The libraries that I have visited in Denmark, Finland, and the Netherlands all benefit from their location. Whether they are in a school, shopping centre, or main square – they benefit from being close to other services. A library also attracts new visitors to the location – so schools, shopping centres, and main squares benefit from the library being there. They shift the flow of traffic from one part of the city to another.
Take Aarhus DOK, for example, which is also a transport hub for visitors. The library is a place for visitors to park their car, and at the same time, it brings visitors to the water front where they do not usually venture. It marks the development of the area into a bustling part of Aarhus.
A second example is de nieuwe library in Almere Stad. Almere is only 38 years old, and is made up of three ‘nuclei’. Almere Haven was developed in 1974, Almere Stad was built in 1979, and Almere Buiten was planned in the 1980s. It is a new town with a relatively young population.
de nieuwe Almere Stad is the largest of three libraries – each catering for a different part of the town. Almere Stad was completed in 2010 and sits on the main square – drawing visitors from all over the town to the square where there are shops, cafes and restaurants. It shifts the flow of people from the old town to the new town.
The flooring in the entrance of Almere Stad is similar to the material in the main square – there is a seamless connection between the two spaces. What happens in the main square influences what happens in the library. Wednesday is market day, which brings more visitors to the library.
A third example is Delft DOK. It is similarly influences and is influenced by its surroundings. It is located in a small square with a cinema and theatre which used to only attract visitors at night. The library has bee relocated there to attract daytime visitors. It is a cunning scheme by the town planners to make sure that the area feels ‘safe’ night and day.
What learning for UK libraries? Town planners work hard to get the town to operate as a unified whole – a building such as library can shift the flow of people from one part of a town to another, and in turn, a library can benefit from being located in new areas.