MSR principal Traci Engel Lesneski recently presented a paper entitled “Welcome to All: Design’s Role in Creating an Inclusive, Safe, and Beloved Community Destination” at the 2018 International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions (IFLA) World Library Information Congress (WLIC) in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. The theme for this year’s WLIC was “transforming libraries, transforming societies.” Traci uses the renovation and expansion of the Madison Central Library as a case study to illustrate how a public library, city, community, and design team worked together to create a library environment that is welcoming to all.
Paper Abstract: “As places that serve all, public libraries often find themselves at the forefront of serving community members who are experiencing some combination of homelessness, mental illness, joblessness, or social dislocation. Libraries are responding creatively by expanding or adapting services to address these needs more effectively. At times these efforts alienate other community members who are uncomfortable, or feel threatened by, sharing space with the community’s so-called ‘undesirables.’ How can a library building become a place that not only serves everyone, but also feels welcoming to everyone? The building design process and the design itself can serve as powerful tools for creating a comfortable, safe, relevant destination for the entire community. This paper uses the renovation and addition project for Madison Public Library’s Central Library (Wisconsin, United States) as a case study. Through extensive community outreach, focus groups with local social service providers, and design critiques by members of local law enforcement, the design team identified several ways the reimagined building could address comfort, safety, and troubling behaviors. The resulting inclusive library building provides on-site assistance for those in need. In the words of a long-term Madison Public Library administrator, ‘MSR turned our library from a fear-based program to a hope-based program.’”