Why a Library?

Consider a space where: parents can safely leave their children; the bullied can go for sanctuary; the homeless for shelter; the addicts for substance-free refuge; the unemployed for job assistance; the impoverished for marketable skill set development; and for the immigrants—a place to learn a new language—to help adjust to their new home (Wexelbaum, 2016). Libraries have been around since 2600 B.C. originating in the temple rooms of Sumer (Maclay, 2003). It wasn’t for another nearly five millennia until Benjamin Franklin created the first public library that the idea ruminated that a library was a place for people and not things(Murray, 2009) (Maclay, 2003). 

A library is a safe space and a place to dream for better tomorrows.  Perhaps it is the greatest vehicle to “Vorfreude ist die schönste Freude (“Anticipated joy is the greatest joy”),” as the German folk saying would entail (Von Hippel, 2018). We propose that by building a public-university library, a library will increase community engagement. Central to the public library design, our foundation proposes the library be a safe and welcoming space.  We will accomplish this through a novel and evolutionary psychology-based design motif.

Generally speaking, we as humans, evolved from apes.  That at one time in our primordial genetic soup, we sought security from predation in trees.  We propose appealing to our system 1 thinking by creating a library centered around safety.  We believe we can achieve this if we engineer an environment that caters to our most basic evolutionary needs.  The library should be green, incorporate water, have clean air, smartly constructed lighting, clearly advertised temperature control, and have design features that reassure visitors their basic needs are bountifully integrated.

This library should be designed with the Ugandan Iron tree in mind; our nearest evolutionary relatives’ favorite tree to rest and relax (Dell'Amore, 2014). Research supports that humans evolved from Australopithecusin East Africa and the Ugandan Iron Tree was once found in the East African rift valley. When the tectonic plates shifted the land upward, the trees died from their elevated habitat: which forcedapes from the trees.  By doing so, Ray Dart argues this started the chain-evolutionary-reaction of who we are today (Von Hippel, 2018).  For clarity, even if you do not subscribe to this theory, this tree is innately gorgeous and would serve as a splendid reference to design to. 

We anticipate that Juba, South Sudan will experience further temperature increases in the decades to come.  Given that the Ugandan Iron tree towers 37 meters to 46 meters in height, we believe this tree design provides temperature relief to members of the community (USDA Forest Service Contributors, 2018).  Additionally, that by increasing foliage in the area, Juba may hold out as the last bastion of flora, attracting community members as a place of solace, safety, and serenity.  

To recap, our system 1 level of thinking is catered to through ecological design thinking.  And our system 2 thinking is addressed by what the library offers as a community resource.  By appealing to both of these functions we believe the tree library will attract community members, increasing community engagement piece.  And—if for no other reason—the tree design serves as an analogy of how the library is the keeper of our past.



Works Cited

Dell'Amore, C. (2014, April 18). Chimpanzees Make Beds That Offer Them Best Night's Sleep. Retrieved from National Geographic: https://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2014/04/140416-chimpanzees-trees-sleep-beds-animals-science/

Maclay, K. (2003, May 3). Clay cuneiform tablets from ancient Mesopotamia to be placed online. Retrieved from UCBerkley News: https://www.berkeley.edu/news/media/releases/2003/05/06_tablet.shtml

Murray, S. (2009). The Library: An Illustrated History. New York: Skyhorse Publishing.

USDA Forrest Service Contributers. (2018, December 6). Cynometra Alexandri Muhimbi. Retrieved from United States Department of Agriculture: Forrest Services: https://www.fpl.fs.fed.us/documnts/TechSheets/Chudnoff/African/htmlDocs_africa/Cynometraalexandri.html

Von Hippel, W. (2018). The Social Leap: The New Evolutionary Science of Who We Are, Where We Come From, and What Makes Us Happy.Sydney: Harper Collins .

Wexelbaum, R. (2016). The Library as a Safe Space. The Future of Library Space (Advances in Library Administration and Organization, pp. 37-78.



Kevin Lenahan