On Friday August 25th 2017 I traveled to Czarny Bor a small rural Polish village in lower Silesia to see a gem of a library that was quite a surprise after visiting some larger town Public Libraries. It opened in 2014 and is a combined school and public library and cultural center. The motto that all programming and planning is designed around is The place for people with passion to come together. Czarny Bor is the largest village in the region with approximately 50,000 people spread among a number of villages in the region.
Fast facts: opened in 2014 at a cost of 4 million Polish Zloty. The architects were from the Wroclaw design studio, ISBA Grupa Projektowa and their design focus was functionality, elegance and simplicity. It is 900 square metres and houses a performance space, a library, a cafe and a children’s play space as well as a place to learn artistic skills. There are 10 staff and a concierge and cleaner and the opening hours are 10am – 6pm daily and the cafe is run by the library and library staff.
What did I Love? I really loved the Librarian’s focus on the community coming together in the library to celebrate, to learn, and to showcase their rural way of life. The real strength was bringing together the 3 cultural activities within the library function, which in other Polish Cities was kept very separate.
A surprise: the interior of the library section of the building is formed around two oval structures. The first houses the librarian’s desk and the cafe and the second surrounded by library shelves and stairs to the teens section, houses the computer room and the reading area. The beautiful vistas of the village are also a feature as there is lots of glass and seats outside (it was summer) to have a relaxing read, beautiful view and a lovely coffee – creates a beautiful space to stay in. It was envisaged that the curved stairs leading to the teen area would also be used as seating as it was observed that the children used the stairs in the school as seating. This did not eventuate as apparently when you supply comfortable chairs teens, like adults, choose the chairs.
A Focus on Village Confidence: the village children must travel to the larger towns for their secondary education and another impetus for the design and building of what is something of a spaceship in a very small village town was to instil confidence in the village children when they go to the bigger town. That their town has such a modern cultural centre is thought to help them feel confident in their new school as they will have experienced similar library services. The cultural centre also showcases village excellence – trophies, artwork and beautiful local lace work was all on display.
The hospitality of the Municipality and the Library included a prepared presentation, a lovely afternoon tea and a very late Polish lunch. The community is very proud of this Cultural Center and the community connectedness that has eventuated since its opening. Our tour guide was interviewed by local media as a visit from international librarians was definitely newsworthy. This library was like an oasis in a desert, springing out of nowhere – a beautiful design, brought to life by a passionate librarian and a supportive Municipality.