Sally and Edith in Europe

LIANZA Travelling Scholarship

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Greater than the sum Copenhagen

Wow, this place was awesome. A fantastic development of an old factory with a modern glowing metal clad space that looks like a pile of books and is coloured gold to indicate the special nature of the facility in the community . The level of servos delivered is what makes this place the huge success it is. It is 3,500sqm and has a variety of spaces including a large auditorium which was hosting a mother and baby film event when we we there. The cafe is run by a famous tv chef in partnership with a school for mentally disabled youth. The food was amazing.





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Halmstad Foyer

I am on the train journey from Halmstad to Copenhagen and it is raining outside so viewing opportunities are limited. Can’t wait for the bridge though so I will be pausing for that excitement.

Well, Halmstad library. The foyer(refer to previous Halmstad post) didn’t even register in my mind when I got there, so I recall seeing was a small white board with some directions which I couldn’t read. People were sitting on the bright green furniture working on laptops and reading papers. An oddly quiet thing to be doing in a foyer I thought. The cafe was off to the left and my guide for the afternoon was waiting patiently for me to my right so I honed in in her.

I am going to go back through my photos and perhaps do a post on foyers to se if anyone has nailed it.

The similarities between this library and Christchurch’s South library were striking. Being on a river was the first and the interior colour scheme was the other. Both architects I suspect, were making reference to the green of the nature at the window when using a light architectural green on the inside. The light that a river offers and the dappling effect of the trees was also similar.

At 8,000sm this library services a population of about 50,000 and includes a large cafe and 250 seat auditorium. I think by our standards this is a generous space. Low at the start it bursts into a tremendously high ceiling height which makes full use of available light. Light is in short supply up here for many months of the year and impacts greatly on the architecture. Interestingly all the shades w down so I couldn’t see the view. There is a small balcony over the river which is well used especially for parties by various people who climb up there for dangerous fun times.


Collection is still king here and the adult stacks are huge. However, the spaces are vast and many events take place in all sorts of places within the library. Due to the long winters many events are planned and well attended in the libraries and all kinds of space and lots of provision and support is made for getting these events up and running as well has having technical staff that set up the systems and spaces. I think this shows commitment to the service and not viewing it as an add on. I know you will say, what to give up? I can think if 10 things we can give up.

In the interests of keeping this post short in will not comment further but add some photos. I am very happy to answer questions and provide more depth about any place I have visited. These posts are just tasters




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Learning Lessons in Helsinki

Helsinki and I got off to a wobbly start.  I wasn’t feeling the love and the ‘wibe’ just wasn’t there.  To my eyes this is not a ‘pretty’ place (I have yet to find that but I am sure it is out there somewhere – I haven’t looked enough yet) but at the heart of this place is a very lovely warm attitude to people and libraries demonstrate this with abandon.

My ignorance of this place is evident as I wander around looking at the buildings wondering why they are so uninviting and functional…5 months of snow a year will do that to a place.  No big doors welcoming you in, rather small doors with small signs, no ‘yelling’ here.  On the inside you find warmth and noise, happy social people enjoying themselves and using their libraries like crazy.  There is a big tradition here of loving libraries.  
Today I visited two; ‘Library 10’ which I am sure many people know of and ‘meetingpoint@lasipalatsi’ which is a library with no collection.  It is a place of service where people can go to get free internet as well as free help with any technology.  There are scanners there as well as Mac stuff for doing photoshop and a new fangled 3D printer.  They also have a rpinter and vinyl cutter where people starting businesses or wanting to print a t-shirt or something can do so for 40cents and the they have a Laptop Dr  who can work through issues you are having with your device and help you in ways the guy down at the shop wont.  Free advice and tuition on how it all works not trying to work out the problem with the hardware, if you know what I mean?  Similar to the tutorial bars in the Apple stores.
Included in this space also are the ‘urban office’ spaces for start up companies, and others to book.  I have seen similar in other places where rooms are set aside for business…empty.  This place was full.  The difference?  Set up in the upstairs foyer of a famous but old building in the city with gold leaf on the walls (extremely cool) it is a bit shabby and put together but people come for the Service, the friendly knowledgable staff.  They are mainly men with the ubiquitous long hair…and they love their technology and love sharing it with people of all ages.  
What I am seeing here is innovation, focus on making services work and experimentation. Nadia at Library 10 admitted it has been a journey and things take time but their success lies in the commitment to the service they are providing from their space, not just the space itself.   Remember this!!! Easy to say it, hard to do it. Lessons in form and function.
Both of these places will close and be merged into the new central library in 2017 and they will then face the same challenge everyone else is facing, making a few flash building cosy and people friendly
And I am not kidding about the hair, there are 100’s of ponytailed men, they tell me it is normal. Also tattoos, lots and lots.   Best of all I met two cool people today who are going to NEXT in Aarhus which is a big bonus. Now I am up to 5 people I will know, so that is a party right there. And one more thing Lotta thinks the iPad is not a blogger friendly tool either. Phew .

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Canada Water

This library looks much nicer when you are close. Built to help create a civic or community centre for a developing area of south Docklands it is right next to the Canada Wharf transport hub and within walking distance of a 1980’s shopping centre. There is more development planned when two large shopping spaces that sit around the shared ‘water’ will be demolished and more housing and retail will take its place. Hopefully there will be some more activity planned for the area as you can see the potential for creating loveliness and activity is not quite there yet.


The library was full to the top on the day I visited and people were being asked to get off the floor and find a chair. It was study for exam time and half term, although the majority of the people in there were teens and adults. My host Linda pointed out that their popularity from day one was partly due to the tiny sized homes many people lived in and the space the library can offer to these people. It was very quiet in there and it felt a bit like a rules rule place to me.

I arrived early for my meeting so decided to visit the ground floor cafe which, along with holds and popular reads, is open from 8.30. Sadly I was unable to get the coffee which had been brewed for me because they didn’t take cards that had to be signed for. Although my card has a pin in NZ it is a sign for in the UK. One lost and very annoyed customer and a wasted coffee. It turns out the relationship is not great with the cafe…not surprised. The area open early is unstaffed and if someone is there it is the security guard.

Another interesting feature of the library is the theatre which holds about 160 people. It is managed by the local theatre group which gets funding for the staffing of it from the library but has to meet income targets which they do by organising events and shows. They set up the stage etc and do all the room bookings and set up. An interesting model I thought and I learnt heaps about what not to do with the theatre which was very valuable. The cafe is supposed to support the shows by being open, but it doesn’t.

I have many photos and more information about this library but am just talking about the special features in this post. I am also getting the hang of the iPad and am now writing the posts in ‘notes’ then copying. Still can’t get the photos to work for me but small steps are ok.





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Buzz about The Hive

Sorry for the pun, it is terrible but I need to entertain myself with titles.  I am also learning how important it is to post very soon after visiting and I am way behind now.  I have taken a few hours hour of dashing around London to put my feet up in the hotel and make the most of the expensive wifi.

I am sorry to say that the exterior of the building, that I was dubious about in a previous post Continue reading


It is difficult to find words to describe

It is difficult to find words to describe the visual impact of the new Birmingham Central library. It looks so much like the architect’s drawing which is amazing and a bit weird.  I absolutely loved it.  The really sad thing for you who have not seen it yet is that I promised not to publish any interior shots until after opening day (3 September 2013).  Fay Davies and the team want to save the Wow for the big day and I can’t fault them for that.  It is going to be amazing.

The gold layer of the building is the archive layer. The gold depicts the treasured nature of the collections

The gold layer of the building is the archive layer. The gold depicts the treasured nature of the collections

Even without people, books or computers and the other tech treats this building oozes charm and gorgeousness around every corner.  It is a very large building of about 30,000 sqm and comes at a cost of £188.88M. It is funded entirely but the Birmingham council, an undeniable commitment to the role libraries play in modern viable cities.  The other partner in the project is the Shakespeare Theatre.  Included in the building is a 300 seat ‘studio theatre’ which fills a gap in the market for venues.


As with all of the libraries I have visited Local History and Archives are a big part of the service.  Bring the treasures to the people and increasing access has been achieved in various ways.  Like most of us and exactly what I am doing, all the people I have met have been to the libraries I have been to to get ideas and learn lessons from each other and I can see the development of the ideas and how things have moved on even in the four years since the Newcastle library has opened.

Exterior detail

Without giving anything else away, I can say a few things that won’t spoil any surprises….electronic rolling stacks in the public spaces to get more collection on the floor without using extra space…lots of interesting spaces created in what is a very large footprint, levels of connection, computers throughout the library.  The foyer is huge and leads you up into the higher floors as well as the basement floors.  The foyer has also been designed to be used as an event space for receptions and parties.  It has enough special features to make it viable.


Not so many secrets here

Not so many secrets here

Brian Gambles and Fay Davies and their colleagues should be very very proud of their achievement.  Fay,  I know has been working on this project for 10 years and I can only imagine how complex the journey has been and how amazing it is going to be watching the city flood in on opening day.  Birmingham library will be the new ‘go to’ library so keep your eye open for the opening day photos.