April 20, 2016

A public library redesign that worked


Sharable - Facing declining visitors and uncertainty about what to do about it, library administrators in the new town of Almere in the Netherlands did something extraordinary. They redesigned their libraries based on the changing needs and desires of library users and, in 2010, opened the Nieuwe Bibliotheek (New Library), a thriving community hub that looks more like a bookstore than a library.

Guided by patron surveys, administrators tossed out traditional methods of library organization, turning to retail design and merchandising for inspiration. They now group books by areas of interest, combining fiction and nonfiction; they display books face-out to catch the eye of browsers; and they train staff members in marketing and customer service techniques.

The library is also a Seats2meet location where patrons are empowered to help one another in exchange for free, permanent, coworking space. They also have a bustling cafe, an extensive events and music program, a gaming facility, a reading garden and more. The result? The New Library surpassed all expectation about usage with over 100,000 visitors in the first two months. It is now considered one of the most innovative libraries in the world.

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