Reimagining the Library of the Future

Public Buildings and Civic Space for Tomorrow's Knowledge Society

"In a good bookroom you feel in some mysterious way that you are absorbing the
wisdom contained in all the books through your skin, without even opening them.
— Mark Twain, 1885"


Acknowledgments By Steffen Lehmann

This book is presented as the open-ended research and outcome of two years of work and commitment
of numerous people. I would like to express my thank you for the generosity of everyone involved,
especially all the library experts, archtects and designers who made this comprehensive study possible.

Firstly, my gratitude goes to the International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions (IFLA) and to the American Library Association (ALA) for their support. In our increasingly digital world, I would like to thank my fearless publisher and his team at ORO Editions: Gordon Goff and Jake Anderson. Your trust and experience in managing the production of this publication was crucial. You all believed in the
project from start to finish, and it has been a pleasure to work with you.

I owe a tremendous debt to the immensely talented architects, library innovators, colleagues and designers who made their work and ideas available. I am grateful for their participation and contribution of statements (that make up such an important part of the study) and insight presented in this book. Getting this publication done would have been impossible without the collaboration of the designers; especially a
big “thank you” to the incredible firms profiled in the Part 2 section; twelve statements on the library
of the future were specifically written for this book by

eminent world-renown architects: Steven Holl, Antoine
Predock, Craig Dykers and Michelle Delk, Charles Renfro, Francine Houben, Max Dudler, Eun Young Yi,
Richard Francis-Jones, Ludovico Lombardi, Will Bruder, Winy Maas, and Gerard Evenden of Foster + Partners. I thank you all for your time amidst of your busy schedules!

My warmest thanks go to two valuable contributors of ideas: to Michelle Jeffrey Delk, partner and discipline
leader at Snøhetta in New York for the poetic "Prologue;" and Kelvin Watson, executive director of the Las Vegas-Clark County Library District in Nevada for providing an interesting "Foreword" to this book.
Keith Webster provided the "Epilogue" and critical feedback. I am grateful, you all made this a better book!

We worked on this book during the 2020/2021 pandemic, which helped to make the quarantine time
fly. It would not have been possible without the generosity of the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. Some colleagues have been supportive and I am grateful for their wise comments; and the conversations we had, which were relevant for the direction of this publication. My committed Ph.D. student Fortino Acosta was instrumental in the design of the book. Many thanks go to Cida de Aragon for her photo series of library spaces (presented on pages 22–29); and for constant encouragement and understanding over the years.

You all made this a better book!

Free University Library

"Among the highlights of the book are the statements by leading architects and library designers specifically written for this publication. ."



The library of the future should be an optimistic beacon, unlimited with an amazing balance of digital information and a love of books. It should be an environmental example of high technology, achieving ecological excellence. The future library serves an important role as a community-building institution. It is a place where a child can find optimism for the future of our planet and the human condition.
— Steven Holl, 2021

Besides the pivotal question on reimagining the library of the future, the author discusses the critical topic related to public space in contemporary cities. The consolidated trend to privatize significant parts of the public space has restricted interaction, free use and expression. The libraries thus possess the opportunity to become the catalyst of several new public activities due to their renewed spatial programme, their crucial urban role and changing societal expectations. Therefore, through the lens of the library, a new idea of public space emerges, and this is where the book makes fascinating discoveries and contributes to the debate.
— Dario Pedrabissi, Architect and Senior Lecturer, University of Portsmouth, United Kingdom, and
Milan, Italy

As someone on the forefront of contemporary urban societal and spatial transformations, Steffen Lehmann does it again: his newest study brings a brilliant discourse on the libraries of the future, reimagined places creating a lasting civic value and destination in the new digital society framework.
These open-society, genderless and inclusive agora spaces are beautiful works of architecture that resonate with people looking for a new grounding for culture, publicness and social capital. This book is a must for all urbanists and architects as libraries are maybe our last outposts of the enduring epository of history, culture, and meaning. The next generation of libraries in the network society will and are creating a renewed mission well beyond the storage of knowledge. Read it!
— Professor Tigran Haas, Ph.D., Associate Professor and Director of the Center for the Future of
Places, KTH Royal Institute of Technology, Stockholm, Sweden

"The new library spaces, like the Rolex Center in Lausanne or the Oodi library in Helsinki, clearly show how we could embrace a “Post-Functionalist” condition: spaces do not generate behaviours, but rather welcome or embrace and host them. Supported by the means of information technology, we are able to find intimacy in wide, busy spaces and communication in intimate ones."
― Cino Zucchi, 2021

I applaud this book’s deep dive analysis into the library of the future and, frankly, the timing of this
highly relevant book publication could not be better. The 2020 Census projects a demographic sea of change in the US, so as our democracy becomes more diverse, our buildings are ideally poised to become community service delivery centers. And once again, we will be called upon to reinvent our role as the great equalisers of society.
— Kelvin Watson, Executive Director, Las Vegas-Clark County Library District, Nevada, US

Beyond a reservoir of information in the age of disinformation, Steffen Lehmann’s timely book considers the library as a civic space for the production and dissemination of public knowledge. The prescient study of this classical building type that has been missing has finally been written! Reimagining the 'Library of the Future' presents numerus examples of different approaches to the design of libraries as
public space. It reminds us why, despite the gradual transformation of inscriptions from ink on paper to
bits per pixel, the library, with its extended media infrastructure, still occupies a visible and necessary
space within our cities and societies.
— Professor Iman Ansari, Ph.D., Assistant Professor, Knowlton School of Architecture, Ohio State
University, Columbus, US

Now that digital technologies have changed the way books can be stored and accessed, it is important
to remember that the media also triggers our desire. They tell us not only where to buy, but also where to meet and where to kiss. They can shape communities. Therefore, this book is an important and timely reminder that libraries are also important as public places to meet and share the pleasure of reading and knowledge.
— Professor Bart Lootsma, Ph.D., Professor for Architectural Theory, University of Innsbruck, Austria


"Richly illustrated with relevant examples, this reference book will be useful for practitioners, students, bibliophiles, librarians, and everybody who has an interest in the future of libraries."


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© 2023 ORO Editions. All Rights Reserved. Designed by Organ Creative

© 2021 ORO Editions.
All Rights Reserved. Designed by Organ Creative

© 2021 ORO Editions. All Rights Reserved. Designed by Organ Creative

© 2021 ORO Editions. All Rights Reserved. Designed by Organ Creative

© 2021 ORO Editions. All Rights Reserved. Designed by Organ Creative

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