Influence: Regeneration and prosperity

Public libraries can shape and drive their communities.

Libraries as place makers

Cafe space within library
Carnes Hill Library cafe

A library’s ability to provide cohesion and identity to a community, and a democratic environment capable of welcoming the full cross section of society, has been identified as a critical factor in regenerating/developing urban and regional spaces. Libraries continue to draw a significant number of visitors who, by simply going to the library, activate surrounding spaces and streets, providing further potential benefits through visits to shops and other facilities nearby. Consequently, urban planners, local government and developers identify libraries as key anchors or place makers. 

Common urban regeneration strategies include:

  • Creation or re-activation of public open spaces and streetscape as a result of a new library 
  • Insertion of iconic or ‘aspirational’ architecture, which reinvigorates and challenges the identity and self-awareness of a community, and places an urban centre ‘on the map’ 
  • Transparent facades that connect internal library activity with the street thereby increasing public safety and surveillance 
  • Co-location with other valued community facilities to create a public hub, which is discrete from commercial pressures and reinforces a sense of support and belonging 
  • Spaces which promote partnerships and programs with other cultural and educational institutions to strengthen local learning, cultural development and identity  
  • Insertion of libraries into town centres, existing or new development, which are primarily commercially (retail and office) focused 
  • Spaces which promote the development and reinforcement of community identity through the creation and collection of local knowledge and culture. 

Drivers for socio-cultural change

Public libraries make excellent arenas for developing local culture and identity, thereby driving socio-cultural change. They have been integral in creating a brand for local areas as well as for cities.

Libraries are particularly valued in disadvantaged communities, where facilities and home environments may be inadequate. A new public library directly communicates to its community that it is valued, particularly where the facilities provided are far beyond anything experienced at home, work or school. Facilities which can stimulate socioeconomic development and promote social cohesion include: 

  • technologies for creative and local content, such as sound mixing and recording, graphic and design software, blogs, photo sharing, community radio 
  • archiving, preservation and display of local cultural items and artefacts 
  • loan or sale of cultural items such as musical instruments and artworks 
  • spaces for group discussions and talks 
  • technology training facilities, job search, Internet connection for small business 
  • spaces for exhibitions and museum collections. 

Public libraries are often a catalyst for social and economic regeneration. They provide resources for skills development, literacy and digital literacy, training and lifelong learning. For many communities, the public library building is often the only civic building in the area that is publicly accessible to everyone and typically generates significant pride. It is strongly valued by the community and this is reflected in its high levels of visitation and usage.

External view of library with escalators
Woollahra Library at Double Bay

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