From Bodleian to Idea Stores: The Evolution of English Library Design
Miller, Rebecca K.
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Library architecture, along with planning and design, is a significant consideration for librarians, architects, and city and institutional planners. Meaningful library architecture and planning has a history as old and rich as the very idea of libraries themselves, and can provide insight into the most dynamic library communities. This essay examines England’s history of library architecture and what it reveals, using three specific institutions to document the evolution of library design, planning, and service within a single, national setting. Oxford University’s Bodleian Library, the British Library, and the Idea Stores of London’s Tower Hamlets Borough represent—respectively, the past, present, and future of library architecture and design in England. The complex tension between rich tradition and cutting-edge innovation within England’s libraries and surrounding communities exposes itself through the changing nature of English library architecture, ultimately revealing the evolution of a national attitude concerning libraries and library service for the surrounding communities.