User perceptions of library buildings

“User perceptions of library buildings: Architectural and design element preferences in the public library” By Debbie Fox, Christchurch City Libraries
Vol 54, Issue No. 4, July 2014

“The research findings generated a number of themes: a preference for modern design; a predominant concern for functionality over design; an emotional response to some design elements; a strong desire for multi-use spaces; the need for flexibility in design elements; a heightened consciousness of building safety; incorporation of green technologies; connectivity with the outdoors; the desirability of light, airy and welcoming spaces…the importance of libraries to communities and the need to ensure design meets the needs of, and reflects the identities of, those communities.”

“By establishing that the library is important to the community as a social gathering place, the importance is established of the physical manifestation of what we call the library. A building that is important to the community should have community input into its design. Furthermore it seems obvious that if this physical entity is to survive, let alone be successful in any guise, then it must meet the needs of its community.”

“The study found that not only were the libraries important and highly valued in their communities but also that the buildings themselves reflected the community’s individuality: Many library leaders have advocated increasing the civic society role for public libraries. Under this new rubric, new designs and renovations often include meeting spaces and flexible layouts in order to accommodate local community interests in using the library as a public commons (May & Black, 2010, p. 6).”

“Loder’s 2010 study of ‘green’ libraries also revealed that not only has energy conservation become important in designing (academic) libraries but that increasingly spaces are being designed for users rather than books.”

“…looked at such issues as user comfort in areas ranging from climate and acoustics, to the visual nature of the space even acknowledging that the use of different colours has a psychological effect on the user (Hohmann, 2006, para. Comfort).”

“…planners became aware of the strong community interest in environmental concerns – location, walkable cities, tree preservation etcetera. In direct response, the architects proposed registering the building for the LEED certification programme and sustainable technologies were incorporated into the building’s design (Schaper, 2003, p. 63).”

“confirmation of the social importance of libraries: libraries as place, as social hubs, and the educative value of libraries in a community.”

“Links to public transport were also mentioned by a couple of respondents especially as a means of ensuring that everyone has access to the library, regardless of whether they have their own transport or not.”

“There was a very strong feeling amongst most participants of the need for libraries to provide wifi, sockets to enable users to charge mobile devices as well as the provision of areas/benches for those who wish to work on their own laptops…this was an especially important service for the young and for community visitors such as tourists or travelers.”

“…connection with the outdoors whether by direct access or via a window was seen as having a positive effect on the wellbeing of library users.”

“desire for multi use spaces was also tied into the effects of the earthquakes in that (a) there is now a shortage of meeting rooms as so many community centres have been destroyed…include as many different facilities into a building complex to serve the community and to make good use of available land.”

“Opinions varied as to whether these spaces should be enclosed or separated in some way with some participants stating that they believed it was important not to enclose these children’s and teen spaces as it helped with socialization—modeling appropriate behaviour.”

“…the need for a variety of furniture to be provided – a direct correlation to the desire for multi use spaces as in many instances each of these different space and activities requires different types of furniture for example a mixture of practical, upright chairs and desks for study and computer use whilst also making provision for sofas and softer chairs in reading areas.”

“…the use of solar panels, recycling of rain water to flush toilets, using timber from managed plantations, less concrete to minimise the carbon footprint…”

“…part of the library’s educative value in society to have these technologies available so that Christchurch people could see them in action possibly when considering them for use in their own home or business.”

“Although not directly associated with user design preferences the confirmation of the social importance of libraries—libraries as place; as social hubs; and the educative value of libraries is nevertheless important as it reinforces the importance the community places on libraries and therefore the need to ensure building design meets the needs and desires of these communities.”

“Another feature of the social importance attached to libraries is the educative function they provide to their communities…the part libraries play in engendering a love of books and thereby making a contribution to literacy.”

“Libraries are integral to developing strong communities, being places where cultural diversity is celebrated and communities are engaged, inspired and informed (Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Authority, 2012, p. 79).”

“Too often architecture is seen as real estate and property, but it is a cultural product. All of these buildings that we have lost, they are our history and informed our identity and our understanding of what it is to be Christchurch (Gates, 2012, p. A.3).”