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

Second Workshop in Hamburg with colleagues from the State and University Library

05 January 2024
20 December 2023, the German partners held a second in-house workshop in which colleagues from different departments of the library took part in the process of redesigning the former Carl von Ossietzky Reading Room.
Technical details


To get into a creative mode, the workshop participants started by talking about favourite places in the library. Most participants mentioned the historic building that houses the former Reading Room, illustrating the importance of the redesign process and the significance of the new Carl von Ossietzky Hall as a space for the creation and sharing of historical and political knowledge.

Seven colleagues from different departments of the library took part in the workshop to evaluate wants and needs for the redesigned space. Their perspectives and work experiences range from public relations, library and event management, the organisation of local information portals and provenance research to the concept of New Work and spatial planning. Contributions from such a variety of perspectives were very fruitful for the local project.

The participants then moved on to a brainstorming activity to think about the functions of the new space and the possible activities and event formats that would be realised in the reformed space. It became clear that it should be possible to use the space for both traditional and experimental activities, which highlights the need for flexibility when it comes to furnishing the space. It was also mentioned that it would be important to leave the space empty and without planned activities from time to time, in order to open up the possibility of learning from the permanent exhibitions in this space, as well as giving young people the opportunity to use the space according to their own needs and wishes. A space should be created that can be used not only as an additional space for events and workshops, but also as a space for meeting, dialogue and learning. In this context, the issue of accessibility – will the space always be open or will access be restricted – arose and there is a need to reflect and discuss this further during the implementation phase. These results were also reflected in a second creative activity in which the colleagues drew or wrote directly on printed floor plans of the space to illustrate how they imagined the reformed Carl von Ossietzky Hall.

It also became clear that the room should be a space to engage with the history of the library, embedded in the history of the city of Hamburg and Germany. The library colleagues suggested that the space should partially be used as a place of memory, not only displaying the history of the library’s namesake Carl von Ossietzky, but also displaying historical documents about the library and its staff during different historical periods, such as colonialism or German fascism. Thus, being a part of the reappraisal of the own history as well as stressing the democratic role of public libraries today. By linking historical to current events, the redesigned space could serve as a first point of contact for its visitors with the history of the institution and the city. These contributions are particularly important to consider as the project progresses.

With regard to the function of the redesigned space, the question also arose as to how the Carl von Ossietzky Hall should relate to the other existing spaces (Lecture Hall, Atrium, Exhibition Room, Conference Room…) and that the requirements for the design of the space should depend on and reflect this. Several colleagues emphasised the architectural beauty, representative character and atmosphere of the Atrium and the adjacent Carl von Ossietzky Hall, which should be taken into account in the redesign process.

After some interesting discussions and a bit of overrunning, it was agreed to meet again in a few months’ time to look at the first designs for the new space together and to have a round of feedback.


State and University Library Hamburg