What makes a library a library?

Earlier this week Sarah Houghton-Jan wrote a post on her blog Librarian in Black about the new staffless library in King County. In this post she raised the question

“What makes a library a library?”

Yesterday Buffy Hamilton posted her response to this question. She took her camera and asked the users of her library at Creekview High School for their thoughts. The result is this video:

I find it interesting to hear the atmosphere of the library constantly referred to. Here the image of that library atmosphere is projected as somewhere safe, comfortable and engaging to be to meet friends but also focus on study. I think this is especially interesting given the flurry of articles in the UK reacting against the changing atmosphere in libraries, most recently Kevin Sharpe’s piece in the Times Higher Education.

There are great plans afoot for the transformation of the library service at my institution with the renovation of the New Bodleian and the creation of a new humanities library. All of this has made me ponder what the atmosphere will be like in these new spaces. Those of you who are familiar with Oxford’s libraries will know that across the library service the atmosphere of the reading rooms hugely varies. The question I’m left with is who creates the atmosphere? Is it the library staff, the users or is it embedded in the space itself?