2024 | Tallinn Strategic Management OfficeStrategicService DesignUser Research

Tallinn Central Library – a library made for people

Source: Designboom.com

When was the last time you visited the public library? Or used any of its services?
Nowadays, libraries offer more than free access to books and other resources – they provide all kinds of opportunities for people to learn in different ways, to discover new interests or skills, or to connect with others in their communities, in public, open and shared spaces.

Who else can offer all of that, if not the public library?

Libraries are no longer what they used to be – they have evolved to become social places, dynamic hubs for people and culture, all around the world.

Tallinn Strategic Management Office and Tallinn Central Library came to Velvet to shape the future of the Tallinn Central Library services to make them valuable and relevant for the city residents and also to bridge the gap with potential library users. The project aimed to improve the current user experience but also set the basis for the next steps, in a more strategic way.

What are the expectations and the value of Tallinn Central Library in the future and how do they differ from today? This question kicked off our research work.

The Central Library today

The organisation works as a network of libraries across the city (including a mobile library in a bus!), so who better to help us learn about what’s going on than their own librarians? We engaged a large group to participate as co-researchers in our design work, becoming our eyes and ears in the library branches and buildings located in the different city districts.

Together with over 25 librarians we learnt more about what happens at the branches, who visits and what they do there. We also engaged in short conversations and longer interviews in- and outside the libraries, made observations, and also stepped into the users’ shoes by experiencing the services ourselves. Through these activities, we delved into the lives of the residents of Tallinn, their needs, values, interests and expectations to understand how the Central Library could become a relevant place for them to spend their time.

Revelation moments

To put it simply – the Library experiences and perceptions vary greatly, if people have used or visited the Library recently, or not at all.

So many library enthusiasts and regular visitors were happy to share their experiences with our team, and also their dreams for the future of the library, providing us with all kinds of ideas and suggestions: from cozy corners with sofas “like my living room”, a Library Cafe, co-working areas to treasure hunts and fun games.

During our research, we also focused on the so-called “almost users” to learn why are people not visiting or using the library today? We uncovered many insights, some of which also influence current users and visitors. The main themes were about people’s perceptions, assumptions or past experiences, their experiences in the physical spaces and the overall accessibility of the Central Library. Not only physical but also informational and digital.

Another interesting learning was connected to people’s alternatives for reading, learning or spending time, as well as the repeated notion that “life is busy” and free time is limited. We learnt that reading or going to the Library is not something that some city residents have time or even make time for.

How could the Library connect with what people like do in their free time and their interests?

Quotes from the user research

The characters of the story

As part of the work, we focused on the main profiles of people that surfaced from the research, to create our user personas. These represent 6 different residents of the city of Tallinn, from all ages and backgrounds: from Library regulars to the ones who hadn’t been in the library for a long time.

We held 2 co-design workshops with more than 25 city residents in the freshly opened inclusion centre Open City (Avalinn) to create ideas for the future of the Library. The sessions were focused on connecting the vision for the future with users’ needs and expectations.

Tallinn Central Library enables people to make their own stories

Our project provided the library with a co-created vision for the future, but also with practical recommendations for improving the service experience. A focus on the user personas, led to define a more strategic value proposition, not only developed at the individual level of people, but also thinking about the community and the society.

To move closer to our future vision, we mainly need to make changes in the types of experiences people can participate in and how these experiences occur:

  • From books and reading to diverse activities, for people to grow, develop, connect and make stories.
  • From silent, traditional, serious to welcoming, open, focus & social, silent & noisy.
  • From valuable services that are not so known to a proactive, unified and engaging approach that reaches all people in Tallinn.

A new chapter for Tallinn Central Library

During our work, we identified several opportunity areas for the Library to develop towards the vision. With more clear strategies on how to better in engage with our user personas, our team pointed out specific ideas of that could be tested next.

As with any good story, our collaborative project with Tallinn Central Library opened up all kinds of new possibilities and left much food for thought for the future. There is an exciting future and some mystery about what will happen next, but definitely getting familiar with the characters and knowing what kind of action to expect helps to imagine what’s next.

Here’s looking forward to Tallinn Central Library’s new chapter! Stay tuned for updates, as some prototypes are already on the making!


  • Carolina Maia Groisman Design lead
  • Klarika Mäeots Uustal Service designer
  • Hanna-Stella Haaristo Design researcher
  • Kristiina Veerde-Toompalu Producer


  • Kristi Veeber, Kaie Holm, Triinu Seppam-Saar, Jaanika Tappo, Tiina Põldmaa, Kaire Kannistu, and 20+ librarians from all branches around the city of Tallinn Tallinn Central Library
  • Külliki Kesa, Teele Kumm, Kerstin Laidmäe Tallinn Strategic Management Office