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IFLA Public Library of the Year Award Finalists

by on July 29, 2021

The International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions (IFLA) has announced five finalists for the sixth annual Public Library of the Year award, with the winner to be announced on August 19th during the IFLA’s annual conference, to be taken place virtually this year.

The Public Library of the Year award goes to a library that shows both exceptional architectural design and technological innovation. In addition, judges look for sustainability efforts as part of the design—such as using recycled materials—and how the designs reflect on local culture. To be eligible, the library must either be newly built or a recently refurbished building that was not previously a library. Out of the thirty-two libraries from around the world that were entered for the award, the following are the five finalists.

Marrickville Library, Sydney, Australia

After serving the Sydney suburb of Marrickville for over a hundred years, the local hospital’s doors were closed in 1990. Nearly thirty years later, those doors would reopen to reveal the building’s transformation into a new and just as vital community space.

The Marrickville Library houses over 85,000 books—to include an expansive historic art book collection that the entire second floor is dedicated to. In addition to expansive indoor space, the library also boasts an outdoor garden and playground. The library’s design is based around optimizing natural light, which includes cloth ceilings that help reflect that light coming in through the many windows that were original to the building.

You can learn more about the Marrickville Library here: https://www.innerwest.nsw.gov.au/explore/libraries/new-marrickville-library

Deichman Bjørvika, Oslo, Norway

Standing five stories tall and overlooking the waterfront, the design concept of Deichman Bjørvika is based on the idea of having a large, continuous space, and each floor serves a different purpose. In addition to a large auditorium, the library has a floor that is a dedicated to woodworking tools, musical instruments, printers, a children’s library, and more.

There is also a special room on the fifth floor for an art project called Framtidsbiblioteket, which translates to “future library”. This project requires one-hundred years to complete, as one book will be added to this collection from 2014 to 2114. Each year, an author is selected to contribute an original text that will not be available to the world until 2114. So far, contributions include books from Margaret Atwood, David Mitchell, Sjòn, Elif Shafak and Han Kang. Norwegian author Karl Ove Knausgård became the first author to place his manuscript directly into the room in 2020 as he became the sixth contributor to the art project.

You can find more information about Diechman Bjørvika here: https://deichman.no/aktuelt/_8270c70a-fb73-41b0-8d81-fe20fed69623

Het Predikheren, Mechelen, Belgium

Het Predikheren (translated into English as “The Preaching”) is a Baroque-style Dominican monastery built in 1650, which was deconsecrated at the end of the eighteenth century. The monastery has since been used for military purposes, to include as a hospital, an artillery warehouse, and barracks. The monastery became a protected monument in 1980, and restoration work began in 2010 to transform the monastery into the new municipal library. This restoration has come in phases, focusing initially on the roof, facades and interior of the monastery. The library opened to the public in September of 2019, and the final phase of the restoration process—focused on the adjoining church—was scheduled to begin in 2020.

The restoration work focused on preserving the historic value of the building, but that doesn’t mean that the library itself is stuck in the past. The Het Predikheren consists of four floors filled with books and other materials for lending and use within the library, study spaces, public access computers, several meeting rooms, a coffee bar, and a restaurant.

You can find more information here: https://hetpredikheren-mechelen-be.translate.goog/?_x_tr_sl=nl&_x_tr_tl=en&_x_tr_hl=en-US&_x_tr_pto=ajax,se,elem,sc

Ningbo New Library, China

Two hundred kilometers to the south of Shanghai is Ningbo, the home of China’s oldest library. With the largest collection of historic and ancient books in the region, the original city library attracted three-to-four thousand visitors per day. The Ningbo New Library was designed to attract even more and succeeded; within the first week of opening, the library saw over seven thousand visitors in a single day.

Set along an ecological wetland, the Ningbo New Library has five levels that houses over two million books—to include a collection of books for the visually impaired and a children’s library—as well as two lecture halls, a café, and a reading room. The location and orientation of the building was also carefully selected to utilize natural light and ventilation, as well as provide an easy access to nature through a visually open ground floor. There are also connections to a public plaza, a park, and a lake, subtly encouraging library visitors to retreat outdoors as a quiet respite from city life.

Forum Groningen, Groningen, Holland

The ten-floor modern building of Forum Groningen stands out amongst the historic city of Groningen, and inside is a hub of culture and community. The area of the city in which Forum Groningen stands was once part of the Great Market Square, which was destroyed in World War II and the resulting rebuilding efforts did not make a lasting impression. In 2005, an architectural design contest allowed citizens to vote for what would be built in the space.

The result is Forum Groningen, which is many things all wrapped up into one building: it is the main location for the city’s public library; has a cinema and media lab; holds part of the history museum; has exhibition halls; is home to Story World, the Dutch museum for comics, animation, and games; hosts workshops and classes; has a stage that has been utilized for talk shows, interviews, and debates; a rooftop terrace; and Wonderland, a children’s library full of books, games, and activities; and more.

You can learn more about Forum Groningen here: https://forum.nl/

Please note: some of these websites are best viewed in a Chrome browser, to allow for Google to automatically translate the websites into English.


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