A number of libraries I have visited on my trip around Europe share space with other services.
In Finland, Library Apple in Espoo is soon to be combined with a health clinic, maternity centre, and social security services. The idea has already been tested in Denmark but it is new in Finland. In the Netherlands, de nieuwe bibliotheek in Almere Haven will relocate to a new building which it will share with the social services, council, restaurant and gallery.
Other libraries share a school building. In Finland, the Active Learning Centre is in a school complex where children have access to the library during their lunch breaks and before and after school. In the Netherlands, de nieuwe bibliotheek in Almere Poort has a room on the ground floor of a school – a space that it shares with welfare services.
It is cheaper for a public library to rent a shared space. It is also an effective way of integrating library services into learning, health and social service programmes, and gaining new customers. But, there are teething problems.
In Library Apple, staff and customers are worried about how well they will mix with others in a new services centre. They are concerned about the privacy of their customers. Their customers are concerned about being seen by others using the service. A shared service means your needs are instantly visible to others. At the same time, the Active Learning Centre and de nieuwe bibliotheek sharing a school building have trouble integrating with the school.
Staff providing different services need to work hard to integrate them. The spatial layout of a building cannot force staff and customers to work together. There needs to be a common agenda.