Our guest experience approach to design often includes visioning, shadowing and surveying. But, hosting community engagement events is another foundational step we include for libraries. We recently held one in Chillicothe, Missouri.
Traditionally, these events are used to inform the community about what to expect, but we prefer to engage them in dialogue to better understand their expectations and perceptions before presenting a completed plan. It’s a chance for us to identify issues and opportunities, learn about the history and heritage of the community and understand how the project will impact their neighborhoods. We do this by engaging the residents in conversation, listening to their thoughts and asking them a lot of questions.
These events can also increase involvement and support, raise awareness and create excitement. We feel it’s an important way to empower and involve the community and gather critical information, so we can create an environment that successfully meets the needs of our clients and those who will experience the space.
At this particular event in Chillicothe, patrons were encouraged to make a paper crane with direction from the city’s local origami expert. These paper cranes will be combined to create a meaningful, symbolic sculpture that will hang in the new youth library branch.
We recommend having concepts or images for the patrons to react to and a way for them to voice their opinions through an organized process. At this event, drawings and renderings were mounted to boards and shown on-screen, where our team could gather feedback, highlight relevant portions of the project, etc. Another method is a green sticker/red sticker exercise. Each patron is given three green stickers and three red stickers to place on the visioning boards. These boards typically have multiple images or floorplans that show early concepts. Green stickers can be placed on their three favorite images, while red stickers are placed on the least liked images. It’s a great way to understand what the majority of the community likes and dislikes.
Our team had so much fun trying origami with local residents. Some of our cranes will be included in the collaborative art piece. But, some may not. Don’t worry. We won’t name names.