Posted by: Emily | February 15, 2010

How do I make my library like an ice rink?

So I went ice skating today in Prospect Park. It was fun. Of course, it was also an exercise in the particular ways NYC can buzzkill fun things–time between getting in line and getting on the ice was approximately an hour, and then there were just too many of us out there (love particular children, children in general not so much). A sign on the wall said the facility could hold 1600 people. Only in New York kids, only in New York.

That said, something about the ice rink worked really well. While most of us couldn’t skate at all, there was a small clutch of really exceptional skaters who were trying out tricks, skating really fast, impressing and gaming each other. Most of the rink was ceded to those of us on the slow clockwise circle, but the curve out to the left belonged to the guys born with skates on their feet. There wasn’t any signage, nobody told me about that before I went out, but the way the space was being used told me immediately what it was for. I didn’t belong in that corner, so I just skated around it. We all did. It was practically automatic.

This made me think of our library spaces, some of which we try to maintain as quiet study, others for research work, still others for group work. We put up signs telling people what to do in each, and then we go around shushing and policing compliance with our signage. It would be great to design a library with spaces that read this easily. Or maybe it works the other way around–see how people use our space and then delineate the spaces accordingly? How do we make the library function as a multi-use space that supports a range of user needs without relying on table tents and me telling you what to do?

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  1. […] How do I make my library like an ice rink? […]


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