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What Makes a Good Library?

Updated on August 3, 2014

Have you ever wondered what makes a good library ?

As I stepped into the Birkenhead library in Auckland, New Zealand, the beautiful interior design impressed me. I thought I have stepped into a bookstore in a shopping mall. As I walked up to the first floor, I was welcomed with glass-fencing overlooking to the ground floor. The high wall comes with windows looking out to the amazing view of Birkenhead port.

With the library card, one can borrow up to 35 books at one time for the duration of 1 month. Now, that is a lot of books to borrow, and I was thinking, since I can finish reading a book in two days, 35 books for two weeks is certainly great. Then, as I wondered how one can keep tracked of the books’ due date, especially if she has borrowed the books at different time, I was told that the library system will send an email to the borrower 5 days before the due date. Borrowers can always renew the books online. Now, isn’t that awesome?

Birkenhead Library, Auckland, New Zealand.
Birkenhead Library, Auckland, New Zealand.
Birkenhead Library, Auckland, New Zealand
Birkenhead Library, Auckland, New Zealand
Birkenhead Library, Auckland
Birkenhead Library, Auckland
Birkenhead Library, Auckland, New Zealand
Birkenhead Library, Auckland, New Zealand

In Australia, libraries are available in the shopping malls. Borrowers can return the books to library situated inside the shopping malls that are close to your residential area. I think that is an excellent location for libraries, and a great motivator for people to borrow and read more books.

What Makes a Good Library System? Here are my opinions from my experience:

1) The library has plenty supply of books to members especially the popular books or the award winning books. The more the better.

2) Allow users to borrow a good number of books at one time. I think 20 books or more is great. Users do not need to frequent the library as often.

3) Help member keeping track of the due date before it is due, for instance, a reminder 5 days before due date is helpful.

4) Location of the libraries – make the library available in public places such as the shopping malls.

5) Ease of returning the books such as drop-in box after library is closed, and allowing books to be returned to any library in the city.

6) Allowing members to keep track of books borrowed online

7) Allowing members to renew the books online

8) Enable members to search for the books required online and make a reservation for it. It is important that the librarian goes and searches for the book and keeps it for the member, and sends an email or text message to the member to let her know that the book has been kept for her. Books reserved are arranged on dedicated shelf in the library for the member to pick up easily and check out.

9) Books available can be found at the location indicated. I have been to libraries where books are shown available on the computer, but are not found on the book shelf indicated.

10) Conducive surrounding in the library that makes reading a pleasure. Glass windows to allow readers to look out to green scenery are great for eye relaxation.

11) Helpful and friendly librarians. Nothing is more welcoming than a librarian who is always happy to assist the users and take care of their needs.

12) Self-serve checkout machines will cut the queueing time during book checkout.

13) Many public libraries in the US provide the online lending library facility. With this facility, you don't have to physically visit the library at all. You can check out a book online, download it and put it on your reader. After you are done with the book, you electronically return the books to the library just like "real" books.

14) The availability of discussion rooms are great for group discussion, especially for students who are doing group projects.

15) A Cafe or canteen nearby or next to the library will be great for library users to grab a drink or a bite when they are hungry.

16) Building the library beside a park or garden is also another good idea to allow library users to take a break from the library. Some people stay in the library for the whole day, and they need to take a break at times. Having a Cafe or park nearby will provide them with the opportunity for such breaks.

I love to read. Hence, library has always been one of my favourite places to hang around. I hope this article will help to improve your local library management system. If you have any suggestion on how to improve the library system, please feel free to leave a comment. I will really appreciate that. And I may add them to my list above and forward the suggestions to my local libraries.

Singapore National Library
Singapore National Library
Looking up in the atrium of Singapore National Library
Looking up in the atrium of Singapore National Library

Singapore National Library

Singapore National Library never ceases to impress me. Located close to two MRT station (Bugis MRT Station and Bras Basah MRT Station), this library is a 16 storey two-block buildings with three basements. The two blocks are linked by sky bridges on every floor. The highest floor, 16th floor is reserved for functions and events and it comes with closed viewing point called the Pod. From the Pod, the visitor can have a panoramic view of the island of Singapore, outlying islands, and also neighbouring countries such as Malaysia and Indonesia. Isn’t that impressive!

Gardens are built inside the buildings and two of them (Courtyard on Level 5 and the Retreat on Level 10) are opened to the public, offering a good view of the city. The building also has three public panoramic elevators with a city view. Escalators are available from Basement 3 up to the 14th floor. The building houses car park with 246 lots. The main entrance is on the first floor. Upon entry, you can view the Cafe and the Plaza, a wide area sometimes used for exhibition.

So, if you do visit Singapore, don’t forget to pay this library a visit!

Recommended Books on Library Management


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