On the basis of a range of user studies, workshops and design activities carried out in collaboration with librarians from the Central Municipality Library in Århus a range of challenges and needs were identified and two prototypes were made in response. An interactive floor and a poster fashioned prototype for exhibiting digital resources provided by the library.

Registrations, challenges and needs

In his book, e-topia, William J Mitchell, starts out with a tale of the well and its importance in the beginning of civilisation.

In recent years libraries throughout the world has focused on delivering web-based services for its user’s. Along with the web-based services there has been a growing focus on meeting the needs of the individual user, and her ability to find relevant material. Activities and approaches as these have resulted in a starvation of the attractions of the physical library beyond erecting evermore-impressive buildings and architectural statements of the importance of the physical library.

Through user studies and interviews with librarians and statistics on numbers of visitors we’ve learned that the bi-product of these activities among others has been a decreasing number of visitors at the physical library. Many needs of the user in regard of finding relevant material can be met through advanced search and reservation facilities offered by libraries on web sites. In addition to this the general facilities: search engines, user groups, etc. on the Internet also seemingly meets the users needs for finding information. Furthermore the social space in the physical library has taken a swing towards a supermarket-like atmosphere. Probably this can traced back to the increased focus of the library on serving the individual user supporting individual learning rather than providing a space for social gathering, activities and public awareness.

Another use of the Internet from the perspective of the library is the vast amount of services, databases, subscriptions etc. available from PC’s at the library. Contrary to physical material these resources today only become visible when actively searched for, and furthermore they are presented as any other public available material through a traditional web browser; the user never experience that this material has been selected by librarians as trust-worthy material. The library today spends a substantial amount of money on providing web-accessible resources without being able to effectively communicate this.


On the basis of the above identified challenges and needs two prototypes were developed: an interactive floor for communication between users of the library – icom-floor - and an installation highlighting selected digital resources available at the library – the info-pillar.



The Interactive floor, Icom-Floor, seeks to encourage communication between the users of the library. The interactive floor facilitates users in posing questions and answers either through mobile text messaging or by means of an e-mail client. The questions and answers are registered by a server and displayed on the floor. Each question is marked with an ID reference number that is used when responding to the specific question. In case of someone answering a question the answer will both be displayed on the floor as well as it will be send to the person originally posing the question.

As the floor only provides one cursor to navigate between the questions and answers the users are required to negotiate the navigation.

The system consists of a remote server for handling and administering questions and answers and a projector mounted on the ceiling connected to a local computer for the display on the floor. The floor works on the basis of a video tracking system observing the rim of the interface by means of a web cam mounted on the ceiling. The recordings of people’s position and movement are translated into magnetic forces attracting the cursor. A limited trial version of the interface running in a browser can be found here: www.interactivespaces.net/icom-floor.

What we learned

In a three week period of testing the prototype at the Central Municipality Library we learned that the questions posed typically would be in the category of seeking advice or tips and tricks on very day things as, how to un-lock ones mobile phone, or where to find the best and cheapest printer. It came to work at bit like the notice board found in local supermarkets; however in this case the communication was not about runaway cats and baby carriages for sale but knowledge exchange between user at the library. Furthermore as the floor was residing in the entrance and exit part of the library it came to work a like a “sleeping policeman”, causing people to stop and to start chatting about the questions and answers on display, and taking the opportunity to participate in the process by posing new questions and answering the ones on display. Furthermore the playful way of navigating the interface was found very intriguing by the visitors and definitely also facilitated the process of making people talk to one another.



The purpose of the Info-Pillar is to display the digital resources offered by the library and make them accessible. The idea behind the Info-Pillar is to challenge the way that we typically find digital information by exposing selected links on a circular rear projected surface. The displayed links are not full versions of the referenced web resources but abstracts and appetizers edited by librarians. Rotating the outer-half of a circumambient shelf browses the contents on the info-pillar; the rotation causes the displayed links and references on display to move horizontally. The system consists of a computer connected to three projectors mounted inside the physical structure of the Info-Pillar, a custom designed web browser for administering the content on the info-pillar and a mouse tracking the rotation of the shelf. On the inner-half of the circumambient shelf there are three short-range Bluetooth transmitters. When placing a Bluetooth enabled mobile phone on a marked spot the link displayed above the mark is pushed over to the device. The link can then latter be transfer to a personal computer for more extensive reading. This feature facilitates the user in collecting at set of interesting links that can be taken away and transferred to a personal computer somewhere else in the library or even at home.

What we learned

The librarians did very much appreciate the possibility of having editorial facilities in regard of displaying digital resources – granting them the possibility of rating the resource as well advising on the use of the information. The circumambient shelf had both pros and cons. The navigation was generally felt natural but the large circular screen would obscure the awareness of people a round the info-pillar paying interest in other displayed links – rotating the shelf will cause all content to move and thereby one person could unknowingly disrupt and ruin other users experience and attempts to transfer interesting resources on to their mobile phone. Generally the prototype was considered attractive and informative.

Next steps

The Info-Pillar is currently undergoing a redesign to meet the observed disadvantages and will be developed into a industrial prototype. The Interactive Floor will be used in new ways and in combination with other prototypes in a newly started project denoted “Children’s Interactive Library”, for further information on this click here.

Interactive Spaces | Åbogade 34 | DK-8200 Århus N. | Phone: +45 8942 5636 | Email: info@interactivespaces.net
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