The New Darien Library: It’s For ME! 3

After getting a special press-only sneak preview of Darien’s new $24 million dollar, soon-to-be-certified “Green,” state-of-the-art library yesterday, all I can say is: Oh. My. GAWD.

A Darien, CT blogger and mom visits the new library for press opening day, and notes its user-centered, innovative approaches: (emphasis mine in bold)

….beyond the fact that there are no more “desks” behind which Librarians sit, but rather “consultation tables” and Librarians who float around with tablet laptops dedicated to helping you find what you’re looking for; beyond the fact that practically everything from building materials to geo-thermal heating and cooling and air circulation systems represent the best of eco-friendly engineering; beyond the children’s section that is almost as big as the entire original library and easily accessible on the first floor, including soundproof audio-visual and activity rooms with heated, corkboard flooring as well as a toddler play area, bathrooms with changing tables and a Microsoft Surface, touchscreen coffee table computer for kids to use to doodle and learn about technology …….. beyond all of this, and it’s a LOT, what impressed me most about the new Darien Library is the fact that the books, everywhere, but especially in the children’s room, have been shelved, labelled and organized in a way that makes me feel less like a moron and more empowered to find what I’m looking for on my own.

Now don’t get over excited: our old friend Dewey Decimal is still used to guide the Librarians, but above the code that so many of us suffered to learn in grade school are easy-to-understand labels.  Like “KIDS.”  or “TRAVEL.”  The reason this speaks to me, in addition to the fact that it’s relieving me of the need to curse myself for not paying closer attention to card-cataloging techniques in middle school, is because I feel like the Library, which in my mind used to be a little intimidating and kind of like a disapproving Mother, is reaching out to ME.  “Library” is saying to ME that she wants to be like ME and doesn’t expect me to be like her anymore.

But seriously, this new Library has completely re-organized itself to represent me, and meet my needs, and be a place that is accessible and useful to me, my kids, our teens, our parents, our business colleagues, our book groups, our committee meetings, and everyone in our community.  And believe it or not, I only just now discovered that their new tagline is “It’s For You!”  So if you ask me, they absolutely succeeded in delivering on that expectation.

This is huge. Watch what Darien does closely. I know i will be.

AND – how are you reaching out to local bloggers in your library? This effective type of PR/Marketing doesn’t cost a dime, folks.

AND one more quote: “oh yes, food and drink and tables and socialization ENCOURAGED”  Teens, too? 🙂

3 thoughts on “The New Darien Library: It’s For ME!

  • John

    Yes, of course teens too! In fact, the teen population is a segment of our community that has been under served by us in the past. We now have a dedicated teen room and our coordinator of teen services, Sarah Ludwig, has put together and worked with a teen advisory committee to craft an experience for them that will exceed their expectations. The other change we have made is that we have completely split teen services away from children’s services and placed it, organizationally, under technology because we felt that they would be better served if they were considered wholly digital natives, which they are.

  • Gretchen

    While giving a tour for 2 girl scout troops yesterday, a mom questioned the food and drink – “anywhere in the library?” she asked, incredulously. “Yes,” I said, “anywhere!” She said, “Wow, you guys are taking a big risk aren’t you?” My reply was simply, “Well, most people take our books home and no normal things like eat and drink while reading them. We know when they come back that some people take them in the bath!” She nodded with a shrug and a smile. Guess she does too. 🙂

  • Library Patron

    I love libraries. I love to discover books. I spend several hours a day on the web, researching ideas for the articles I write as a freelancer. I have teenagers who read books, have Facebook, and watch television. We use new media; we read.

    But I’m not a big fan of the new Darien Library. My biggest problem is that there is no indication that you are inside the library and should alter your behavior somewhat because you are inside. So people are gossiping and chatting at full voice in the stacks. People are shouting to one another, “hey shirley!” by the front desk. And the check-out kiosks are beeping. And the rough, hard floor is similar to outside flooring. This lack of intimacy is a real problem for me and others. The ceiling heights, floor materials, and layout make it hard to find a book. Perhaps the mental shift I need to make from outside/sidewalk behavior to inside/thinking behavior is an old-fashioned one. But I don’t think so. I think you need a big front desk with tent over it–like a canopy–where the librarians live so you can ask questions. The canopy would create intimacy and encourage a softer tone in people’s voices. The current little desk to the side creates a weird traffic problem in the front hall/main street which is also where the most popular books are. So I’m trying to choose a book in a zoo-like atmosphere.
    The librarians and the necessary human interaction with those librarians to check out a book is a big part of why the Darien Library is successful. Not knowing where they are (where is there desk? do they wear special clothes? how will I find them?) or replacing them with flat screen televisions is not a good thing. The self-return machines are good; but can’t you at the very, very least kill the beeping noise on the self-checkout and move the 7-day books someplace quieter? and farther from the overnight DVD’s? Really, I think the architect should return a big portion of his/her fee. They forgot that human beings bring their sensory bodies to the library, not just their brains. Build a high-tech website, but give us a high-touch library.

Comments are closed.