Global Communities and society, Culture, sport and tourism, Education and children's services, Transport and infrastructure

Modern libraries: Case studies and resources for local government


Oslo, Norway - September 24, 2021: Early morning view on Deichman - Oslo Municipality's library and Norway's largest public library.

Every week, we highlight inspiration and innovation from local government worldwide. In this article, we’re focusing some of our favourite innovative libraries from around the world. You’ll find best practice examples from Belgium, Japan, China, Canada and the US, along with plenty of practical policy and resources.

Have your own example to share, get in touch!

Policy innovation and inspiration examples from the local government sector

Belgium: De Krook, the “city within a city” library
More than 4,000 people walk through the doors of Ghent’s De Krook library each day. Opened in 2017, the modernist library has been described as a “landmark” and a “cultural catalyst”. Inside, every floor is different, with huge windows and staircases leading to meeting rooms hosting lectures, conferences, and talks. It hosts a makers room with 3D printers, laser cutters, and sewing machines, alongside a fully equipped student radio studio and adult education and legal advice centres. De Krook offers a team of volunteers to guide library patrons through digital challenges, as well as a language hub with a specific focus on learning Dutch. Membership at De Krook is free and comes with unlimited wifi and two hours of PC time each day.
The Guardian

Japan: The underground library in Kurkku Fields
Surrounded by green hills, Kurkku Fields’ Underground Library in Kisarazu City is designed for people who want to balance reading in nature with the access and options of a modern library. The facility is designed to seamlessly blend into the ground and surrounding landscape, with a grass roof and a heavy use of wood in the interior design. Some 3,000 books are housed in the library, with a particular focus on nature and agriculture.
This is Colossal

USA: Sustainability meets amenity in Austin
The Austin Central Library isn’t just home to 500,000 books. It hosts an art gallery, an event space, a rooftop butterfly garden and a “technology petting zoo”, enabling visitors to try out next-generation gadgets. What’s more the building, based around a six-story atrium, is next-generation as well, heralded as the most day-lit library in the county. The library received a Platinum LEED certification for its sustainable design and resource use; it features a 373,000-gallon rainwater collection system and a roof reading terrace shaded by solar panels.
City of Austin

Canada: The jewel in Calgary’s huge library network 
The $245 million Calgary Central Library is designed to be inviting. All sides of the building function as its front, with its unique interlocking hexagonal façade a nod to its focus on collective community. Inside the libary, which first opened in 2018, is a sustainable red cedar (from nearby B.C.) interior juxtaposed with a digital learning lab, complete with gaming and podcasting programs. At the same time, the library features over 450,000 books (Calgary has one of North America’s largest library systems), plus a $500,000 Indigenous Placemaking project, with works by Indigenous artists featuring prominently across the building. Calgary Central Library is organised on a ‘fun’ spectrum, with livelier public activities hosted on the lower floors, transitioning upstairs to quieter study areas.
Arch Daily / Calgary Public Library / Time

USA: Chicago library uses robotics to speed up finding times
The Joe and Rika Mansueto Library at the University of Chicago counts among its innovative features a densely-packed underground automated storage and retrieval system, home to 3.5 million books. This system aims to speed up productivity for students by retrieving books and materials within an average time of 3 minutes, thanks to the use of robotic cranes. The library also features a huge elliptical glass dome, complete with heat and UV protection, overlooking a 180-seat grand reading room, on top of state-of-the-art conservation and digitisation libraries.
UChicago Library

China: The library that blends into the beach
Situated on the white sandy shores of the Beidaihe New District, east China is the Seashore Library. It’s not immediately obvious where the lines are drawn. Designed to be human-centred, low-level and to blur into the surrounds, the Seashore Library is a two-storey public facility right on the beach, with one long window wall on the ground floor and recessed windows on the upper floor offering a panoramic view of the ocean. It sits around 80 readers, offering spaces for meditation, activities, resting, as well as a bar.


Resources to help build stronger communities

Old file folders books

Libraries as community hubs: Case studies and learning
This report published by Arts Council England presents findings from six case study areas of libraries in England that are co-located in community hubs. The aim was to explore different approaches and configurations; some of the opportunities and challenges that can occur for libraries through co-location with other services; and identify learning that might apply to other areas.

Gen Z and Millennials: How they use public libraries and identify through media use
This report finds that, in the US, Gen Z and millennials are using public libaries at higher rates than older generations, both in person and digitally. Based on a survey of 2,075 respondents, more than half had visited a physical library within the past 12 months. What’s more, despite 43% of these cohorts not identifying as readers, 23% of these non-readers still visited a local library in the past year.

Libraries shaping the future: good practice toolkit
This UK Government resource outlines how libraries contribute to local council priorities, ranging from wellbeing, resilience, prosperity, digital access, literacy and cultural enrichment. It also provides case studies of various delivery and governance models.

Campaign: Future libraries
The Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals this year has launched a new two-part initiative to support resilience and forward planning in public libraries. It sets out to engage library leaders and librarians to reimagine what libraries could look like amongst ever-evolving living and working patterns. Based on insight from sector leaders, including English county councils, it outlines the demands public libraries will face from now until 2024, providing strategic analysis of potential future scenarios and ways to best use library spaces.



Looking for even more on this topic? Check out our collection of resources on libraries, leisure and parks! Make sure you subscribe to LGIU to never miss out on this essential service for the local government sector everywhere.


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