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The Space *Is* the Service: Assessing the Physical Library in 2.012

Your Name and Title: Carla Haug, Digital Literacy Librarian


Library, School, or Organization Name: Edmonton Public Library


Co-Presenter Name(s): Beth Wortman, 21st Century Library Spaces Librarian


Area of the World from Which You Will Present: Edmonton, Alberta, Canada


Language in Which You Will Present: English


Target Audience(s): Public libraries; libraries interested in studying/researching/assessing their physical space; libraries considering renovations


Short Session Description (one line): Using research to design library spaces that will meet the needs of our customers.


Full Session Description (as long as you would like):


“This isn’t a library, it’s just another Starbucks!”

“We don’t need libraries now that everything’s online.”


Sound familiar? Physical libraries are a hot topic these days. Opinions vary widely (and strongly) about what role they have to play and what form they should be taking in the 21st century. Should they be shuttered and replaced by a virtual branch; or should they be bulldozed and closed completely, since, as certain people believe, “everything’s available online”? Should we fight to preserve those venerable, serious, silent research institutions and archives, like the main branch of the New York Public Library; or should we be creating community spaces, comfortable spaces, computer spaces, or coffee shop spaces – or spaces with all four combined?   


Everyone, from politicians to parents to librarians themselves, seems to have a different perspective about what the physical library should look like. The first essential step, though, when you’re trying to figure out what shape your library space should take, is to understand what your customers are doing there – and, importantly, what they want to be doing there. 


That was goal behind Edmonton Public Library’s 21st Century Library Spaces Project. Using several different research methods over the course of one year, we explored who was using the library space, what they were doing in the library, and asked them what they would like to see in our spaces. This session will focus on the findings of the Library Spaces Project at Edmonton Public Library. We concluded that space itself is a service that libraries provide our customers, and meeting the users’ needs is the most important design feature.   


Websites / URLs Associated with Your Session:


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Dang--this looks so great.  I love how you did the exploration.  Thanks for submitting!


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