Open, unmanned libraries - what is this?

August 31 / Unmanned open library

Open, unmanned libraries are open to visitors, also when they are not manned by personnel. This allows for extended opening hours and yet, greater public service.

The reasons for having an open, unmanned library are many;  

Increase the accessibility for those who want to visit the library with longer opening hours. In today’s society we more or less require services of all kinds to be available when we need it.

The possibility to have open, unmanned libraries has increased in pace with technological advances. Internet reservations, self-service machines and card readers are examples of this, as well as technology with automatic start / stop of light, code locks on doors, etc.

It may also be due to pure cost savings. In Denmark, for example, closure of several branch libraries in 2007 was the result of a restructuring of the local government. To somehow compensate for this, unmanned, open libraries were introduced to increase accessibility.


Hayridge Public Library, United Kingdom

Let the books sell themselves

December 4 / Unmanned open library

Interesting book displays are crucial in unmanned, open libraries

During ‘staff-less’ opening hours, when there are no librarians present to explain and guide readers, it is very important that the books are able to sell themselves. Placing books on display units or sloping shelves, breaks the monotony of rows of books on straight shelves and assists library visitors in choosing an interesting read by catching their attention and showing the beautifully designed book covers.

Much like the retail environment where products are placed near the cash register or entrance to tempt you to purchase, today’s modern libraries are mimicking this ‘shop-concept’ and placing ‘quick choices’ and new arrivals near the entrance or library counter. This provides visitors with an easy reference point to choose a book that the library is showcasing and recommending. These displays take the hassle and guesswork out of finding a good book and use the book covers to sell themselves.

Hayridge Public Library, United Kingdom
Manchester City Library, United Kingdom

Come on in and help yourself

November 23 / Unmanned open library

Hamar Public Library, Norway

Self-service libraries that give people access to library services outside of normal hours

Through a combination of technologies such as RFID and Automated Loan and Return Desks, a current trend in libraries is that of an ‘Open Library’ which, in principle, allows users access to the library in additional hours when there are no staff present.

The interior design of such a library is similar to that of a traditional library but the layout is typically more open and spacious to give the user a clear overview of the library and to create a sense of security and comfort. In order to accommodate these ‘staff-less’ opening hours, a lot of libraries are moving away from big information counters and replacing these with small, pod-like counters which are dispersed around the library to be used when there is personnel.