The library as public space



Many Danish cities are currently redeveloping their libraries or building new ones. The library is no longer a house of books, but a framework for learning, for new as well as old knowledge – both in digital and traditional book formats. We have seen many examples recently of new, library building formats in Seattle, USA, in Haag in Holland as well as the Idea Stores in London to mention a few.

In Denmark, there are also discussions about the role of the library in the neighborhood, in the city and in society in general. How can the library work as a meeting place and enrich public life? How can libraries be more integrated into the city both in daily life as well as in the overall strategies? These were some of the questions that were debated at The Danish Library Association’s big cultural conference in Odense, Denmark’s third largest city with app. 170.000 inhabitants, on the 23rd April. Librarians, politicians and planners gathered and debated themes such as library design – interior as well as exterior, as well as how library related activities can take place in the city, and how new partnerships can bring about renewed synergies.

The library can be seen as a public space. It is one of the few non-commercial spaces in the city and also one of the few places with silence zones and no ringing mobile phones (more might come…). Then there is the democratic dimension, the libraries are where a mix of ages, income groups, young and old share the same place. The potential seems to exist for the libraries to play an even more vital and active role as public spaces. This was the conclusion at the conference in Odense, where one of the key strategies of the city, is to select a new location for a central library that would help Odense  to transform from industrial city to a city that has a broader profile and that is rooted in knowledge, culture and education.

The libraries will definitely play a role as one of the few non-commercial public spaces in the future, but the role might vary from city to city, from neighborhood to neighborhood etc.




The Danish Library Association is an organisation which lobbies for libraries, in particular public libraries: Read more here:



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