I had a realisation this morning that I have not posted anything in other a week. I wonder if that means my love affair with blogging is fading? I do apologise for this woeful lack of diligence on my behalf. 🙂 Actually it’s more like start of year business/craziness, having shifted desks, shifted houses, finished one course, started another, and a hundred and one other things. Inspiration has been flagging under the weight of tiredness. 😆 Now that my house has steps into it though I think some sort of normality will return.
In libraryland we have a fresh coat of paint here in Dannevagas, with some interesting colours going up on the walls. It was almost a shame to have to put the picture books back into their shelves. I did have yesterday a moment of library envy though. This article came to my attention:
Seattle's Central Library, which had Dutch trailblazer Rem Koolhaas as principal architect
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
“A new library is being planned for the center of Aarhus, Denmark’s main port city. It will certainly contain books on shelves. Beyond that, it will not resemble the hushed and stately central libraries of the past. In fact, it is referred to not as a library but an “urban mediaspace.” The building will include flexible conference and project rooms, multimedia learning labs, performance venues, studios for artists and business startups, a shop, a cafe, a tram station and government-service offices where patrons can, for example, apply for social security. Its design competition envisioned “a layered structure that can be navigated like a home page.” It will anchor a sizable stretch of industrial waterfront that will be redeveloped as an esplanade for festivals, markets, sports and leisure. The winning entry shows an irregular, seven-sided, glass-walled building with generous roof overhangs that seem to simultaneously extend protection over the public realm and invite people into a hive of visible activity.
A mixed-use, multimedia complex that is meant to foster social interaction and creative ferment as much as reading and research, the library of the future is also intended as an engine of city-center rejuvenation. Examples have gone up in dozens of places around the world, including Salt Lake City; Vancouver, B.C.; Chongqing, China; the Spanish island of Tenerife; Delft, the Netherlands; Brisbane, Australia; and Cardiff, U.K. Versions are planned in Philadelphia; Oslo; Turin, Italy; Amsterdam; and other cities large and small. These library buildings incorporate a constellation of nontraditional and even non-library uses, like cafes, shops, theaters and auditoriums, galleries, classrooms, conference centers, meeting rooms, recording and broadcast studios, government offices, even housing. Some are placed adjacent to theaters, concert halls and museums to form cultural campuses; others are joined to schools or even hotels.”
I am not one for modern architecture, all that glass and concrete and steel just leaves me cold. I think I must be a romantic at heart, or maybe it’s that Classical education coming to the fore 🙂 however I really like the look of the Seattle Central library, and had a brief vision of something similar perched in the middle of downtown Dannevirke. 😆 That aside it was nice to see a discussion of the library as the centre of the community. It recalled to me the video that was highlight last year about the how a library project in Latvia, jointly funded by the foundation and the Latvian government, has turned Latvia’s libraries into centers of learning.
Which was a little timely since this other article came to my attention this morning:
A new chapter . . . how the Library of Birmingham, due to open in 2013, will look
The battle of Britain’s libraries by Stuart Jeffries
Coffee shops, gigs, free cinema tickets, flashy architecture . . . is this the future of our libraries? Stuart Jeffries on government plans to shake things up – and the people standing in their way
“’It will be much more than just a library. Perhaps we should call it a palazzo of human thought,” says Mike Whitby, Birmingham city council’s leader, as he reclines in his vast office. He’s talking about the new £193m Library of Birmingham, currently under construction at Centenary Square between those other two Brummie palazzi, the Repertory Theatre and the former civic centre called Baskerville House.
Cardiff, Newcastle and Swindon already have new super-libraries, while Liverpool and Manchester’s central libraries are undergoing multimillion-pound renovations. Councillor Whitby thinks Birmingham’s will be better than any of them. Thanks to Dutch architects Mecanoo, the library will be a highly transparent glass building wrapped in delicate metal filigree, housing within its 33,500 sq m a few million books (fingers crossed). It is a key component in the city’s bid to be the UK’s capital of culture in 2013 and should help fulfil Whitby’s aim of putting Birmingham in the top 25 world cities by 2020, as ranked by the Mercer Quality of Living survey (it currently comes joint 56th, with Glasgow).
Whitby’s office looks out on to the existing Birmingham Central Library, an inverted modernist ziggurat built in 1973-4. This is the building Prince Charles famously described as a place where books were incinerated rather than borrowed. Unlike him, I once spent long, happy hours reading here, amazed that so many books (2.5m of them, stretching over seven floors) were at the disposal of a non-princely nobody like me. Now culture minister Margaret Hodge has given the go-ahead to flatten this Grade II-listed building; demolition will be completed over the next five years. Why must it go? “It leaks, and great big chunks of concrete keep falling from it,” says Birmingham head of libraries, Brian Gambles. He keeps a souvenir chunk in his office to prove the point. “It’s ugly and unfit for purpose and would cost too much to properly renovate.””
I can see where statements like this come from:
“Last week I spoke to Hodge in her office near Trafalgar Square. She told me that running a successful public library in the 21st century is tough. Technological advances and higher expectations of service mean that libraries must, in her glum progressivist phrase, “move with the times to stay part of the times”. “I do care passionately about libraries,” she says, “but they have to change. The footfall is down and book issues are massively down. Only 14 of 151 local authorities have libraries that offer ebooks.”
Hodge has spent the past six months in a consultation process that asks some unsettling questions. What, really, is the point of a public library in the 21st century? How should libraries respond to today’s 24/7 culture and the greater availability of cheap books? Why can’t that beardy librarian double as a barista? Next week, she will publish the answers to these questions in her department’s Library Review, though you’d be forgiven for thinking that its delayed appearance (it was due to be published last October) has been timed to get lost in the runup to the election. Certainly, when we meet, Hodge’s mind appears more focused on trouncing BNP leader Nick Griffin in her Barking constituency.
She declines to confirm what will be in the review, but among the changes we can expect is an opening up of libraries to volunteers – a move that will upset librarians, unions and campaigners. “There’s nothing that depresses me more,” Hodge says, “than going into a library and being confronted by a computer and someone in authority who isn’t going to deliver the citizen-focused services I think should be on offer. I won’t have this. Libraries can’t go on being merely traditional. That’s why we should consider volunteers. In Manchester, I celebrated a scheme recently to get young people working as volunteers in libraries in ways that are of great benefit to them and the customers. That could be a blueprint.””
I do however worry that such a review and its conclusion may be a step too far. I am all for libraries being the centre piece of urban renewal, as being a vital cog in the mechanism of community, and that expanding services, or putting complementary services alongside them makes good sense, but there shouldn’t come at the expense of a professional front line service.
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