I discovered this article via Facebook today, thanks to a link from librarian Jen Waller (thanks Jen!). It's the most positive, exciting article about future libraries that I've seen in a non-library publication for a long time.
It's called "New Libraries Revitalize Cities: New library complexes rejuvenate urban centers around the world by including theaters, shops, cafes, offices and even gyms" by Jonathan Lerner, and it appeared on Miller-McCune.com on March 2, 2010.
It discusses a library planned in Aarhus, Denmark; along with others that have been built in Salt Lake City, Utah; Seattle, Washington; Delft, The Netherlands; Cardiff, UK; and others. The article tells readers that these libraries are meant as more than traditional book warehouses; that these have been designed as community centers and hubs of activities. On some sites, the library has been built in the same building as (or just adjacent to) other popular destinations such as shops, restaurants, health clinics, or swimming pools. The idea is that a library draws people together, and by placing them with other useful and valuable community anchors, these projects can create successful new "downtowns" or urban centers.
Why am I writing about this in a marketing blog? Because it's a great article to put in your arsenal. Use it when people ask about the future of libraries; send it to your funders or legislators if they're wondering whether brick-and-mortar libraries still matter; share it with your architect or city planner; reference it in your annual report. And there are quotable quotes such as this one from Maija Berndtson, a library director in Helsinki who is involved in creating the vision for a new central library in that Finnish city. Berndtson shows a perfect example of "true marketing" when she suggests that some rooms in the new building would be furnished for the short term, then would change according to the way people used them. “We see how the customers behave, and then follow their ideas.” Bravo!
Illustration from Helsinki City Library's website: Central Library - A place where knowledge, skills and stories meet. Illustration © Teemu Nojonen
Berndtson also shared the Helsinki project's well-defined purpose: to be “a cultural meeting point, both physical and virtual; the city’s public face … where interactive democracy takes place…; a place where city-dwellers can spend their free time, feel at home and meet others, a place for the entire family right in the centre of town.”
This whole article is an inspiring read, and an even more valuable pass-along for our non-librarian colleagues and potential community partners. (I'm not sure how long this will stay online, but you could ensure your continued access by buying a single issue if you like.)