Cook up Reads for a Sham Shui Po Library

I curated a showcase prototype for the Po On Road Public Library in Sham Shui Po, as part of the first social lab innovating public service through citizen engagement and user-centric design in Hong Kong.

 

Collaborators

Jockey Club Make a Difference Social Lab
Leisure and Cultural Services Department
Kennisland

Exhibition

18 December 2016-18 January 2017
Po On Road Public Library, Sham Shui Po

 

How It Started

The prototype grew out of a five-month experimental social lab to reimagine and co-create a more interesting and engaging public library for the community in Sham Shui Po, a grassroot neighbourhood in urban Hong Kong with a sizeable population of new immigrants and ethnic minorities. The social lab was the first of its kind in Hong Kong as a civic initiative partnering with a government department with the objective of improving public service in a bottom-up approach and a field methodology inspired by social innovation in the Netherlands.

The social lab was driven by an interdisciplinary team of 40 social designers formed by architects, educators, librarians, designers and cultural practitioners.

 

Story Collection

The social lab team talked to local residents in Sham Shui Po, writing stories for each of them, and at the end compiled an ethnography of their everyday life in 70 stories.

I led the editorial team to enhance and publish all the stories on an online anthology. Read the editing workflow and the editorial manual to Medium that I developed.

 

Story Analysis

Analysing the stories we collected, we observed that a good number of local residents could not find their place in the public library: they may either be unaware of the vast resources available (ranging from printed materials such as books, publications and newspapers, to multimedia and electronic resources), or they are simply bound by habits and patterns that they have not got the most out of a library.

 

Prototyping

We aimed to bridge the gap between library resources and the Sham Shui Po community by conceptualising creative ways to connect the library’s rich knowledge pool with residents of Sham Shui Po. Our goal was to stretch people’s imagination of libraries, introducing them to resources they may never know available or they may never be motivated to tap into, by the prototype of a curated library.

Inspired by thematic and eye-catching book displays in book shops, we tried to curate library books and display them around a theme relatable to the people. Since the library is located right above the market (and who doesn't love food?), we adopted food as the theme and picked a variety of display books on parenting, green living, history, literature, travel and art/design from the applied science shelf where food-related books are placed.

The curated library consisted of:

  1. (showcase) a book shelf displaying our recommended books on parenting, green living, history, literature, travel and art/design

  2. (curated design) three menus listing our recommended books by visitor preference

  3. (content summary) a menu of highlighted books by category from our collection

  4. (visitor engagement) a questionnaire soliciting visitor feedback and creative inputs

We added a personal touch to our curated display by a flow chart, such that visitors can look for books we recommend them based on their eating habits and food preferences, as if a personality test. We designed three menus representing different ways of eating, each containing a list of recommended books thoughtfully curated for the respective reader. I wrote “chef recommendations” texts – vignettes introducing visitors to each book category – which were illustrated with lovely food fairies. Read the vignettes (Chinese).

To gauge visitors’ reading patterns as well as to collect their feedback on the prototype, I created a thematic questionnaire for them to evaluate our curation as well as be library curators themselves – invent a new way of curating books. Resembling a customer order form at a traditional Chinese teahouse, the questionnaire was made up of simple, multiple-choice questions that bring them to reflect on what the library means to them.

 

Adoption

The curated library design was adopted by the LCSD in three public libraries in Kwai Tsing in August to October 2017.