Realising the Opportunity: Libraries in Sustainable Urban Development

Reflection on the METLIB Satellite Meeting
Rotterdam skyline

The METLIB Satellite Meeting brought together a group of library representatives, urbanists, and designers to jointly consider strategies for incorporating new or remodelled libraries within an urban planning context. The aim of the meeting was to encourage a dialogue between librarians and urban professionals on the potential role of libraries in contributing to Sustainable Urban Development. 

Libraries serve as a destination and a gathering place, bringing people together in the urban centre and in local neighbourhoods, often serving as a third space that is both welcoming and a refuge. The library provides flexible programming that identifies and addresses local needs in areas such as literacy, digital skills, employment support and cultural affirmation, all issues contributing towards community engagement and the fulfilment of individual potential and rights. The library may serve as a partner agency for other urban actors, providing history, documentation, digital support, etc.

About the meeting

The meeting was hosted by IHS and took place on Friday, 18 August, in the lead up to the International Federation of Library Associations World Library and Information Congress (IFLA WLIC) 2023, a major international library conference taking place in Rotterdam in the week after. Participants at the Satellite Meeting were shown successful strategies for engaging citizens in a (re)construction process and the value of close partnerships, particularly with municipal planners and officials, in the process of building trust at a local level and gaining acceptance of any plans as well as the potential for promoting sustainable urban development. Moreover, awareness was raised about some of the challenges facing cities due to COVID-19 and in the post-Covid era. The event was also an opportunity for WLIC delegates to become acquainted with the Institute for Housing and Urban Development Studies (IHS), as part of the Erasmus University Rotterdam (EUR).

More about the sessions

The programme included a keynote by Carlos Moreno, Pantheon Sorbonne University, on the 15-minute city and libraries. Other speakers included Aat Vos (Architect & Creative Director at includi), Hanne Vogt (City Librarian Cologne), Chad Carpenter, Project Leader, Architecture LEED AP, New York (Snohetta) and Karen Beach (Deputy Director) of the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Library Foundation. In subsequent sessions, participants were encouraged to delve deeper into the topics discussed through a series of parallel workshops during the afternoon.

The meeting ended with a wrap-up session was led by a former IHS colleague Forbes Davidson, who as an urban planner highlighted some of the issues raised during the day and invited the participants to make suggestions for follow-up.

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