By Akanksha Gupta
For centuries, libraries have played a huge role in the preservation and propagation of culture. Yet, books are no longer the sole standard of epistemic credibility. Bite-sized information available within seconds of request is the antithesis of book-based research.
Architectural morphology would indicate the opposite. While knowledge continues to change hands and forms, the need to make it available to a wide audience remains constant. Through years of research, we have devised a framework for transforming libraries that includes the following:
Flexibility and Adaptability
In order to encourage collaboration and exchange, libraries must adopt agile layouts. Drawing from Dr. David Thornburg’s theory of archetypal learning spaces, the library precinct can be re-imagined as a composition of three zones. These include Instructional spaces to absorb information directly, Collaborative spaces to share ideas and Private spaces to work at individual level.
Modern library spaces must include a holistic mix of these spatial typologies to ensure learning environments best suited to students’ needs and temperament. These typologies can be interpreted in the form of study halls, discussion areas, activity floors, reading nooks and quiet corners.
The application of the theory transforms traditional libraries into Learning Commons, which prioritise user engagement over silent reading spaces. By focusing on zone creation, Learning Commons ensures that the learning needs of each user are met without hindering another’s.
Agility in library design can be further interpreted through spatial strategies that allow for user-led customization, such as movable partitions and modular furniture. To keep pace with technological advancements, libraries must be designed in a manner that accommodates user-based and device-based changes that are bound to occur over time, with minimal disruption.
Alternative Modes of Learning
Sensory engagement is a crucial aspect of neurological development. Keeping this in mind, we have been advocating for the inclusion of Maker Spaces in library precincts across a variety of projects. Firstly, top-down instruction models are inefficient when utilised in isolation. Secondly, libraries must enable interaction between users, in order to reposition themselves as crucial cultural institutions.
In view of these ideas, Maker Spaces emerge as the perfect morphological complement for traditional libraries. Incorporating coding stations, AV equipment, paper and 3D printers and traditional arts and crafts supplies, Maker Spaces encourage students to learn through action and collaboration.
As integrating technology within learning spaces gains momentum across India, libraries provide the perfect testing ground for these parameters. A variety of tech-based tools – digitised reference databases, eBooks, IoT-enabled workstations, interactive whiteboards and tablets – can be assimilated within the traditional library setup to encourage independent learning and exploration among students within a supervised environment.
Not only do these interventions contribute towards improved research and analytical skills, they can help streamline existing instruction models to improve classroom learning in the long run.
Integrating technology in libraries also eliminates the issue of availability and access, making it possible for students to use these resources at the time and pace of their own choosing. It allows for institutional inter-linking and resource sharing, greatly broadening the knowledge base that students can draw from – a model used successfully by New York public libraries.
While recent shifts in communication technology have decentralised the power of books, the same developments may be utilised to reinvent libraries in order to support learning across a wide spectrum of interests and abilities. At the school level itself, libraries can form the backbone of participative practices that nurture a scientific temperament as well as independence of thought.
The author of this article is architect, partner, Vijay Gupta Architects. Views expressed are personal.