"The Once and Future Library"

This article in American Libraries magazine discusses the ways architects are designing libraries today. Photo from SLM Madrid, licensed by Creative Commons


"So how do architects design libraries nowadays? They do it with humility and factor in the nature of the institution and its constituencies. Built-in flexibility in how spaces can be used now and reconfigured in the future is paramount. Thankfully, libraries have been migrating away from a reliance solely on books—and quietude—for years. The old model of one big room with a Queen Mary–sized circulation/reference desk and stacks in the back, while perhaps a fond memory for some, has long been passé. Where once the sheer number of volumes afforded status, today the important statistics are how many pertinent and engaging services and programs are offered and how many rooms, sociable niches, intimate nooks, and computer crannies are available for people to meet in, do their taxes online, collaborate, learn how to operate an e-reader, hold a book club session, gossip, have a cup of coffee, navigate the Medicare bureaucracy (with a librarian’s help), record music, write and read poetry, and on and on."


"The best libraries today—old, new, or in design—are a cross between a modern community center, an old-fashioned YMCA, and a town center."


"A 2011 study reports that 65% of adults said they had visited a library at least once in the past year.  A 2010–2011 study conducted by the American Library Association’s Office for Research and Statistics and the University of Maryland reveals that, even though most public libraries reported flat or reduced operating budgets, 70% witnessed heavier use of computer workstations and 75% had increased Wi-Fi usage, while 90% offered patrons access to job databases and other online employment services."