Working places, furniture and technology: Strategies of flexibility of university library buildings - the case of Bozen/Bolzano

Klaus Kempf


For centuries people have visited libraries to find information, and the practical needs of housing collections and accommodating readers have been the driving force behind library design. As technology advances of the past 20 years have made it possible for people to find information without entering a library building, some have even asked whether the bricks-and-mortar library is doomed to extinction. But today we know that this (bad) vision hasn't come true. Of course, it was imperative to rethink library services fundamentally and in this context also to rethink completely the functions of library buildings. In this ongoing process one term became more and more a magic word - "flexibility"! When Gerhard Liebers, the doyen of building libraries in Germany, came back from a study tour to the United States in the early fifties, his experiences condensed in the term "flexibility". He was absolutely enchanted by the in those days modern and in Germany, at least in the field of library construction, still unknown modular construction principle (Liebers, 2002). Over the years the requirement of flexibility as an important aspect in the planning and briefing of new library buildings became more and more important. Today it is regarded as one of the most decisive, perhaps the basic principle of modern library buildings and in particular it got a new quality.

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