The Helsinki public library, Re-Thinking the public library
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School of Arts, Design and Architecture | Master's thesis
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Master's Degree Programme in Spatial Design
AbstractTHE HELSINKI PUBLIC LIBRARY “Re-thinking the public library” Through the last decades information has become more approachable, easy to influence and deliver; technology specifically internet has change the ways and accessibility to knowledge, if a couple of decades ago we were dependent on main stream media and traditional sources of information, now we are facing a new paradigm where the receiver can become to be a source of information through different tools such as: Tweeter, Facebook, Blogs, etc. The main sources of knowledge are now to be approached almost by anyone, any time, anywhere. Google, Wikipedia, Youtube, and many other search engines are now some how replacing our teachers, librarians and storytellers… Considering this new context, where do we position the role of the public library? The understanding of different human groups, their social circumstances and the direction where the nation may be moving to, give us some clues on where to start to dig and what are the signs we may follow. In order to maintain a meaningful role in the society, the public library needs to develop alternative functions and give attention to new user groups. The traditional way of classifying library users might be obsolete; different interest areas often related to specific personal interest are greater motivators than gender, age or ethnic background. The challenge now is to understand these new motivations and transform them into new products and services the library can offer. On this study I will describe the design process that took place reformulating the functions of the public library of Helsinki, in a process that concluded with the guidelines for future services and a new interior architecture prototype, implemented on the library of Oulunkylä neighbourhood of Helsinki. The whole project was developed in close cooperation between the library staff and administration, the design team of the company I was representing by that time, and the community of Oulunkylä. A number of meetings, workshops and consultation rounds where taking place in order to create and deliver a solution as close as possible to the expectations and needs of the different stakeholders. Various methods and tools were used to approach different matters related to the design process. By defining a new spatial program and functions was also possible to enhance the interaction between different user groups and to overcome the generational conflict that changes can produce in a public service. The library will keep on having an important role on the development of the Finnish society, certainly its function has change dramatically from a printed knowledge storage place into a experience public enabler with a strong social role to play. The challenge now for the library is to “stay tuned” to the needs and changes on the people it serves; I believe the library as well as many other public services will require constant rethinking of their functions, placing the user in the centre of any development attempt. Without exhaustive observation, understanding and the participation of different stakeholders, changes can always become to be merely aesthetic or technical “face lifts”, losing momentum and weakening institutions we all have to protect.
Library, Public, Re-think, Enhance