Beacons of the Smart City

  • Dale Leorke
  • Danielle Wyatt


This chapter examines how libraries are becoming increasingly entangled in the economic agendas, planning policies, and development strategies of their cities. We outline how this process is unfolding using examples of libraries across the Asia-Pacific, Europe, North America, and South America that function as central pillars of their cities’ ‘smart city’ initiatives and digital strategies. We outline the twofold way in which this integration of public libraries into smart city planning is taking place. First, through the integration of smart city technologies—sensors, dashboards, and data analytics software—into the physical fabric of libraries. Second, and most significantly for this book, the incorporation of new services and spaces into libraries that support the underlying agendas of the smart city—to transition citizens, businesses, and government into a ‘smart’, ‘creative’, and ‘sustainable’ postindustrial knowledge economy.


Creative cities Digitisation Public libraries Neoliberalism Smart cities Urban policy 


  1. ABC News. (2016, February 22). National Library Funding Cuts to Have ‘Grave Impact’ with 22 Staff Set to Lose Jobs. Retrieved from
  2. Amin, A. (2014). The Machinery of Urban Resilience. Social Sciences, 3, 308–313.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Amin, A., Massey, D., & Thrift, N. (2000). Cities for the Many Not the Few. Bristol: Policy Press.Google Scholar
  4. Amin, A., & Thrift, N. (2002). Cities: Reimagining the Urban. Cambridge, MA: Polity.Google Scholar
  5. Aravinden, A., & Geddie, J. (2018, April 13). Singapore to Test Facial Recognition on Lamposts, Stoking Privacy Fears. Reuters. Retrieved from
  6. Atwood, M. (2017, May 31). What Would a World Without Public Libraries Be Like? New York Public Library. Retrieved from
  7. Banks, M. (2017, December 19). Ten Reasons Libraries Are Still Better than the Internet. American Libraries. Retrieved from
  8. Basu, M. (2016, June 16). Hackers and Robots: Inside Singapore’s New Libraries. GovInsider. Retrieved from
  9. BBC News. (2016, March 29). Libraries Lose a Quarter of Staff as Hundreds Close. Retrieved from
  10. Castells, M. (2000). The Rise of the Network Society. Malden: Blackwell.Google Scholar
  11. CILIP. (2016, December 7). As Spending on Public Libraries Falls CILIP Calls for Urgent Investment. Retrieved from
  12. City of Greater Geelong. (2015). Digital Geelong: A Digital Leader in Victoria. Retrieved from
  13. City of Westminster. (2017). Business Information Points. Retrieved from
  14. Crary, J. (2013). 24/7: Late Capitalism and the Ends of Sleep. London: Verso.Google Scholar
  15. Dudley, M. (2013). The Library and the City. In M. Dudley (Ed.), Public Libraries and Resilient Cities (pp. 1–35). Chicago: American Library Association.Google Scholar
  16. EveryLibrary. (2017, January 24). Library Closures and Defunding Concerns in 2017. Retrieved from
  17. Florida, R. (2002). The Rise of the Creative Class and How It’s Transforming Work, Leisure, Community and Everyday Life. New York: Basic Books.Google Scholar
  18. Forkert, K. (2016). Austere Creativity and Volunteer-Run Public Services. New Formations, 87, 11–28.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Gabrys, J. (2016). Program Earth: Environmental Sensing Technology and the Making of a Computational Planet. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Gaiman, N. (2013, October 15). Why Our Future Depends on Libraries, Reading and Daydreaming. The Guardian. Retrieved from
  21. Garmer, A. K. (2014). Rising to the Challenge: Re-envisioning Public Libraries. Washington: The Aspen Institute. Retrieved from
  22. Giannakopoulos, G., Koulouris, A., & Kokkinos, D. (2014). Libraries in Crisis: A Glimpse Over Greece and Cyprus. Procedia—Social and Behavioral Sciences, 147, 411–417.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Goswami, S. (2018, January 22). Hardware Flaws Delay Smart Nation Projects in Singapore. Bank Info Security. Retrieved from
  24. Granda, R., & Machin-Mastromatteo, J. D. (2018). Medellin Library Parks: A Model for Latin American Libraries and Urban Equipment. Information Development, 34(2), 201–205.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Greenfield, A. (2013). Against the Smart City. London: Do Projects.Google Scholar
  26. Gregg, M. (2011). Work’s Intimacy. Cambridge, MA: Polity.Google Scholar
  27. Gwee, J., & Siong, N. B. (2013, March). A Library for the People: A Case Study of the National Library Board. Civil Service College Singapore. Retrieved from
  28. Heizereder, S. (2016, December). The German Library System: Diverse, Cooperative, Endangered? Goethe Institut. Retrieved from
  29. Helsinki Smart Region. (n.d.). The New Central Library: Creating New Millennium’s Civil Society in Helsinki. Retrieved from
  30. Herring, M. Y. (2001, April). 10 Reasons Why the Internet Is No Substitute for a Library. American Libraries. Retrieved from
  31. Ho, O. (2018, February 3). Yishun Public Library Reopens with New Digital Zone. The Straits Times. Retrieved from
  32. Hollands, R. G. (2008). Will the Real Smart City Please Stand Up? Intelligent, Progressive or Entrepreneurial? City, 12(3), 303–320.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Huws, U. (2013). Working Online, Living Offline: Labour in the Internet Age. London: Analytica Publications.Google Scholar
  34. Hyde, J. (2018, July 25). For the Love of Libraries. Meanjin. Retrieved from
  35. Jacobs, J. (1961). The Death and Life of Great American Cities. New York: Random House.Google Scholar
  36. Jaeger, P. T., Gorham, U., Bertot, J. C., & Sarin, L. C. (2014). Public Libraries, Public Policies, and Political Processes. Lanham, MA: Rowman & Littlefield.Google Scholar
  37. Kavner, L. (2011, November 16). Library Budget Cuts Threaten Community Services Across Country. HuffPost. Retrieved from
  38. Kim, Y. (2011, January 27). W552 Billion Allocated for 180 New Public Libraries. The Korea Herald. Retrieved from
  39. Kitchin, R. (2014). The Real-Time City? Big Data and Smart Urbanism. GeoJournal, 79, 1–14.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Landry, C., & Bianchini, F. (1995). The Creative City. London: Demos.Google Scholar
  41. Leadbeater, C. (1999). Living on Thin Air: The New Economy. London: Viking.Google Scholar
  42. Lee, R. (2018, July 31). Tampines Library to Reopen with New Features Including Cooking Studio. Channel NewsAsia. Retrieved from
  43. Lee, E., & Hinshaw, A. (2017, April 27). Unstacked: Revealing the Hidden Gems of the State Library of NSW. The Conversation. Retrieved from
  44. Leorke, D., Wyatt, D., & McQuire, S. (2018). A Library in Transition: State Library Victoria’s Redevelopment. Melbourne: Research Unit in Public Cultures. Retrieved from
  45. Library 2000 Review Committee. (1994). Library 2000: Investing in a Learning Nation. Singapore: SNP Publishers.Google Scholar
  46. Maness, J. M. (2006). Library 2.0 Theory: Web 2.0 and Its Implications for Libraries. Webology, 3(2). Retrieved from
  47. Mattern, S. (2007). The New Downtown Library: Designing with Communities. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.Google Scholar
  48. Mattern, S. (2014, June). Libraries as Infrastructure. Places Journal. Retrieved from
  49. Mattern, S. (2016a, April). Instrumental City: The View from Hudson Yards, Circa 2019. Places Journal.
  50. Mattern, S. (2016b, November). Public In/Formation. Places Journal.
  51. McGreevy, R. (2015, September 7). Funding Cuts Had ‘Savage Impact’ on National Library of Ireland. The Irish Times. Retrieved from
  52. McQuire, S. (2016). Geomedia: Networked Cities and the Future of Public Space. Cambridge, UK: Polity Press.Google Scholar
  53. Mickiewicz, P. (2016). Access and Its Limits: The Contemporary Library as a Public Space. Space and Culture, 9(3), 237–250.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  54. Miettinen, V. (2018). Redefining the Library: Co-designing for Our Future Selves and Cities. Public Library Quarterly, 37(1), 8–20.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  55. Ministry of Communications and Information. (2016). 5 Libraries to Visit in Singapore in 2016. Retrieved from
  56. MIT Technology Review. (2005, May 1). The Death of Libraries? Retrieved from
  57. Mutuli, I. (2016). National Library of Singapore by Ken Yeang, An Effort Towards Sustainability in the Tropics. Archute. Retrieved from
  58. Nair, S. (2017, November 3). A High-Tech Learning Journey. Infocomm Media Development Authority. Retrieved from
  59. National Library Board. (2017, October 23). National Library Board of Singapore Launches Digital Business Library. Retrieved from
  60. National Library Board. (2018, May 18). Double Up on Your Reading with the NLB Mobile App! Retrieved from
  61. NLB Labs. (2014, September 20). Borrow Library Books with Your Smartphone! Retrieved from
  62. Ontario Public Libraries. (2018, March 28). 20 Year Funding Freeze for Ontario Public Libraries Ends. Retrieved from
  63. Page, B. (2011, January 27). Philip Pullman’s Call to Defend Libraries Resounds Around the Web. The Guardian. Retrieved from
  64. Palfrey, J. (2015). BiblioTech: Why Libraries Matter More Than Ever in the Age of Google. New York: Basic Books.Google Scholar
  65. Peet, L. (2016, October 12). Nicholas Carr: The Digital Shift. Library Journal. Retrieved from
  66. Picon, A. (2015). Smart Cities: A Spatialised Intelligence. Chichester, West Sussex: Wiley.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  67. Poon, L. (2017, April 21). Singapore, City of Sensors. CityLab. Retrieved from
  68. Pratt, A. C. (2008). Creative Cities: The Cultural Industries and the Creative Class. Geografiska Annaler: Series B, Human Geography, 90(2), 107–117.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  69. Public Libraries News. (n.d.). Reasons for Libraries: Internet, e-books and IT. Retrieved from
  70. Renew Our Libraries. (2018). About Renew Our Libraries. Retrieved from
  71. Roush, W. (2005, May 1). The Infinite Library. MIT Technology Review. Retrieved from
  72. Sassen, S. (1988). The Mobility of Capital and Labor: A Study in International Investment and Labor Flow. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  73. Sassen, S. (1991). The Global City: New York, London, Tokyo. Princeton: Princeton University Press.Google Scholar
  74. Saval, N. (2017, July 14). Globalisation: The Rise and Fall of an Idea that Swept the World. The Guardian.
  75. Schull, D. D. (2009, January 2). Libraries as Placemaking. Project for Public Spaces.
  76. Shepard, M. (2014). Beyond the Smart City. Harvard Design Magazine, 37 (Winter).Google Scholar
  77. Sitterwerk Art Library. (n.d.). Dynamic Order Structures Thanks to RFID Technology. Retrieved from
  78. Smart Cities Dive. (n.d.). The Alexandria Co-working Network: Libraries as Spaces for Community Innovation. Retrieved from
  79. Smith, Z. (2012, June 2). The North West London Blues. The New York Review of Books. Retrieved from
  80. Spinks, R. (2015, January 4). The Future of Libraries Has Little to Do with Books. Good. Retrieved from
  81. Standing, G. (2011). The Precariat: The New Dangerous Class. London: Bloomsbury.Google Scholar
  82. Swaffield, L. (2017, October 19). The UK No Longer Has a National Public Library System. The Guardian. Retrieved from
  83. Tallinn City Council. (2013). Tallinn Development Plan 2014–2020. Retrieved from
  84. Terranova, T. (2004). Network Culture: Politics for the Information Age. Ann Arbor, MI: Pluto Press.Google Scholar
  85. The Straits Times. (2018, May 21). How Are Our Libraries Equipped for Our Seniors? Retrieved from
  86. UNESCO. (n.d.). Creative Cities Network. Retrieved from
  87. Vaswani, K. (2017, April 21). Tomorrow’s Cities: Singapore’s Plans for a Smart Nation. BBC. Retrieved from
  88. Wee, L. (2016, November 20). Library Users Can Now Watch Movies, Play Music and Do 3D Printing. The Straits Times. Retrieved from
  89. Wetherell, S. (2017, August 19). Richard Florida Is Sorry. Jacobin. Retrieved from
  90. White House. (2018). Elimination: Institute of Museum and Library Services. In An American Budget: Major Savings and Reforms. Washington: Office of Management and Budget, 97. Retrieved from
  91. Woodward, J. (2013). The Transformed Library: E-books, Expertise, and Evolution. Chicago: ALA Editions.Google Scholar
  92. Wyatt, D., McQuire, S., & Butt, D. (2015). Public Libraries in a Digital Culture. Melbourne: Research Unit in Public Cultures.
  93. Yu, E. (2014, June 17). Singapore Unveils Push in Plan to Become Smart Nation. ZDNET. Retrieved from

Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • Dale Leorke
    • 1
  • Danielle Wyatt
    • 2
  1. 1.Tampere UniversityTampereFinland
  2. 2.University of MelbourneBalaclava, MelbourneAustralia

Personalised recommendations