Jason Dean is a 27 year old MSLIS student, working at the Amon Carter Museum library. He lives in Fort Worth, Texas with his wife, Jen, and their cat, Cosby. You can check out his blog, The Dean Files, or send him an email to jason.dean[at]me[dot]com.
Hello fellow young librarians! My name is Jason Dean, and I am currently an MSLIS student at Syracuse University. I plan to graduate in December, and then my wife and I are off to Austin (so if you are in the Austin area, I’d like to hear from you!)
I have a passion for architecture, one that predates my passion for libraries and librarianship. In fact, I think this first came together for me when Jen (my wife) and I went to the Seattle Public Library on our honeymoon. I loved the space and how people interacted with each other, and the resources in the collection. Jen is a former architecture student, and we live in Fort Worth, home of some wonderful architecture (for example, the Kimbell Art Museum, the Amon Carter Museum). Those experiences planted within me this question:
What makes a library building great?
And so, on my blog, The Dean Files, I try to look at one library I really feel is great, and point out why I think it is effective – primarily for the user, but also in terms of aesthetics and architectural significance. I have already talked about two of my favorite libraries, The London Library, and the library at the Phillips Exeter Academy by Louis Kahn. I plan to look at the Seattle Public Library, the Morgan Library, and many others. What then, has examining these great library spaces taught me, beyond the building “looking nice?”
Well, first, light is incredibly important. I think Louis Kahn said it best: “A man with a book goes to the light. A library begins that way. He will not go fifty feet away to an electric light.” Good lighting is essential to any activity in the library, and by good lighting I don’t mean fluorescent bulbs – I mean natural light. Of course, this presents some problems for the preservation of our collections – but not an insurmountable problem for creative and effective architects.
Second, the library should have a strong identity in its building. Even though the purpose and usage of libraries has changed dramatically over the past twenty (or so) years, there is a very strong cultural idea of what a library “is.” Books are a large part of this, but also community and individual workspaces.
Those workspaces are the third “key” to a good library building. Individual, semiprivate workstations are very important, with all the right ingredients included: power outlets, network plugs, and an OPAC interface nearby. Also, there need to be semiprivate work spaces for groups in a variety of sizes, from small to large. These areas should have the same amenities (power, internet, OPAC) but should also have to varying degrees, presentation materials and gadgets (projectors and white boards come to mind). Beyond these meeting rooms, there is a strong need for large community spaces, where users can feel free to talk, mingle, et cetera.
The best libraries combine these elements in different ways, but all have these three elements. And this is not to say that these are the only three important common threads in great library architecture – I feel sure you have some thoughts as well – so please let me hear your thoughts on my blog!