Urban Knowledge Hubs - Transformative Societal Spaces for Hybrid Libraries in the Baltic Sea Region

Hamburg Pilot

14 June 2024
Technical details

The State and University Library Hamburg Carl von Ossietzky is committed to its namesake in many aspects: Open discourse, historical and political education and critical public debates are required for the democratic and peaceful development of society. The public is just as dependent on access to well-founded information and current scientific findings as it is on open spaces for dialogue and encounters. Such opportunities will open up through the participatory redesign process of the new “Carl-von-Ossietzky-Forum” in the old building of the library.

Engaging library users and other target groups in this redesign process serves various important purposes: familiarisation with the library and creating a sense of belonging, strengthening the feeling of being taken seriously in public participation processes and actually (co-)creating a space that meets the users’ needs and, therefore hopefully, will be well received.

Our target groups are mainly young people, high school and university students, but we also want the space to attract general library users and an interested public. To reach our target groups and offer curated events in the new space, we are collaborating with three institutions from the area of historical and political knowledge transfer: The State Agency for Civic Education in Hamburg, the Academy of Sciences and Humanities in Hamburg and the Association for Hamburg History.

Our new concept for the space includes four steps:

  1. Transforming the former Carl von Ossietzky Reading Room into the multifunctional Carl –von-Ossietzky-Forum

We want to move away from traditional, almost reverend libraries towards multifunctional and dialogical spaces that can be appropriated according to the users’ needs. Therefore, the new Forum will be an open space for dialogue and socialising, not necessarily curated by the library and further developed in time. Consequently, the space becomes an exemplary building block of the future State and University Library, described as an “Urban Knowledge Hub”.

  1. Active memory culture

In line with the work of the space’s namesake Carl von Ossietzky and our Associated Organizations, the new Forum will be a place for active memory culture that connects the past with the present, discarding a museum-like character and instead enabling open discussions on topics such as critical journalism, antifascism or democracy education. These democratic and social processes can take place in a direct manner with workshops, discussions or participatory formats or indirectly via exhibitions, readings or presentations.

  1. Make the space your own

The flexibility of the space will enable different (complementary) facets of use: Modular furniture will allow the creation of varying scenarios from the same furniture basics, foster appropriation by the users and remove the need for additional storage space. The technical equipment will function according to a plug and play principle. The use of the Forum will be self-explanatory, easily and quickly changeable and accompanied by short illustrated manuals demonstrating the diversity in space, furniture and technical equipment.

  1. Open space for learning and socializing

The Forum will also be useable when no events are in place, e.g. for presentations and exhibitions (partly permanent, partly temporary), spontaneous discussions and meetings or as a place for learning and socializing. The space will have an open atmosphere and invite appropriation.