Wednesday, October 05, 2011

OUT OF THE DRAFTS FOLDER: (2009) An Injection of Ideas on Library Design

How many draft blog posts do you have sitting around?  Here is one from two years ago -- on library design.  I never got around to publishing it, so am doing so now - with the intent of posting a recent update of thoughts and resources, especially after hearing of a recent Kevin Hennah consultation in Kuala Lumpur with international school librarians.


On August 22nd [2009] about 30 international school librarians from around Asia gathered at ISB in Bangkok for a one-day workshop on library design by Kevin Hennah, a retail merchandising consultant and designer who has done a lot of work with libraries in Australia.
(While he seems to have worked with many major companies, it was this advertising campaign in his portfolio that made the biggest visual impression on me: Australia Post: If you really want to touch someone, send them a letter. I should also mention his featured section in the Australian book, Rethink! Ideas for Inspiring School Library Design -- and I think he said he's working on a book with Opening the Book in the UK. )

The success of the workshop can be summed up by Barb Philip's comment as she walked out: "I feel like taking a sledgehammer to my library."

What did he say? Well, others who attended the workshop have been much more efficient in sharing about it online. Within 24 hours Kim Cofino, one of the event organizers, had blogged about it and Tara Ethridge, the other event organizer, blogged about it on Monday the 24th. Anthony Tilke posted information about it on the ECIS iSkoodle forum for librarians (registration required to view), and Beth Gourley made public her Evernote notebook on Library as Space and Place, which includes her notes on Kevin's presentation.

What can I add? A few extension links, perhaps...

Kevin's value was in his slideshow presentation -- talk about visual learning! We saw over 600 images, illustrating retail principles in practice in libraries. He talked us through before-and-after shots, good examples, bad examples, interesting examples. (And, no, for copyright reasons, he said he couldn't give us copies of his presentation.)

As Kevin spoke, I kept scribbling down the names of the libraries being shown (mainly Australian and more public than school ones) -- see the list of libraries here. I tried to find images of them on the internet, without much success -- except for The Idea Stores in London (UK), e.g., search of Flickr for "idea store" and "library".

Instead you might have a look at some of these libraries:
I was familiar with the retail design approaches in libraries -- as Paco Underhill's book "Why We Buy: The Science of Shopping" became popular with librarians in the US several years ago, e.g., see the Library Journal article "Power Users - Designing buildings and services from the end user's viewpoint transforms access for everyone" [2005], as well as "What libraries can learn from bookstores: Applying bookstore design to public libraries " [2003]. But it's always good to have it re-iterated.

He recommends a "What's Hot?" display (see how Barb went back and immediately put that up on the wall in her library).

Kevin is all for ditching Dewey and using more user-friendly, bookstore-type categories to organize books. He cited the Palmerston Public Library (NT, Australia) as an example of a library choosing to organize the collection in terms of 17 "living rooms" or categories (read this 2006 white paper "Where's the Dewey?" for background on the process they went through).

Similar attempts:
The National Library of Singapore has its own variation on re-grouping Dewey, supposedly to help the public find books, but I find it confusing -- as the catalog just gives me the Dewey number - so I have to wander to find the section that Dewey number is stored in.


One thing I do like about the NLB shelves is the use of ColorMarq, a library shelf ID system where each letter of the alphabet has a different color.  It makes it easy to see when a book is mis-shelved.  (I do have a problem when NLB shelvers only bother to sort by the first three letters of the authors' names.... especially in areas like BRO or WIL.)

[Photos by me]

1 comment:

  1. My library was redone a few years ago-- I don't think the architects knew much about library design. (Black shelves= dust!)Funny, though-- when I go into stores I WANT things to be arranged by Dewey!

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