ENCODING SPACES: Shaping environments that unlock human potential (coming fall 2015)

July 15, 2015, 2:45 am


Leigh Ann Soistmann

I have a project that has been in the works for a number of years. It’s 95% written and around 15,000 words or about 50 pages. It contains everything I want to say about libraries as physical spaces.

There is something for everyone in it. Big philosophical questions and practical design tips. It touches on concepts like harmony, balance, and rhythm. There’s choice architecture and decision interfaces.  Ambience and atmospheric audits. Priming, congruence, visual cues, impulse design, and neural wi-fi. It’s sort of like interior design crossed with social psychology and neuroscience with a heavy heap of retail principles and experiential design.

I explore four different “future” models for libraries: Showrooms, Studios, Boutiques, and Salons.

And I also propose four conceptual shifts:

  • From Third Place To Magnet Place
  • From Commons To Community
  • From Transactions To Transformations
  • From User Centered To Learner Centered

And there’s a section about “encoding environments” where I look at ideas such as inclusivity, belonging, altruism, wonder, agency, and convergence.

Oh and there is also quite a bit about well-being. I have to thank Frank Shushok for that influence. I also link “hope theory” to library experiences.

It has been a massive undertaking—my perpetual side project. I’m really hoping to release it in early September. A free PDF version will be posted online with my other recent works. I’m also talking with a publisher about a print version.

I hope it will be a conversation starter. It’s kind of like my scrapbook from over the year rather than something formal. The text is very conversational. I think it will be useful of librarians (and others) planning renovations or additions. Or even those of you embarking on new strategic plans or other visioning exercises

I’ve enlisted a partner for the project: Leigh Ann Soistmann. She is a senior interior design student at Virginia Tech and has brought the text to life with illustrations and renderings.

Here is a sample of her work:

encode_sketchencode_feelencode_big  encode_questions

And here is a taste of the text:

As libraries shape-shift in response to digital migration, our spaces have emerged as experimental landscapes fostering personal growth and multimodal expression. Our buildings are becoming laboratories for human progress.

Our goal is to create opportunities for people to engage with multiple streams of information and data, and to interact with each other. Libraries have been tinkering with commons spaces for many years and the next leap forward is upon us.

As we glance to the future a number of questions must be explored in terms of how we develop and manage our spaces. 

  • What are our intentions? What are the intentions of our users? Are they the same or different?
  • Who is our primary audience? What other groups and stakeholders do we need to consider?
  • How does the arrangement of furniture and technology impact what can be accomplished? What mood does it create?
  • How does one’s relationship with a building factor into personal success?
  • Do perceptions affect outcomes? Do outcomes, in turn, affect perceptions?

And perhaps the ultimate question: can physical space unlock greater human potential?

My aim is to stretch our imaginations. I ask that you keep an open mind on this journey as we dive into some uncharted waters and arrive at what a library facility can become. These pages will challenge some of our long held beliefs and assumptions, but I think that is necessary to stimulate our thinking and forge ahead with a new identity.

I’m going to be talking about this (with Joan Lippincott) at Designing Libraries IV, September 22, 2015 at Hunt Library.

I’m trying to use that conference as motivation to get this thing done. I feel like I could work on it for another three years and still feel that it’s not finished.

Leigh Ann and I are excited to share it… but there is still a lot of work ahead.


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