Changing Technology/Changing Services/Changing Design

“Second to hospitals, libraries are the most complicated buildings to build,” said Alan Kirk Gray, Head of Technology, Technical Services, and Planning for the Darien Library in Darien, Connecticut. Gray, who was the first speaker at Changing Technology/Changing Services/Changing Design, is currently in charge of planning the construction of a new library building. He said that increasing staff productivity and meeting rising public expectations are central considerations in his library’s design process. Darien Library is incorporating RFID, wireless Internet, and multi-channel communications to try to meet those considerations.

Deborah Jacobs of the Seattle Public Library reported that the new central library in her city is a big success. The press is positive, the staff is pleased, and citizens and tourists are flocking to the building. Usage statistics are way up. Jacobs credits smooth workflow, innovative technology, and environmentally friendly design. City officials are pleased by increased interest in land development around the library, and nearby restaurants have increased their evening hours to accommodate library users. It is estimated that the library has brought $16 million in tourist revenue to the city.

In some ways Seattle Public’s central library became more like smaller libraries. Jacobs reported that all the nonfiction collection was put into one Dewey number order, eliminating all the subject libraries. Unlike more traditional libraries, many of the desks have been eliminated. Reference librarians use small wireless communicators to network with subject specialists in the building in order to direct clients to the best librarian for their information needs.

Much is changing at the Queens Public Library. Peter Magnini showed plans for redesigned branches and a new children’s library, as well as mini-branches in train stations, the city’s museums, and even in new residential buildings. Spreading the library across the entire city is a goal, as is partnering with public and private institutions.

The redesigned branches all have RFID, self-checkout, and wireless Internet. Most public service desks have been eliminated, allowing the staff to mingle better with the library users. The new children’s library (in development) will mix museum displays, library materials, and advanced computing stations.

Architects Jeffrey Hoover and Elizabeth Martin continued the eliminate-the-desk theme, showing slides of libraries designed as learning commons and mixing circles, where there are no barriers between librarians and library users. RFID and self-checkout are again standard features. They also showed flat screened catalogs built into library shelving end panels. The pair also emphasized the area around the library building, recommending reading gardens and shady story time courts. Do everything possible to draw people to the library was their mantra.