I’ve never really had a dream job or ultimate goal in life but recently I’ve realised both of those boxes could be ticked by running a library. Obviously I’m not talking about your standard, depressing, concrete council library, I’m thinking of something a little more unexpected and thought-provoking.
I’ve always loved reading and while my first library was in hindsight nothing inspiring, to 10 year old me that 60’s brick block was AMAZING. Last year I visited the newly opened Birmingham Public Library on my travels and fell in love (since when did libraries have roof gardens and neon escalators?!) However while it’s a great place if you’re going to study or know what you are looking for, the only section that to me felt like it prompted discovery was the children’s area. In terms of enticing adults in to read for leisure, I don’t think the library format works anymore. With no time to browse every shelf or wish to talk in whispers, Waterstones is now a far more comfortable environment in comparison!
‘read.’ is my plan for a space which encourages people to be more experimental with reading, and shows them that there is a book for everyone. The theme of the entire space would change every 6-8 weeks, with topics on everything from the internet to space exploration. One month you might read a fictional adventure set in the Amazon, the next you might end up discussing the concept of independence. Fiction and non-fiction would split the space roughly in half, asking you if you want to imagine or learn as you enter.
The ‘imagine.’ side would be filled with sofas and comfortable chairs where you can get lost in a book. As well as places where you can read and dream in peace, there would be areas where you could let your imagination run wild. Perhaps this would be something like the Ideabox in the collage, where one person starts a story and everyone else builds it into a collaborative tale.
‘learn.’ on the other hand would be more of a space to discuss, predominantly a big table where a book club could meet or a speaker could share views on a topic. A wall of questions would exist here, where people could write up and help each other answer queries on things they’ve read.
As with every bookshop/library there would have to be a form of nourishment, whether this is a café or something more unique like a doughnut shop (the great new Nottingham Doughnut Co. is never far from my mind…) Independent publishing in the form of zines and magazines would also have a place in ‘read.’ pointing people in the direction of where else this idea is currently being discussed.
I’ll admit I don’t have the business model completely sorted, but I know I want people to be able to buy things they fall in love with as well as borrow books which they’re unsure about. Considering how many things in our lives are now on a subscription basis (music, films, even handbags!) potentially a membership scheme would sort the finances and create an engaged customer base. There would also be multiple opportunities to run workshops and events for both schools and other groups, adding ticket sales to the revenue.
I’m not pretending my idea has never been tried before in some way, or that it would be an immediate solution to getting more adults reading, but this is a format which would definitely motivate me (and hopefully others!) into being a bit more adventurous with my book choices. As a job, I can think of nothing better than spending my days surrounded by books and people who are equally as excited by them. Now all that’s left is to win the lottery…
Sources for these images and more can be found at https://www.pinterest.com/ugne/if-i-ran-a-library/