Where in the world is the best library?

A few months ago I bookmarked a paper titled “Public Libraries in the Knowledge Society: Core Services of Libraries in Informational World Cities.” I had found it by way of mentions in a few articles about the “best libraries in the world.” I was initially interested in where US libraries ranked (most of the headlines had mentioned that Chicago Public was 3rd).

But after coming back to the paper this week, with a sharper international lens from my recent BOBCATSSS experience, I was more interested in the study’s criteria for their rankings.

For instance, for what reason (other than its lovely building) did Vancouver merit first place?
For instance, why (other than its lovely building) did Vancouver rank first? (Image source)

The study ended up breaking down qualifications for each library into its two key presences: the physical library (architecture, building space, drinks/food, RFID, ease of returning items, Wi-Fi, and library marketing activities) and the digital library (website, web-OPAC, e-resources, digitized content, digital resource guides, digital reference services, social media, and mobile development & access/apps) .

While I think a lot of those features make for valid criteria, it got me thinking about *my* criteria for what makes a great library. And while giant show-boat-y libraries in large cities are lovely and can make the rankings in worldwide studies, I think there is something equally valuable in smaller libraries that work with their modest budgets and really stand out in their communities as a gathering place, an access point, and a destination for discovery.

In short, big gorgeous libraries are big and gorgeous, but it doesn’t, in my opinion, mean they’re the best. Work with what you have and give your patrons the best you can offer and you’ll be #1 in my book.

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