Future Libraries

As part of a range of measures to address the challenges of reduced funding from central government, Camden Council is exploring opportunities for reshaping Camden’s library services with the aim of making significant savings while maintaining the best possible services and outcomes for residents.

MA Industrial Design at Central Saint Martins explores how design and designers can contribute to collaborative, creative activities that bring people together around issues of concern, facilitate the articulation of these concerns, and support collaborative sense making and scenario building in response to them, sharing insights in meaningful and accessible ways.

In the Future Libraries project, research staff and students worked with council officers and librarians to design and deliver creative interactions that engaged library users and other members of the public in sharing their visions for the future of libraries.

What were the terms by which the project was delivered?

Why did the project take place?

Who was involved, at what stage and to what extent?

Journey and methodology

The students and researchers carried out the research in the following way:

– Planning meetings with Camden Strategy and Change team and library service leads
– Scoping research in and around Camden’s libraries
– Workshop with library staff
– Development meetings with the library consultation lead
– 250 face-to-face consultations with members of the public in and around Camden’s libraries, using creative engagement tools
– Future Libraries engagement and co-discovery workshops with members of the public at Swiss Cottage and Pancras Square libraries
– Circulation and presentation of findings to Council stakeholder

A full description of the methods and tools developed and applied in PCL projects can be downloaded here

Outputs and outcomes

Project outputs

– Creative consultation tools
– A future library ‘game’ (workshop method and tools)
– Digital publication of the project and findings
– Future Libraries project findings film

The Future Library Bureau tool was designed so it could ‘pop-up’ in places that non-library users might be found. The interaction around the tool involved citizens in a story about rebuilding a library that had been ‘burnt to the ground’ to hide the evidence of a terrible crime.

The Library Sticker Chart asked citizens to place stickers on a board to visualise their priorities for libraries now and in the future.

The Library Expedition tool likened the library to a fantasy island and asked citizens to locate the sites on the island that were most valued by them and explain why.

The Stitch Map tool asked citizens to draw a thread around the services and facilities they were visiting the library to use – to show their library journey. At the end of the thread was a label inviting the citizen to record their wish for the future library.

The Library Alchemy tool asked citizens to ‘operate on the library’ by selecting and prioritising the values that were most important to them.

Project outcome:
The Future Libraries project’s creative consultation findings fed into Camden Council’s statutory consultation proposals.

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