As we become increasingly reliant on digital content available on-demand, what happens to our repositories for printed material? The answer may be simpler than you think: Libraries aren’t just about books anymore. Most have shifted focus from their book collections to the communities they serve and adjusted their designs to match.
Library-sponsored programs, such as children’s reading hours and job-search assistance sessions, are bolstering many branches’ outreach and education efforts. A 2016 library use study from the Pew Research Center indicates an increase in the number of people visiting libraries for educational purposes: 27 percent of library users said they’d attended classes, programs or lectures at their local institutions, a 10 percent increase from 2015.
But the breadth of events a modern library can host relies upon the physical space within each building, which is why a major part of this change comes in the form of reconfigured spaces. To accommodate shifts in usage, library systems have been improving their physical structures.
For example, marquee projects by renowned architects have reinvigorated the Washington, D.C., Public Library system, with 15 completed remodels (two of which were designed by the pairing of Adjaye Associates and the Freelon Group, of National Museum of African- American History & Culture fame).
Six more library upgrades are currently on the horizon in D.C., including a renovation and addition to Ludwig Mies van der Rohe’s Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Library. An architectural team comprised of Martinez + Johnson Architecture and Mecanoo will modernize that facility, aiming to improve overall transparency and visibility while adding amenities such as a café, a roof terrace event space and spaces for music production and fabrication. The end goal, according to D.C. Public Library, is to position the library as an engine for social improvement as opposed to simply being a place to pick up or drop off a book.
To learn more about how libraries are changing in communities nationwide, visit Topic Architecture.
Even as new digital technologies emerge, modern libraries will always remain home to large holdings of printed material. Many collections have already expanded to include e-reader versions of popular titles, music and video on a variety of media. The latest design improvements to libraries make them not only enjoyable venues for reading, but also welcoming places to build community.