Library buildings play a vital role at universities and university colleges. Their architectural design is of particular importance for librarians, as this affects their interaction with visitors, among other things. These are the findings of a new thesis for University of Gothenburg, Sweden, which examined the planning of one Swedish university library.
Planning university library buildings has become increasingly complex since the late 1900s. Changes within teaching and learning, informatics, and higher education and research mean that there is a wealth of information that needs to be considered by library operators and other players when planning a new building. The planning process encourages interaction between interested parties and representatives of various professions, in particular librarians and architects.
In connection with the planning of the library at the University of Kalmar at the end of the 1990s, there was clarification of matters relating to library architecture for the 21st century. This process has been examined retrospectively by Krister Johannesson, the Swedish School of Library and Information Science at the University of Borås and University of Gothenburg. "I have studied the visions behind the building, the various elements of the process, and the architecture of the resulting library," says Krister Johannesson.
Formulated a vision
The thesis shows how the library director in Kalmar formulated a vision for the library early on in the process. This presented the library as an information resource, a meeting place for various users, and a workplace for promoting learning and knowledge. From the perspective of the librarian profession, this vision involves deconstructing the hierarchy of relationships between library staff and between staff and visitors. This takes into account the university's educational targets and is manifested architecturally by the desire to remove barriers between the library's staff and visitors, especially the university's students. "My study shows how the previously formulated vision has made the choice of architect easier," says Krister. "In this case, the clients were also able to draw on architectural expertise."
In Kalmar it has also been possible to discern a need to reinforce the choice of architectural design, which meant consulting library experts and users. This study shows how some architectural solutions, with their impact on how staff and visitors interact within the library, can be regarded as controversial by librarians.
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