Sociologist recommends designing libraries and community centers so people can use them in disasters

Sociologist Eric Klinenberg says more libraries, community centers, and other public spaces should be rethought and redesigned so that they could help people in times of crisis:

“Think about this: you’re in the midst of an extraordinary crisis, it’s so profound that the systems in your city have shut down. You don’t have power, you might not have water, you don’t have communications. Is that the moment you want to go into some strange, random public institution you’ve never spent time in before — one that’s likely to be overwhelmed by people with real needs and problems, and that might not be capable of giving you what you need. Or is that the moment you want to go a place that you feel comfortable in and familiar with, a place where you know the faces and are likely to see your a lot of your neighbors. It’s kind of a no-brainer.”

“Every neighborhood in this country should have a designated emergency safe space, and it will work well if its also a place that people use in their lives everyday, or every week. And if we can do that right, we can do something amazing. Not just protecting ourselves from the next crisis, but improving the quality of our lives and our communities all the time.”

And then speaking about a new design competition, Rebuild by Design:

Yeah. This is such an exciting competition. We had 148 design teams from around the world apply to come up with innovative solutions to deal with the threats of climate change, and there are 10 teams that are finalists that are doing their projects now.

I took them to the Red Hook Initiative because it’s an example of a community institution adapting its mission and changing the way its space worked during the crisis to become a relief operation. And they wound up serving thousands and thousands of people in that neighborhood because the staff knew the place well. Residents of the community felt very comfortable and at home there and because the design of the building allowed them to change the space according to the acute needs of that situation.

Klinenberg goes on to say that building resilient communities is important. Designing public buildings and spaces so that they can meet multiple needs could help a neighborhood or community get back on its feet quicker after a disaster. It would then be worth hearing more about what these redesigns could look like. How much different would a “resilient library” look?

It strikes me that pursuing this could be quite difficult in the suburbs. Because of the density of the city, it could be easier to find public spaces suitable to this task every so often. But, when people are more spread out and some suburban communities offer little in the way of public spaces, this would be harder.

2 thoughts on “Sociologist recommends designing libraries and community centers so people can use them in disasters

  1. Pingback: Addressing COVID-19 and public noise issues at the same time with “library rules for America” | Legally Sociable

  2. Pingback: Online real estate shift during COVID-19 reinforces the private nature of American homes | Legally Sociable

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