CIL 2007 – The Library of the Future – Louise Parker Berry and Alan Kirk Gray

Great to hear the formal presentation of what I saw and learnt about the new Darien Library when I spent the day there last week.

Louise Berry – 3 principles guiding their building project, which is ultimately based on their library creed of extreme customer service

  • Covenant with our patrons
  • Stay ahead of expectations
  • First of the new libraries, not the last of the old

Two goals: – Design and build an absolutely fantastic new library – as the most important institution in their town, where everyone wants to come
– Use technology, whatever it will make us more efficient and effective and however it will meet our patrons’ demands. Its supply and demand, not supply and need.

One rule is to tolerate uncertainty. Hard mindset for some staff to handle.

Continuing vision – eternal values of extreme customer service, friendly and helpful surroundings
– new technology

Architect Peter Gisolfi :
Creating an interior streetscape on the ground floor, aiming to be the centre of activity in the library. First floor is traditional library. Building is green with heating and cooling fed by groundwater, using recycled rainwater and many more green features, which will give the building certification and mean that’s it energy rating will be half of that of similar buildings.

Building is 3 levels – basement which holds the power (tech) library, technical services etc. First floor is popular materials, childrens area etc. Second floor is traditional library with non-fiction, reference and more. They also have a mezzanine level with lots of study space. Exterior has a New England feel, as required by law.

Three levels are popular (ground floor), traditional (first floor) and power (basement).
Lots of spaces for collaborative work on all levels. Dilemma is the issue of permanence and change – a civic building of importance which responds to the galloping rate of technological change. Response: Permanence is the town itself, the building itself and its timeless interiors.
Flexibility with open warehouse/functions change, changing technology, changing patterns of service. Connections are the building to the town setting, to regional traditions, to the environment/sustainability, interior streetscape, horizontal connections/open floors, vertical connections/open shaft, institution to community.

Alan Gray:
Not just putting a layer of technology over a new building. Its the patrons library, taking real risks, failure IS an option, get it right and then keep changing to stay ahead. Need a library failure wiki to learn from all our mistakes.

Technology layers: infrastructure, administrative, staff, patrons indirect, patron direct and patron to patron. Most important tech implementation – a materials handling system that happens to have an RFID front end. Self check works for the benefit of the patron, materials handling can have a major benefit for the library. No Tech services, no Circ back office and no cataloguing. Workflow managers not clerks, with only a small workspace to deal with exceptions. Majority of materials come to Darien shelf ready. Outsource everything related to Technical Services – outsource shelvers? What would a library be if it needed no trolleys? Would it be full of knowledge workers instead? Active items back on shelf in 20 minutes, inventory turns per item doubled, cost per circ halved, time for order to first circ – 18 hours, annual circulation per FTE: 40,000.

Have a fast second order, direct order and ship direct to patron (overnight), delivery from distributor same day. Everyone out in front of their desks, circ staff become readers advisors, information staff are at remote reference points, technology staff work in partnership with patrons, a virtual library too.