New spaces for literacy

The public library is an essential resource in communities around the world. As the foundation of education and other communal activities in a changing world it has taken on a greater social importance than ever. For developing nations, libraries at the local scale are essential to the project of creating a literate, skilled society. But as use has increased, the ways in which people use libraries has changed significantly. Technology has changed the meaning of literacy and of knowledge. The library has become more a social centre than in the past.

The community library of today and tomorrow must be designed in a new way to respond to this change in uses. Whether building a new library or renovating an existing facility, the architecture of local libraries must change to reflect not only the rise of digital media but the increase in public programs.

Thanks to the vision of Andrew Carnegie and others a century ago, New York City has developed a great knowledge about how to make local libraries serve all the people. The Community Libraries Initiative aims to share that knowledge in innovative ways.

The Community Libraries Initiative was a three-part program:

• An international dialogue, conducted online and in workshops organised in several cities, including New York, London, Rio de Janeiro, Bogota, and Hanoi, the latter places now seeking to create local library systems.
• An architectural competition to discover possible new prototypes.
• An exhibition in New York and online, featuring the design submissions judged most innovative and creative.