An Initiative of The School Library Challenge
How do we counter the notion that the public spaces of Hasselt, particularly the Library area as an entrance to the city is perceived to be uninviting, or unwelcoming?
On Thursday 25 January, to draw attention to the Library, and to create a sense of occasion to this building at the entrance to the inner city, I imagined how the natural gathering of people could become a welcome ceremony. How could we create a sense of occasion in an area that has a negative public perception?
We approached the public with the proposition that we were “throwing a surprise party for the Library”, as a way of opening up a conversation about public space, and public institutions in Hasselt. A spontaneous, short lived party that lasted only 15 minutes that would put a frame around the official opening of the doors. With the residents from The School, the public were offered party hats, streamers, confetti, music and tooters, with an official ribbon cutting for the opening of the doors.
People noted in conversation that this was a “city library” and was therefore “important”. Some people were celebrating that different people were using the Library for different reasons, and many young students came to study. One member of the public commented that the Library is an “endangered building” and that they enjoyed that we were putting it in the spotlight. Interestingly no one questioned our motivation behind the party. One man even performed a spontaneous rendition of “Fly me to the Moon”.
People are conditioned not to trust each other, and are prepared for the worst in strangers. By creating small moments of shared community and positivity around the setting, it is hoped that those people will now leave with a different memory of the public space. In order to counteract the culture of public suspicion of strangers, these small interventions can shift the balance of how we interact in public space. Perhaps there is a future where we can celebrate these moments of human connection to create a more positive atmosphere in our cities.
Librarian: “I hope people appreciate the Library as much as you do.”
Created from the “Designing for a City of Lies” workshop by Soren Rosenbak