Libraries should learn to attract people like cafes

March 22, 2024 | 03:36 pm PT
Trinh Phuong Quan Architect
Going to coffee shops to study and work has become part of my daily routine.

With a notebook and a laptop, I choose coffee shops with interesting designs. Being surrounded by people who focus on their books or laptops also makes me feel excited about my own work.

According to a research published on Thinking Skills and Creativity journal, young people tend to come up with more new ideas when studying and working at coffee shops than at home.

There are many reasons why studying at coffee shops has become so popular among young people in Vietnam. The shops provide a space with a lot of convenience and comfort thanks to drinks and snacks, as well as other services and provisions like unlimited wifi and power supply, clean toilets, and free parking and security.

They are the ideal place for freelancing or group meetings.

Some shops are even open 24/7.

Young people have a very high demand for an efficient studying environment. They expect a space that is more than a place for reading and searching for information. That's where coffee shops beat libraries, many of which in Vietnam are often deserted.

The traditional model of library, with book stacks, a librarian, and separate reading tables, has become unsuitable. Almost any person now has a smart phone, a tablet, or a laptop to search for information. Many books have been digitalized.

Public libraries need to change to become a destination for group work or self-study.

Instead of a place full of bookcases and tables, they should transform into an open space with self-serving drink area, areas for group discussion, networking, and digital screens to both search for books and read.

People work and study at a coffee shop in Da Nang City, July 2022. Photo by VnExpress/Nguyen Dong

People work and study at a coffee shop in Da Nang City, July 2022. Photo by VnExpress/Nguyen Dong

The drink booth should be the focus of the library as it will help attract young people and at the same time generate income for long-term operation.

Libraries can diversify services by hosting seminars, book launch events, or book club meetings. They can also draw more visitors by opening after office hours and during the weekends.

Vietnam can learn from Singapore's National Library Board, which puts its public libraries in crowded areas such as the upper floors of shopping malls, and adds dining and drinking services to generate income.

They have an integrated library app that everyone can access via QR code, without having to register for a library card.

Vietnam can also encourage the development of private-funded libraries, like Starfield in South Korea, which is open and accessible for free in one of the most shopping centers in Gangnam, Seoul.

Making adjustments to libraries is necessary to draw young people and keep the act of going to a library – whether for study, work, or entertainment – still relevant in the modern world.

*Trinh Phuong Quan is an architect.

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