From the-book to the city. Public libraries' urban role in contemporary city

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


The individualistic tendencies of contemporary society caused by the new forms of capitalism and the dematerialization of information sources have produced a progressive reduction of collective places in our cities. The square (la Piazza) is from immemorial time the heart of the historical city: a place that citizens have chosen for their leisure and encounters, for trade and exchanges. Today, such social gathering places, are progressively disappearing, replaced by centers for business and entertainment to which, in various ways, are increasingly delegated for the management and planning of the inhabitants leisure time. The question becomes an emergency when we realize that everything within these centers is dominated by laws and statutes linked to the world of private business, everything is designed with commercial purposes. We risk delegating our public spaces attractiveness entirely to private contractors. This occurrence highlights the need to bring these places to their urban and public size.Simultaneously, there is a greater demand for places where people can cultivate various interests and have opportunities to meet and exchange with others. In The Great, Good Place, the American sociologist Ray Oldenburg, argues the importance of these places in the development of a community, of a city, calling them "Third Places". These are a safe and informal, neutral ground, where people feel at ease and have the opportunity to relax, meet and socialize. The library, citing John Stanley (The third place: the library role in today's society published in Marketing Library Service), could be a "Third Place" par excellence.If we analyse contemporary projects, we can understand how many institutions, such as museums, galleries and in particular libraries, with a specific functional purpose in the past, now have a wide urban role: they become landmarks and new urban squares. Even if they preserve their original cultural characteristics, public libraries have, nowadays, lost the sacred character of a knowledge preservation place. They become increasingly the center of social life in the cities.When these projects are integrated with the urban renewal process we produce new "squares of knowledge", new centers, from which can start a largest process of urban renewal. Contemporary projects (like in London, Copenhagen, Montpellier, etc.) show how the building of a library gives the "incipit" for different urban renewal process and for social transformations and how from it, frequently, starts the renewal process of an urban area. The research aims to deduce the features extending a theory valid for "social places" on the small scale (the library) to "social places" on the large scale (the city and the territory).
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationURBANISM AFTER URBANISM
Number of pages7
Publication statusPublished - 2013


Dive into the research topics of 'From the-book to the city. Public libraries' urban role in contemporary city'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this