A Visit to Hoeb4U Youth Library Hamburg
This is a library designed for young people aged 13 to 23 years and is located on the ground floor of the old Post Office building that houses the Central Public Library in Hamburg. The youth library opened 1 year ago and is a 5 minute walk from the main railway station. The youth library was in response to an outcome identified by local politicians to address local youth needs within a library program and there is no set time to review the outcome of this project as yet.
The Youth Library has a collection focused on recreation. The collection includes board games, video games both for X-Box One and PS4, manga, comics, fiction, movies and music and totals 18,000 items. They will soon be trialing a Library of Things which will include skateboards, sewing machines, drawing tablet, hammock, film camera and more. At this stage they are only going to have 15 items and there will be 2 of everything to test the uptake. They will house this collection in the lockers which have not been used by the young people at all, which surprised the staff.
Fast facts: There is a reduced annual fee for this library for all young people and there is support for those from a lower socio-economic income but you must bring in proof of your circumstances. The Library is open from 11am — 7pm Monday to Saturday and closed on Sundays as are most German Libraries due to specific legislation prohibiting their opening.
A surprise: There were many surprises in this library as the team are still piloting new features. The music stations, a charging bike for sporty mobile phone charging, an eMedia wall, and a FotoBox are all attempting to attract young people to interact with and come to the library. The Library Assistants staffing this library were in the age range of the clients with the youngest library assistant being 18 years old. The Library Assistants also shared with us that the mobile charging bike is a total hit with the young clients and that they still get on it even when it is not working. This does indicate that active equipment, like this item, in libraries will be used by those young people who really do not like to sit still.
What did I love? All the different kinds of seating available. There were group seating options, individual seats and group rooms to gather in. This is a space designed for young people to stay and play, and stay and make. It also had an edgy design with timber, polished concrete and exposed pipes forming the back drop to the collections. The colors of black, white and charcoal also added to that funky feel while remaining very functional. It also had lovely high ceilings, a feature of the old building, which gave a wonderful feeling of spaciousness.
Events: There were also a number of events held in this part of the library specifically for teens. They were finding that there was not a huge audience coming to the events and were looking at different ways of marketing them to attract greater numbers. They primarily use Instagram and Facebook as their communication channels with the young people of Hamburg.
A Great Design Idea: I also really liked this building block shelving that has been made of acoustic material and doubles as an acoustic treatment for the space. The blocks were built up in many different forms along different walls and were screwed to the wall for safety.
What would I do differently? It seemed to me that the library staff were designing the space and the events with no input from the young people they were trying to reach. I would set up a focus group for the space and really allow the young people to decide on the events, select the collection and decide on what should happen in the youth library. The library staff have designed a space for play rather than a space for study yet the young people do want to study there as has been shown by how they want to use the space. Again surprising the staff. After spending a week at IFLA World Congress for Librarians and Information Professionals and seeing all the papers on participatory library practices I realize this is quite a difficult transition for library staff to undertake — give up the power to the audience. However, I do think this space would be far more successful with greater uptake if the young people were more involved in the decision making for it. Oh, and I would add more chairs and desks as the young people want to stay and study and it would be great to respond positively to make sure they can.