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WF’s library enthusiast Nikki Haw compares libraries to takeaways…

Lockdown provided endless possibilities for just getting round to things. One thing I was pleased to get round to was watching the oft recommended and long-running TV series, Mad Men. Set in a New York ad agency in the 50’s, a favourite episode explored the creation of a campaign to promote the modern concept of the ‘fast food’ restaurant. The episode culminates with three main characters eating a meal inside a Burger Chef; Peggy wants to shoot the ad there.

“It’s not a home,” objects Pete. “It’s better,” Peggy reassures him.

She argues that the constant presence of the TV, telephone and modern life in the house makes it impossible to truly enjoy a family meal.

This got me thinking. About libraries, and people, and the challenge libraries face in providing space, as an alternative to home, where you can relax and truly enjoy a book…

NH_World Book Day
How can libraries encourage their patrons to visit and linger; to eat in, rather than take out?

According to a recent study, just six minutes of reading each day can reduce a person’s stress level by up to 68%!

Reading helps to clear minds and minimise bodily tensions. Providing as many spaces as possible for reading and balancing the space available between browsing and reading is a critical consideration in library design.

Arguably, a library’s greatest asset is the universal understanding that they are quiet, calm spaces.

The reading agency published research stating that 31% of adults do not read for pleasure in their free time, and this statistic is as high as 46% for young adults (aged 16 to 24). Even though many secondary schools maintain a focus and momentum on reading for pleasure, statistics significantly reduce to between 17 to 25 % for these age groups – averaging less than a quarter of teenagers reading leisurely and in their own time.

This steady decline can in part, be attributed to the rise in instantly accessible distractions, usually technological – for many, a book has been replaced by handheld devices and instant gratification. It has paved the way for increased access to digital technology within the library environment but has perhaps diverted attention from creating a great experience for those who simply wish to read.

Reading for Society

There is immense power in reading and learning together, in a communal space.

Reading supports the expansion of our understanding of human experience by exposing us to new ways of thinking and new ideas, in turn helping our social fabric.

Empathising with people different from ourselves can contribute to a more compassionate society. By taking the time to comprehend the story of people outside of our immediate experience, reading helps us to understand and connect with people from different backgrounds.
Isolation is increasing and volunteerism is declining, never more so than following the recent pandemic. Places like libraries and community reading places with designated reader zones bring a diverse cross-section of society together and can help people learn and connect in a safe, supportive and welcoming environment.

Reading for Education

A study by Miller (2009) found that time spent reading had a greater impact on learning outcomes than any other school activity. A student’s enjoyment of reading also predicts reading ability but that this enjoyment decreases as they get older.

When designing and furnishing new spaces for education, we ask ourselves the question “do students want to be there” or “do they have to be there”?

Children who read for pleasure regularly are likely to do significantly better across educational outcomes than their peers who read less often.

If libraries in educational settings are inviting places where students want to stay and read, they also benefit from the support and encouragement that library staff can offer. And as such, are much more likely to read more and more often and become readers for life.

The Everna™ range was developed specifically to empower decision-makers to tailor their space to their unique community.

Breaking the barrier…

Intuitively designed spaces are relaxing and pleasant to be in, which in turn makes them motivating and engaging.

If book displays and shelving are geographically separate from reading dens and comfortable seating, patrons may choose to select their reading material and leave the library space, rather than staying on, curling up and exploring their new title.

Situating opportunities to browse next to accessible and comfortable seating areas will act as an invitation to stay and enhance their library experience. An enhanced experience will increase the time patrons spend in the library, in turn increasing the number of titles they borrow.

Break the barrier between the library and home by making the space home from home – inviting and comfortable but with the added luxury of guaranteed peace!

Not looking for a full re-fit? For a modest investment, our Cosi Corner and Breakout Space modules offer a beautifully simple solution to create zones, nooks, havens, sanctuaries or retreats.  Spaces that specifically cater to your readers.

Creature Comforts

The expectations of a library user are evolving, library services are changing, and digital tools are transforming the place libraries hold in education and society. But this evolving provision shouldn’t neglect the primary function of a library – to support literacy.

A modern home can be filled with multiple distractions. It can be difficult to find a space with none – that is comfortable and cosy and where you are less likely to be disturbed.

In a world full of noise, this is a powerful USP.

Your space for readers should not be situated in just one area. We would advise selecting our versatile Everna™ shelving and display bays and combining them with our cosy upholstered dens, to create zones where a comfortable nook is only a step away.

Promote eat-in!

So, make sure your library space isn’t the greasy bag or the missing chips – make it a place where people want to visit, eat-in and stay awhile.

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