Yesterday I attended my very first CILIP seminar. As a non-member of CILIP, I was particularly interested to experience a little of what membership brings, as well as meeting members. The seminar itself was very interesting, focusing on how libraries can develop as social spaces. There were a variety of speakers there, including representatives from Kent County Council, Demco Interiors (whose speaker came out with a controversial public library/supermarket comparison) and Angus Brown from Imperial College London whose library has recently been the subject of a major refurbishment.
Each of the presentations gave a particular perspective on how space was utilised to maximum effect. The KCC presentation (see below) used a series of examples of the ongoing modernisation program to demonstrate the difference that can be made to library usage by re-imagining layouts and presentation (alongside other aspects of course). All of the libraries that had been subjected to a process of modernisation had shown immediate results in terms of visitors and issues. One of the interesting things that emerged from this presentation was that when the general public were consulted on what services they would like their local library to provide, they generally desired services that the local library already provided. Which, for me, underlines that there is no great problem with the actual service as such, merely in making the public aware of what a modern public library offers.
The presentation by Angus Brown was also very interesting. The work that was done at Imperial College, although very time consuming (and probably quite stressful), clearly paid off as ‘student activity’ in the library increased by a third. Although, as he rightly pointed out, the work isn’t finished when the library is refurbished. It is vital that the process is reviewed for future reference, as well as continually assessing whether the library is continuing to meet the demands if the users. The statistics were certainly interesting though, and they are available via a press release from the Imperial College here.
Overall, it was a very interesting opportunity to hear how different library services are dealing with the challenges that they are having to face and the difference that can be made by viewing the library through the eyes of the end user. I’d be interested to hear how other libraries have successfully modernised their service.