October 20, 2014

Looking Through the Labrary Lens: Lessons from the Library Test Kitchen | Library by Design

SPACES POPPING UP (From l.–r.): Labrary’s Bookface installation; Makers seek to design at the Bubbler program at Madison Public Library; Brooklyn Public Library’s Info Commons recording and video space. Brooklyn Public Library Photo By ©2013 Philip Greenberg; Bubbler Photo Courtesy Of Madison Public Library

In fall 2012, the Harvard Labrary—a temporary “pop-up” space in an empty storefront in Harvard Square, Cambridge, MA—was opened as a public gallery for design student projects from the semester-long Library Test Kitchen (LTK) seminar at Harvard’s Graduate School of Design.

Making Room for Innovation

ATTRACTION ABOUNDS At top, the 4th Floor Maker space with its 3-D printing lab was a highlight of the night at the 2013 
Tennessee Library Association annual conference held in the library space; the Labrary storefront (bottom) likewise attracted passers-by into its experimental area to see how future library design might look. 
4th floor photo by Mary Barnett; Labrary photo courtesy of Jennifer Koerberber

Two library service prototyping spaces, in two very different places, have a remarkable amount in common. Nate Hill runs and operates the 4th Floor in Chattanooga, a large public library loft space operating as a flexible community makerspace and event space. Jeff Goldenson co-ran and operated Labrary, a 37-day design experiment occupying a vacant storefront in Cambridge.

The Harvard Labrary: A Design Experiment in Library Futures

The exterior of the Labrary

Since November, the Harvard Labrary—a temporary ‘pop-up’ space in an empty storefront in the middle of Harvard Square—has been a public gallery for design student projects on the future of libraries. The projects come out of this fall’s semester-long Library Test Kitchen (LTK) seminar at Harvard’s Graduate School of Design. With an open door every Monday through Saturday, the Labrary invites passersby to come in, interact with the projects, or just sit and work.