Wednesday, March 2, 2011

The Convergence of Museums and Libraries

Maeryta Medrano, AIA LEED AP, President, Gyroscope, Inc.

I've been interested in the convergence of museums and libraries since my grad school days at UC Berkeley. Some of the greatest examples can be found in Greek and Roman architecture where a museum and library were almost always paired together, often in conjunction with the forum, marketplace, and bath houses. These public places functioned together as the hub of civic life and a community gathering place.

Libraries, according to this article are seeing significant growth over the last few years, even though digitization has been replacing physical books. This statistic from the article is telling- "from 2002 to 2008 their ranks rebounded astonishingly, rising 7 percent among adults and 9 percent, the biggest growth, among teens, according to the National Endowment for the Arts. Moreover, public libraries in the United States have seen record usage, up 23 percent between 2006 and 2009, according to the American Library Association (ALA), partly due to the job-seeking resources they offer. So the future of libraries in a computerized world is potentially bright."

Some libraries, such as our client in Rancho Cucamonga, have taken it one step further by offering a place to record oral histories and activities for young children within the stacks. I know if my local library had these amenities, my family would take advantage of them and spend even more time there. As it is, we go almost every Saturday morning to check out books, videos, and sometimes magazines.

This summer, while in London on business, I spent hours at the British Library where I not only checked out a cool exhibit on maps, but also had an excellent lunch. Situated not too far from the stacks at a comfy couch with free wi-fi access, I emailed design ideas back to the office while enjoying a latte and a delicious chocolate torte. What's not to like?
I'm hoping other libraries will pick up on the trend to include more programming, amenities, food, coffee and comfortable seating.

I would argue this trend is important for museums as well. Although many do offer some visitor amenities, the right mix of programming, technology, books, cool architecture and great coffee is a sure way to make patrons feel comfortable and engaged.

See the article below for the full story and reader’s comments.

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