BIALL Conference 2018 – Designing our future: debate, develop, deliver

The focus of this year’s BIALL (British & Irish Association of Law Librarians) conference was the future design of library spaces, technology and services.

Taking place in Birmingham over three days in June, the conference programme encompassed a wide variety of talks from academic and law firm librarians, legal professionals and database suppliers.

In this blog post, I would like to focus on some of the things I picked up about the future design of library spaces. In a separate blog post, I will concentrate more on practical tips for library staff involved in a library move/refurbishment. Both these themes seem very timely given the exciting changes taking place with regards to our Library Services!

One of the speakers at the conference who I found most interesting was Karen Latimer, Chair of the UK Designing Libraries Advisory Board, who delivered a presentation intriguingly entitled ‘2050: A Library Space Odyssey’, in which she shared her ideas on the future direction of library architecture and design.  I was particularly interested in hearing her speak, because of the Law Library’s Sebastian Street project and because I have previously read some chapters from a book she co-edited, called ‘Post-occupancy evaluation of library buildings’.

Karen Latimer’s predictions for the future were very interesting. She sees a shift away from the construction of iconic library buildings (e.g. the Free University’s Philology Library in Berlin (the ‘Brain’)) towards refurbishment, regeneration and sustainability. Two examples of such library developments that she shared with us were: the Weston Library in Oxford, which has kept the quality of the historic building, but has built in some nice social aspects, and Les Aigues Library in Barcelona (an interesting renovation of a water tower!)

Other than sustainability, other possible trends that Karen Latimer highlighted were:

  • The introduction of personalised space, e.g. personalised in terms of heating, lighting and apps – so students could, for example, control their own heating in the area in which they are studying!
  • A move towards silent, even tech-free, spaces/ wellbeing/ nature.
  • A growing awareness of library staff space (e.g. library staff spaces which incorporate break out spaces, meeting rooms, mobile phone areas and zoning).

Moving on to practical matters, Karen Latimer gave us some ideas for dealing with the brief for a new library building/ a library refurbishment, and on post-occupancy evaluation. I shall cover these in a future blog post, together with lessons learned from a recent refurbishment of the Bodleian Law Library (a talk by Margaret Watson, Academic Services Librarian).

Further reading: for resources in relation to the design of libraries, Karen Latimer directed us to the following:

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