Transforming Mid 20th-Century Libraries to Meet 21st- Century Needs

LESNESKI, Traci Engel (2015) Transforming Mid 20th-Century Libraries to Meet 21st- Century Needs. Paper presented at: IFLA WLIC 2015 - Cape Town, South Africa in Session 75 - Library buildings and Equipment. In: IFLA WLIC 2015 - Cape Town, South Africa.

Bookmark or cite this item: http://library.ifla.org/id/eprint/1170
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Language: English (Original)
Available under licence Creative Commons Attribution.

Abstract

Transforming Mid 20th-Century Libraries to Meet 21st- Century Needs

Many developed countries saw a post-World War II construction boom from the 1950s–1970s, resulting in thousands of international, modern, and brutalist style civic buildings. Although referring to architectural styles or design philosophies, the terms “modern” and “brutal” in particular are often used to convey the perception of a lack of sensitivity to qualities humans value in buildings (in fact, the term brutalist refers to the concrete used in construction, derived from the French béton brut, or “raw concrete”). In the US, these mid-20th century buildings were often designed in response to Cold War fears as bunker-like buildings with limited access to daylight and views. Many of the world’s libraries inhabit such structures today. Built when the term collection referred to physical books and was one of the sole measures of a library’s quality, these midcentury buildings were efficient shelter for stacks. Today, libraries struggle to provide relevant services in these rigid, often decaying buildings. Due to defunct building systems, inflexible interiors, and lack of insulation and daylight, they often end up on demolition lists despite their intrinsic value. However, with vision and careful planning, these buildings can embody 21st-century library tenets.

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