I happened upon The Royal Oak, a quaint bar nestled beside a Starbucks and a movie theatre in the suburbs of Atlanta
The food was just ok, but the thing that struck me was this statement on their menu:
“A pub is a state of mind, and that alone sets it apart from any other drinking or eating establishment. It is a place where relaxation, stimulation, and conversation are the order of the day. In their ‘local,’ as the English refer to them, a sense of being ‘at home’ is very much in evidence, and it is the publican’s job to ensure the maintenance of that atmosphere.”
This got me thinking about libraries. What is our state of mind? What is our atmosphere? Who is in charge of it? And perhaps the question for this blog: who designs it?
Is it the building manager’s job to create engaging experiences? What about the Head of Public Services? She might have good intentions but probably does not have the time to devote to such a large enterprise. So what about the librarians or staff? Again, there may be some interest, but “library as place” most likely ends up other duties as assigned.
I’ve been thinking about this a lot coming into a new workplace. I walk throughout the building several times each day observing how patrons are using the space and how they have adapted to it. The library seems to have it’s own unwritten code of conduct. For example, there are many large tables on different floors. All of them are filled with students (finals week)—some of these are quiet zones, while in other areas people converse freely. Why is that? How was this ecosystem formed and how has it evolved over time? I have not noticed any library staff enforcing rules, so who is in charge?
I’ve started sketching layouts of the building with ideas for creating defined zones. Will simply rearranging the furniture have a positive (and noticeable) impact on study behavior? Will patrons accept what I design or simply do whatever the want?
I don’t have any answers… just tons of questions, but think about the “atmosphere” of your library. Who is in charge of it?What needs to be done? And what can you do to change it?