A 21st Century Library rivals a Starbucks

I visited a local library recently. It had been just re-opened after a major renovation that took seemingly ages to complete much to the consternation of the residents who felt inconvenienced by this disruption of a tax payer funded public service. Well,  it must have taken ages alright, because I felt like Rip Van Winkle when I stepped inside. What greeted me was a library of the new millennium.  A brief description of my surroundings on this occasion will suffice to make my point. Wireless throughout, person after person, seated at tables or very comfortable overstuffed chairs,  were clicking away at their various laptops, happy as can be.  Then, looking like a command center at NASA, I saw the rows of monitors, all in use, provided for those who came empty handed. There was the obligatory Youth and Children’s section, very inviting indeed, but in addition,  a whole separate room was designated “The Teen Room” with a life-size cut out of Captain Jack Sparrow of “Pirates of the Caribbean” fame, guarding the entryway – and then I spied “The Lounge” which sported a refreshments counter – coffee anyone. The shelves were filled with audiobooks, DVDs, CDs, and yes, books.

This post is all about creating environment, this can be done in real spaces and in virtual spaces – think of a blog as a virtual space, for example. Environment, which is a cousin to climate can be thought of in this way: “constructed surroundings that provide the setting for human activity, ranging from the large-scale civic surroundings to the personal places.” (from Wikipedia)

Now with any endeavor, you want to strive to “construct” an environment appropriate to the activity, to encourage involvement. You want to generate the “I think I’ll hang out here awhile” feeling. Each application has its optimal set of environmental elements which need to be defined and applied . These are not just trappings, they are integral to the total experience of the moment, and upon their effectiveness often rests the viewer/listener/participant decision to stay or go.

Of the many consulting projects I have engaged in over the years, I sometimes have been involved in working with restaurant franchising enterprises from concept to prospectus, and this type of venture requires the “packaging”  (see previous relevant post re. “packaging” ) of a complete  “environment” which can be duplicated for each unit to be built. I always enlisted the assistance of a particular specialist in restaurant interior design who in my opinion was one of the best. Everything was tied into a theme. Everything worked to create a certain ambience that was unique to that venue; the totality of these environmental elements quite literally became the “signature” of that franchise. Even the acoustical properties of the space were taken into account. Turns out “building in” the sound of happy chatter – the more the better – has a positive impact on diners.

Back to the library. There are many lessons to be learned from my visit to the library. Go visit one, one that you are sure is “state of the art”; observe the library patrons around you,  and see for yourself. In the meantime I recommend a visit to the DaVinci Institute web site. The Institute is a non-profit futurist think tank based in Colorado. The web site features an excellent “discussion” of the future of libraries, delving into ten key trends that portend the library of the future – a number of the trends cited have  broader implications for communications in general as well.

https://communicatorsandcommunications.com/2009/04/07/a-21st-century-library-rivals-a-starbucks/

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