The Intelligent Building, the Green Library, and so on

Faulkner-Brown’s Ten Commandments
1. Flexible with a layout, structure and services which are easy to adapt
2. Compact for ease of movement of readers, staff and books
3. Accessible from the exterior into the building and from the entrance to all parts of the building with an easy comprehensive plan needing minimum supplementary directions
4. Extendible to permit future growth with minimum disruption
5. Varied in its provision of reader spaces to give wide freedom of choice
6. Organised to impose maximum confrontation between books and readers
7. Comfortable to promote efficiency of use
8. Constant in environment for the preservation of library materials
9. Secure to control user behaviour and loss of books
10. Economic to be built and maintained with minimum resources both in finance and staff


These criteria formulated by a chartered architect and a library planning consultant still remain valid. Several library buildings have been erected according to these ten principles, namely, the National Library of Iceland, Bibliotheca Alexandrina (Egypt) and Juma Al-Majid Centre for Culture and Heritage in Dubai. But, in the light of recent developments, these qualities need to be revisited simply because they are inadequate.

Two new concepts in library building have emerged namely the intelligent building and the green library. Libraries as repositories of information or centres of learning cannot lag behind. They must become a place one seeks out happily in enthusiastic anticipation of intellectual stimulation. According to a report entitled: “The Intelligent Building in Europe”, an intelligent building is “one which maximises the efficiency of its occupants while, at the same time, allowing effective management of resources with minimum lifetime costs”. This definition has a wide range of implications which architects and library managers must take into consideration while designing modern library buildings. Wim Renes, a public library manager based in the Hague, Netherlands, believes that “an intelligent building is an enthralling concept, a state of the art library building with the latest and greatest in design and constructional technology, offering clients system that once only existed in the imagination of futurists. It is a dream of engineers, designers and librarians, a forum to marry new technology with creative design applications and a heavily used library building.

Nevertheless, with the advent of online information resources and their delivery via the desktop, the concept of the ubiquitous library – a library without walls, is high on the agenda these days. The importance of the library as a physical place is being more and more questioned. At the same time, interesting developments are taking place at the National Library of Singapore and the National Library for Children and Young Adults in Seoul, South Korea on how to integrate lifestyle habits into the library in order to capture a wider clientele and provide enhanced user-friendly services. Innovative ideas include, discussions rooms with full multimedia facilities where users can discuss and work in small groups on projects required at work or in schools , open-air courtyard with coffee club, the provision of outdoor garden adjacent to the reading room and facilities like water fountain in the library – in addition to the paradigm shift from staff assisted library environment to a largely self-help environment.

As regards the green library, it is an ecological library building which uses natural light to maximise use of ambient renewable sources of energy by means of an atrium, for instance. A recent case is the Taipei Public Library, Taiwan’s first green library – a building made of steel and wood located within Beitou Park. It was built in 2006 and designed with an environment-friendly architecture. It is a two-storey building with a lower level. The large wooden structure’s design is based on the themes of ecology, energy saving, waste reduction and health. IFLA has published some insightful monographs on library building. However, the guidelines contained therein are not meant to be rigidly adhered to specially in this fast changing global context. Rather, they should be adapted to one’s own country whenever the need arises to erect new library buildings.

For further reading:
1. Latimer, Karen and Niegaarad, Helen (2007). IFLA Library Building Guidelines: Developments and Reflections. Munich: K.G. Saur. ISBN 978-3-598-11768-8.
€ 58.00
2. Bisbrouck, M.F & Chauveinc, M (1999). Intelligent Library Buildings. Munchen: K.G. Saur. (IFLA Publications No. 88)
3. Annual Report of the National Library for Children and Young Adults 2006-2007. Seoul: NLCYA, 2008.


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