Libraries of Light: British Public Library Design in the Long 1960s

2 September 2023 By

Libraries of Light: British Public Library Design in the Long 1960s


In the long 1960s, British public library design underwent a significant transformation. The traditional image of a dimly lit, musty library was replaced by a new concept of bright and open spaces. This article explores the innovative design elements that characterized this era and how they revolutionized the library experience.

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Libraries as Beacons of Light

Embracing Natural Light

One of the key design principles of the long 1960s was the emphasis on natural light. Architects and designers recognized the positive impact of sunlight on the overall ambiance of the library. Large windows and skylights were incorporated into the design, allowing ample natural light to flood the reading areas. This not only created a pleasant atmosphere but also reduced the need for artificial lighting during the day.

Open Floor Plans

Another significant departure from traditional library design was the adoption of open floor plans. The long 1960s saw the removal of excessive partitions and barriers, creating a sense of spaciousness and accessibility. The open layout encouraged exploration and facilitated easy navigation within the library. It also promoted a sense of community, as readers could interact and engage with each other more freely.

Breaking the Mold: Innovative Features

Modular Furniture

The long 1960s witnessed the introduction of modular furniture in public libraries. This flexible and adaptable furniture allowed for easy rearrangement and customization of spaces. Readers could create their own comfortable reading nooks or collaborative study areas, enhancing the overall user experience. The modular approach also facilitated efficient space utilization, making libraries more versatile and accommodating.

Technology Integration

As the 1960s progressed, technology began to play a more prominent role in library design. British public libraries embraced this change by incorporating modern amenities such as audiovisual equipment, computer terminals, and microfilm readers. These technological advancements not only enhanced research capabilities but also attracted a younger audience, making libraries more relevant and engaging.

Frequently Asked Questions

1. Did all British public libraries adopt these design changes in the long 1960s?

No, not all libraries immediately embraced these design changes. While some libraries underwent extensive renovations, others gradually incorporated these innovations over time. The pace of transformation varied across different regions and budgets.

2. How did the public respond to these new library designs?

The public response was generally positive. The bright and open spaces created a welcoming environment that appealed to a wider audience. The increased accessibility and integration of technology also attracted more visitors, especially younger generations.


The long 1960s marked a turning point in British public library design. The introduction of natural light, open floor plans, modular furniture, and technology integration transformed libraries into vibrant and dynamic spaces. These innovative design elements not only enhanced the user experience but also ensured that libraries remained relevant in an ever-changing world.