I’ve been exploring the idea of capitalizing on unused/empty space in everyday places (in this specific instance, an airport) by turning them into non-traditional learning spaces.
My partner works at the Syracuse Airport, and talked about how there is a lot of unused or empty terminal space in the building.
At around the same time, my friend, classmate & colleague Anna shared an article with me about the first airport library near Amsterdam, at the Schiphol Airport in the Netherlands. In a 2010 New York Times article praising the innovative initiative, past President of the American Library Association (ALA) Roberta Stevens is quoted as saying, “We can’t cement ourselves into the past. We have to reflect the changes we see in our societies, and its clear that we are becoming more and more transient.” And thus, the idea of creating an airport library in Syracuse, NY or transforming empty space at the local airport into a learning space that benefits the people of the airport, and also provides marketing and outreach benefits to the libraries in this area was born.
Throughout the exploration of our required reading for the past few weeks, an integral framework to design thinking that stuck out to me was Tim Brown’s three stages; Feasibility, viability, and desirability (Brown, 2009).
Based on the subsequent success of libraries in other airports (including Schiphol, and five other libraries in the U.S–most recently Boise, Idaho) creating a digital or little free library in the Syracuse Airport seems to me a feasible, viable and desirable project.
I think that designing spaces for learning should involve a high level of strategy, and intentionality as well as a firm knowledge of what your target audience/demographic/community wants and needs. From layout, to signage, to furniture placement, almost everything can serve a learning purpose if the space is used to its full potential. For instance, according to Reuter, 2007 children said that finding books they like is the biggest barrier they face to reading. Theoretically, if library spaces for children were organized in an intuitive way that made relevant reading materials easier to find, this barrier to reading dissolves. As Brown, 2010 states, “A designer now must take the needs of the entire world, including the environment, into account.”
Along those same lines, I also think there should also be a dynamic interactivity between space and users of the space as opposed to a space being a static, monolithic thing.
Description of changes
A small pilot test of this design project would be the first step to change, in the way of a Little Free Library. The purpose of this pilot test would be to gauge overall interest of the airport customers’ in the service we’re hoping to provide (or to gauge desirability of the space redesign). Steps to implement the pilot project included:
1. Partnering with local libraries in the Syracuse area (or pulling from my own personal library) to put together a small collection of reading material for adults, teenagers and children.
2. Setting up pop-up little free libraries in the empty terminal spaces pictured above.
3. Observing those pop-up little free libraries, engaging with the airport customers using the little free libraries, and gathering valuable feedback to get started on next steps for a bigger, perhaps more digital airport library.
As the space redesign progresses, more updates will follow. Stay tuned!
Comments on other posts:
1. Patricia’s blog
2. Shannon’s blog
3. Rochelle’s blog
Brown, T. (2009). Change by design: How design thinking transforms organizations and inspires innovation Harper Collins.
Clark, N. (2010). At schiphol, an unlikely sanctuary of books. Retrieved, 2014, Retrieved from http://www.nytimes.com/2010/09/16/arts/16iht-library.html
Prentice, G. (2014). Branching out: Boise library goes digital at the airport. Retrieved, 2014, Retrieved from http://www.boiseweekly.com/boise/branching-out/Content?oid=3191173
Reuter, K. A.“Children selecting books in a library”: Extending models of information behavior to a recreational setting. (Doctorate, University of Maryland).