Designing the library of the future

Photo: Livework

Photo: Livework

What was the problem?

In 2017 the Oslo Public Library will open its doors in a new landmark building on the waterfront. The design of the new public library building has generated a huge amount of attention and public debate in the city of Oslo. However, the core value of the library – the services they offer to citizens – was getting lost in the debate. A new building is not enough to excite citizens about knowledge in the future. Service design agency Livework helped the library to create a concrete service vision for a library in the digital age.

As books are moving from shelves to screens, the role of the library in society has changed radically. Libraries no longer hold relevance to citizens as a place to source knowledge. Today, a successful library must offer a meeting point for sharing knowledge, culture and experiences. The designers therefore explored how physical books in the library collection could be given a more valuable context through digital services, how the library could become more visible and accessible across the city of Oslo, and how it could deliver more valuable services by exploiting user statistics.

What did they do?

A team of designers and library staff conducted a series of in-depth interviews collecting user needs from a range of different user profiles, staff and external experts. The central findings from these interviews became the foundation for an ideas workshop where 80 of the library’s staff participated. The workshop resulted in a pool of over 200 innovative service ideas for the new library. A synthesis of these concepts formed 5 main foundational directions for the final service vision of the new Oslo Public Library.

The designers developed four concepts as experience prototypes and tested them in collaboration with library staff and citizens. The prototypes were carried through in order to quickly and reasonably harvest the maximum amount of knowledge about the concepts’ value for the users and the implications on the organisational structure and delivery capabilities. To create believable and realistic service experiences the team designed web sites, mobile interfaces, staff name tags and working stations to be used as part of real-life prototypes.

What was the result?

The result of this trajectory was the conceptualisation of service vision. The vision serves as a guide to the interior design of the building, as well as shaping the new organisation that will move in in 2017. Due to this service design process and service vision, when the new library opens in 2017 it will be one of the most forward thinking libraries in Europe. With its state of the art architecture and ground-breaking services within, if will hold new relevance for citizens, and will make a difference for staff. On top of that, the designers also delivered a tool to support development in the form of a service blueprint framework. The library uses this framework to design the new services in a unified and consistent way. The service blueprints also help visualise the library’s service deliveries to a key stakeholder: Oslo city council’s funding authorities.

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