conversation thread there was mention of an opensource alternative called Callibre. I downloaded Callibre and had a play around with it for evaluation purposes. The difference is that Overdrive acts as the distributor and middle link to the providers of books whereas Callibre cuts out the middle link and you deal directly with suppliers of e-resources. There is a list of suppliers you can search for books including commercial vendors such as Amazon and free vendors such as Gutenberg. Potentially, this would be many accounts to work with although this is not too different to how physical books are currently sourced. Callibre provides an avenue and search function to collate and catalogue the e-resouces and make them available for access. If you search all the suppliers, you have access to information about pricing and DRM status. They are two very different products. Callibre is clearly a management tool for e-resources and Overdrive is a distributor as a subscription service. Possibly, with the current restrictions around ebooks in Australia waiting a little longer may prove beneficial for the school I am working with.

When customised for a school library, Overdrive will no doubt be different to the public library version but exploring how it works via a public library and the ease of access from home was part of what I wished to explore.

I was quite excited to discover that I can become a member of Melbourne library service online, without entering the actual building. How’s that for virtual library service I mused excitedly! As it was 11pm at this stage, going in to a library in my P.J’s was clearly not on the cards. I eagerly signed up, obtained my barcode number with password and was ready to start borrowing through this virtual world. As my laptop already has Adobe digital editions, I was set up with the required software to continue.
After perusing their e-resources I selected a couple of books I was interested in reading, added them to my cart and proceeded to the checkout (that is the terminology of the service Overdrive) I put in my new barcode number with my pin only to receive an error message about my membership and needing to visit the circulation desk. I tried to troubleshoot and looked at their help resources but it all proved futile. In the end I had to email a Librarian. I received my response the following day and it turns out due to certain restrictions they need me to go in and collect my membership card and verify I am who I am and live where I live. It appears my sense of immediate gratification had to wait a little longer. Joining online does provide access to their databases; which is a positive.

After being ill for a week, I finally made it in the library physically yesterday. I didn’t realise the city library as a public library existed prior to this year. I assumed it was a library that catered for the CAE as the CAE is directly next door. In the past it was the State Library of Victoria that I would visit in the city, but now I have the city library as another and different option when in town.

This was the first time I visited the city library, and as it is a fairly new library (it opened in 2004), there is much about this library that is worth mentioning. The staff member was very helpful when I first approached and was able to produce my card immediately whilst explaining my borrowing abilities including e-books, software requirements and restrictions on ebooks. For example, if an e-book is already borrowed by someone you are not able to borrow it. The restrictions in place treat digital resources as if they are physical resources. One person can borrow an ebook at one time. Number of ebooks of the same title available is dependent upon how many the library has paid for in their subscription . So if they have subscribed to five versions of the same book, five people can borrow the book at the same time. I am curious as to whether Overdrive has the restriction on amount of times an ebook can be borrowed before the library has to re-subscribe to the same book (that is purchase another copy for lending digitally). There are a great deal of restrictions with ebooks and lending at present, particularly in Australia but hopefully this will change in the near future.

On another note is the city library as a physical space and what I noticed and want to share.

There are various zones across different levels. When you first enter you notice a lift access as well as stairs that pass a cafe before you reach the front door of the library. On the ground level is the children’s nook with a small table and small stools, a computer on a table the right height for children and signage indicating the children’s sites you can navigate. There are picture books on one side and chapter books on the other with rotating shelves housing children’s DVD resources. On the other side of this children’s area are shelves catering for different languages, as represented by the languages of the communities, mainly Indonesian, Chinese and Vietnamese. There are also resources for other countries. Opposite this area is the magazine area.

On the middle level you have a large communal table where people can work and up the ramp you reach the area that houses an extensive music cd collection and DVD collection on shelves that look like the ones you would find at a music store. Turn to the right and there are two large screens on the wall with a seat in front of each. One person was seated in front of one playing computer games. Towards  the left you enter a room filled with computers and spare tables. In this room, I found quite a number of people on laptops or sitting at the available computers and there existed a buzz of activity.

All around the library spaces existed these standalone benches with a computer screen, scanner and eftpos facility with a sign (self check-out). I believe the correct term is a Libray RFID Management System . I had not seen this in any library before and I was definitely interested as I watched people checking out their own books. I checked out my own before I left and it is quite easy to do. You stack your pile of books and they will be scanned and loaded to your library record. They are also desensitized so you don’t set off all the library alarms as you try to exit with your borrowed items. I did hit one problem as only 17 were loaded of my 18 chosen items and I needed to carefully check each record against the physical sources to make sure they were checked out. In the end I found the renegade CD that refused to register and after a couple of attempts it managed to show its face on my card record (Ah technology forever a problem manages to arise!)

At this stage, concern overcame me as I had not seen many shelves with books everywhere. I wondered where they are. Then I remembered the central stairs that I had not been up yet. I went back and climbed the stairs. At the top there are distinct areas to the left and right, front and back with a huge opening that looks down on the library below. There are connected walkways that travel to each side around the open space. On one side there is a long white gallery space that has art works across the walls with chairs in the  position down the middle of the space with their backs to each other. Across the other side I could see a door and what appeared was a glimpse of shelves (as I love physical books I felt very hopeful now) Sure enough, this was the room I was looking for. It was a room filled with shelves and my beloved ‘Dewey‘ at the end of each shelf indicating what was housed. I felt very happy indeed and my comfort returned. There were further rooms that appeared as great spaces for instruction on this level also.

Not that I don’t like all that is new but, I would like to retain part of what is ‘old’ when it comes to libraries. I want my library space to be a bit like a mash-up. Something old, something new, a lot of in-between and plenty of choice. Now I feel satisfied that city library fulfills this brief and I want to keep coming back.

My final sharing relates to my favourite aspect of this library and what I feel they can improve. Both relate to atmospherics.

I’ll start with what can be improved so I can end this post on a positive. The only thing I would like to see as an improvement is the inclusion of comfortable seating. That is lounges, cushions or bean bags scattered around the various zones. As my early memories of libraries are ‘couched’ with the fondness of comfy chairs for leisure reading, I view this as an absolute must have for any library service. At city library the seating is not comfortable on any level. There are metal chairs about the place that feel like bus stop benches and the seating in the children’s area feels very insufficient for the number of patrons I witnessed.

On a positive note with regards to atmospherics, the city library has a piano on the top-level in the art gallery area that is available for use (with restrictions). You need to be grade 5 or above in piano, you need to contact the library in advance and discuss what you will be playing. You are only allowed to play complete pieces to add to the atmosphere as it is not a practice piano for scales etc. The pieces cannot be silly pieces such as ‘chopsticks.’

This piano adding to the atmosphere of the library is fantastic! Now I want to keep visiting in the hope of catching some amazing pianist adding to the atmosphere of my library experience! That will certainly keep me there longer.

The Photo below is of the city library piano in the Gallery space. However, on the day I visited the seating was a different arrangement.

City Library Piano

City Library Piano ~ cc licensed and shared by Timothy Greig

City Library Stairs

City Library Stairs ~ cc licensed and shared by Timothy Greig

City Library 1

City Library 1 ~ cc licensed and shared by Timothy Greig

Here is a brief clip of someone playing the piano in the Melbourne City Library.


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Evolving to an Information Commons

Library at the San Jose Normal School

Library at San Jose Normal School ca.1904

cc licensed and shared by San Jose Library

The photo above clearly indicates an era that is over 100 hundred years old. The absence of technology certainly stands out, as does the segregation based on gender lines (women sit at women’s tables and men occupy male only tables). However, what does come to attention is the concept of communal tables and shared workspaces. Also evident are the lounges and as an extension the idea of leisure and comfort in a library space. It is relevant that this design occupies the central space of the library and all the books are up against walls in bookshelves behind glass doors. It speaks volumes about perceptions of how we occupy space in a library and how those spaces are utilised.

This communal space of work, reading and communicating reminds me a little of the current ideas around communal spaces to share ideas and work together in groups. However current spaces go a step further as is evident in the idea of an information Commons.  In considering contemporary libraries and the impact of technology on change, a shift towards communal space or a reiteration of the importance of social interaction in learning spaces is evident in contemporary design. However, as is apparent from the photos that follow, the focus and integration of technology appears of greatest importance in a library space today. Another interesting feature is the move towards all things digital. The impact of this becomes apparent in the diminishing presence of physical books. See also my post on the dibrary ~ National Library of Korea


Loyola University Information Commons

Loyola University Information Commons

cc licensed and shared by Michael Stephens

Inside the Information Commons

Inside the Information Commons

cc licensed and shared by artq55


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Library and information week~23rd to 29th May

Library and Information week~click for more information

Thanks to heyjude I have been alerted to this week. I attended an information session on Library careers at the State library of Victoria on Tuesday 24th, (Tonight)and interestingly there was no mention of this celebratory week. I was astounded at the scope of careers for information specialists after attending this information session and I certainly felt a renewed positivity! The Library that evening was abuzz with energy. I walked around different areas prior to attending and the sounds of people working together, chatting and enjoying the library was wonderful~definitely no silence here. The patronage of the State Library of Victoria is a great indication of how many people love libraries and see the importance of their continual existence. I love libraries I declare it out LOUD and PROUD!


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