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Copenhagen’s Wish Library

The Library House in Copenhagen – a small public library – took a cue from the Malmö Public Library and is experimenting with participatory design. Their project is call the Wish Library. Here’s a translated page about the Wish Library.

They’re currently focused on young adults, asking them directly what they want to do in the library. The first wish granted? A place to paint fingernails.

This is a very direct form of participatory design and it has the benefit of being transparent. Library users are aware – and surely they’re appreciative – that their opinions are being solicited. Taking steps like this can help libraries get comfortable with the process of participatory design, priming them or less direct and perhaps more sophisticated way to have users help answer bigger questions about the library.

Stine Hoffmeyer gave me some more information about the project:

How it all began
For quite a long time we talked about how we really wished for something new to happen. Something visionary that could involve our users – but still hold on to our family-profile.

The 29th of June this year I went to visit the main library (“Stadsbiblioteket”) in Malmö, Sweden. During the past few years they have worked with some great new visions to simply become “The Darling Library in The World.” This working title really spoke to my heart, but was definitely way too big to match a small library like us.

Somewhere in the library a group of tweens had been asked to come up with a lot of wishes for the librarians, because they were planning to build a special department for tweens only. These wishes were written on post-its and were hanged on the wall for a nice colorful collage. This creative experiment gave rise to ‘The Wish Library’!

I came back to my colleagues the following day and told them about this post-it-wall, and they all thought it sounded like a fantastic thing to do. One thing led to another and suddenly the idea was born: Lets make “a wish library” where the users can come to us with all their wishes and we will make them come true and create their favorite library!

The concept
It’s up to the staff to decide which of the wishes we can fulfill, but we discuss all of them no matter how difficult and unrealistic they might seem.

‘The Wish Library’ is addressed to all users regardless of age. They can either send us their wishes online or write them on a post-it and hang it on a noticeboard. A couple of times every month we gather some of the wishes and discuss them on a staff meeting. As mentioned, all wishes are taken seriously, but not everything is possible to fulfill. Some of the wishes are things that we already have, and we see this as a hint to make it more visible to the users.?

‘The Wish Library’ is a permanent project – an expand of our library user profile. It officially opened in October with a red carpet, free popcorn and balloons all over the library. We had a great deal of wishes the first week and we still receive new wishes every day. At the moment we count about 200 wishes and we are all very busy trying to fulfill as many as possible.

The wishes are anything from coffee to certain books or events. But they are also about opening hours or the practical arrangement of the library. Most of them are about cozy things like hot chocolate and extra couches.

About one time every month we post a list and hang it on the notice board for the users to see what happened to their wishes – to give them an insight in the process. Some users even wish to be directly involved in the process and we are always very open to suggestions! The list is also published online.

The future
We like to think of ‘The Wish Library’ as a brand. The logo is designed by danish graphic designer Marie Louise Heger.

We don’t expect for the ‘The Wish Library’ to cost us a lot of extra money or working hours, although it obviously will cost us extra work in the beginning. It should only be viewed as a reallocation of our resources. Before ‘The Wish Library’ the staff decided on what to buy and create for the library – now the users do it instead!

So far ‘The Wish Library’ has only received a real positive response from both users and colleagues and we’re all looking forward to fulfilling more wishes in the future!