The Glamour of Public Libraries


The latest exhibition of Glasgow artist Frank McNab’s work, a tribute to public libraries, is on show at the Mitchell Library in Glasgow.  In pre-nomad years we worked on the Glasgow City Council Real Lifelong Learning Centres. These projects provided the public with free access to pc’s/internet/training in each of Glasgow’s public libraries. In design terms these projects were never going to set the world on fire.  They were extremely low budget and as they were ‘plug -in’ units, they only ever tackled a small footprint of each library.  However, even within these tight parameters we were keen to explore how design could make people feel confident and comfortable with unfamiliar technology or in unfamiliar territory.

Our love of libraries began with Glasgow School of Art. The accidental left turn into a little used row of books turned us from ambitious students, with the perceived glamour of jobs in the London retail sector ahead of us, into designers with a passion to explore the spaces we all use and a hunch that there was some useful work that could be done here.  Suddenly public spaces held a depth and interest that, for us, seemed more glamorous than anything before.  This type of event is now referred to in library circles as the ‘serendipity of browsing’ and underlines the importance of books.

Working on the GCC spaces was a career changing moment.  Until this moment we had not been in a public library since childhood, academic libraries were one thing but the public library was a place that no self-respecting ‘urban modernist’ (as Wallpaper termed our generation), would ever be found at that time.  It took less than a month before we were converted. The work Glasgow City Council Libraries have done to bring lifelong learning and culture to the smallest darkest corners of Glasgow is some of the most worthwhile projects that we have been involved with. They gave us our first insight into the impact of space on community, learning, health and welfare and we are delighted to see that the Glasgow art world is recognising and celebrating this.

McNab’s exhibition is held at the Mitchell Library in Glasgow and will run from Wednesday 5th August until Wednesday 28th of October.  We are planning a Nomad team day out as a competition is being run to win an original work and from the look of the previews it is well worth a visit. See this link for further information:

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