GASP - Mildly Delirious Libraries

Caroline Vandriel, a MLIS student from the University of Western Ontario on co-op in Ottawa, attended today's presentation organized by the Ottawa Public Library.

On July 13th, in the Ottawa Public Library auditorium, Peter Robinson, of Mildly Delirious Designs, Inc., gave a brief seminar on his GASP process, entitled: Mildly Delirious Libraries. The topic is particularly appropriate for the time and place as the Ottawa Public Library is currently in the process of designing a new library space.

After giving a brief history of how his current work, GASP, came into being through the hospitality service, he related how program and building concepts need definition and cohesiveness. The process of developing a concept is made up of four elements: Graphics, Ambiance, Style and Presentation.

Using his work with the West Palm Beach Library as a constant reference, Robinson defined the four elements, giving examples for each. Graphics is the way you present a concept, and some examples are colourful and stylized. Ambiance is the feeling in the air, like modern, welcoming and friendly. Style is the service approach, such as professional or casual. Finally, presentation is the personality and programs, or the unique way a library represents itself to the public, such as theatrical, creative, or dynamic.

Library directors engaged in the project are to come up with a list of ten adjectives for each topic, while keeping in mind that these adjectives define what the public is coming to the library for. This criterion eliminates decisions based on personal taste, such as “I like pink, so let’s have pink carpet.” Design choices are based on the adjectives chosen to represent the public’s interest.

Once the team comes to a consensus on the adjectives, then the interior designer works from the list of words. The wordsmiths do not choose the furniture! He told of how he brought in 8 carpet swatches and asked the West Palm Beach Library people to stand on the swatch they liked best. They all stood on different swatches. Then he read out their list of words and they all moved to the same swatch, reinforcing the idea that personal preference is secondary to the overall concept.

One topic that came up in both Robinson’s speech and during the question and answer period was that of branches. Should all branches reflect the same concept as the main library? The answer was yes; however, there may be some differences in how the concept is detailed from branch to branch. The umbrella concept must be maintained in order to connect the branches and make the system cohesive.

Another issue raised was the lifespan of the concept. Robinson answered that while furnishings have a limited lifespan, the concept needs to be maintained. This would seem to imply that the concept is not dependent upon changes in style or direction that do occur in libraries from time to time.

The talk generated a number of questions, with a number of members of the audience picking up a leaflet at the end. This timely talk could have a lasting impact on how the Ottawa Public Library approaches the design of their future premises.

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