Meeting place: library

Libraries can be many things: treasure troves of literature, social centres and resources for a digital society.

dpa/Eibner-Pressefoto - Library

When is a library a good library? When it offers many metres of crime novels by your favourite author? When it stays open late? When the armchairs are particularly plush and the bookshelves particularly high? One or other of these points may play a role when the German Library Association selects its Library of the Year. However, this award involves offering much more than the opportunity to withdraw into literature, to descend into other worlds. The prize-winning libraries are not meant to be isolated islands, but centres of connection and networking. Here are three examples of libraries that meet this aspiration and have been honoured in recent years.

German National Library of Economics

The library with sites in Hamburg and Kiel is the world’s largest information centre for economic literature – both online and offline. It houses roughly four million volumes and 26,000 periodicals. Using the EconStor publication server, it also makes a rapidly growing collection of documents available on the Internet. The library is a member of the Leibniz Association. The judges praised it as a “radically modern library whose focus on customers and innovation can serve as a model for other libraries”.

Stuttgart City Library

This prize winner also relies on digital competence. The German Library Association praised the way it developed and systematically implemented its forward-looking concept of the “library as an innovative place of study” very early on. Learning studios and 400 reading and working areas where 120 notebook computers can be used invite visitors to spend longer periods of time here – something that is very possible considering the generous opening hours (Monday to Saturday from 9am to 9pm)­. The fact that it is located in a district where many socially disadvantaged families live also makes the library an important social centre.

Prison Library at JVA Münster

The library of the penal institution in Münster also performs important services for society. It has nothing in common with the cliché of the austere, modestly stocked prison library. Two years before it received the award, the premises were thoroughly renovated and redesigned by a firm of architects. “The redesign enabled the colourful library to achieve a leap in quality,” praised the judges. It succeeded all the more “in making an outstanding contribution to integration through culture and education under very special conditions and with a particular assignment”.

World Book Day on 23 April