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The impact of library spaces on readers' experiences

Updated: Dec 26, 2020

Don't you just enjoy a cozy bookstore or a library? I always find delight in the trips to my favorite bookstore here in Singapore or to one of the public libraries. I don't only buy or borrow books but I also spend some time in the coziness of these spaces.

In this post I would like to share a bit about the other passion of mine in addition to picture books: library spaces. I simply love experimenting with the space in my library. Bringing a bit of a living room and a bookstore feel in the library is a warm invitation for every reader and spices up the reading experience. Students are the first ones to notice the change. They enjoy a new reading corner, they are curious so they would ask questions why the change and last but not least, circulation statistics go up. It is fascinating how rearranging the shelves, book displays and reading areas impacts the way readers perceive and choose books. Movable furniture would be ideal and luckily that has been the case with most libraries lately. I did so many "workouts" in a couple of libraries where I used to teach because furniture wasn't movable. I would load books off the shelves, push and slide the shelves around and then finally shelve books back again. "Fun" times but it was all worth it! The shift takes the library to a different level. It simply changes the whole energy flow.

I wanted to share one of my projects during my first few years oversees. The library where I landed in my first year overseas was a huge space, with a good location in the school building, yet very dark, plain and not well utilized. I used my "toolbox" which includes passion, advocacy, collaboration, curiosity and instinct. I must say, it took me some time. I worked with all I had at the time and I could witness the shift in the perception of the library and books among students, teachers and parents throughout my three years there. Students found the library as a happy and safe place which warmed my heart. They appreciated the diversity of the collection and they really loved the space. In terms of space, the major changes included putting the shelves on wheels, adding more displays and cozy reading areas, beanbags as well as a large table where students would make puzzles, build legos, draw comics etc. Sometimes it would get a bit "loud" for a library but that was all right. Students' favorite thing was the so called "Reading Mountain" - the big green piece of furniture you can see in the photos. The library became a true learning and community hub!

The best inspiration sources when making small rearrangements or big renovations at your library are other people's libraries, bookstores and you might be surprised but shows on interior design as well. However, the best source and most important one in my experience are the library users. Asking them what their ideal library would look like is the essential input that adds great value to the change. It gives the community especially the students a sense of ownership.



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