In December of 2012 the Munich Municipal Library inaugurated update. young & adult, a program and media offering for young adults starting at 16 years of age.  It was supposed to and was allowed to do:  Everything differently.

In an unconventional fashion update creates a rink for cultural, political, and societal participation and opinion shaping.  update is a meeting point and, as it were, a 'third space' for creative work, relaxation, discussion, and entertainment.  update cooperates with diverse initiatives and institutions in Munich.  It broadens the possibilities for the culturally interested, even in projects that transcend the library.

The media and program offering, oriented towards leisure, has the distinction of being flexible and focused on current cultural and societal events.   Not being a classical educational opportunity, update, as a communal center,  not only offers leisure media for borrowing, but also incentives via various event formats to participate in matters societal, cultural and political, thereby contributing to the critical shaping of opinions.

(C) Münchner Stadtbibliothek

update-posters at the Munich Youth Library


Visions and Goals – The Concept

The intention of the Munich Municipal Library was at once classical and challenging:  How can we fill young persons with enthusiasm for the library?  A question that always comes into focus in library work.  The goal that had been formulated was to found a recognizable sub-brand for an audience 16 to 26 years of age.  The idea of the project update pursued the aim of developing a program which would allow young people  – beyond the “principle of the learning environment” –  to rediscover their leisure interests in the library stacks as well as in the event calendar.  In essence, an offering that was able to react flexibly to current themes and subcultures, not only with its stacks and its sojourning quality, but mostly through its communication and event efforts. 

Aside from these aspects, it was necessary to grapple with the current profile and image the library had in the minds of the inhabitants of the city, particularly with the relevant, very heterogeneous age group.

It was a conscious decision in designing the update areas to forgo “youthful” furnishings.  The rooms are outfitted simply, but are still modern and inviting.  By contrast, the concept of update relies on content.  A great flexibility characterizes the media and program offering.  There is no rigid profile for the stocks, nor a preconceived program concept.  update is oriented towards the current urban, cultural and societal affairs of a young audience.

Ego Shooter, Fan Fiction, and Indie Pop – The Portfolio

The selection of stacks, geared at the target group, occurs centrally for all areas of update. The main emphasis lies in the audio-visual realm, with a ratio of 70% audio-visual  to 30% print media. The stacks comprise the entire breadth of the current media landscape:  Ranging from intellectual to “trivial”, via provocative topics, niche areas of diverse fan and subcultures, up to sociopolitical/critical themes of debate.  And this in all media formats.  There are no absolute guarantees, however, that the stacks reflect currentness.  Moreover, trends and themes pertaining to the target group's realm of experience shape the selection.  Thereby, retro trends and classics from diverse youth cultures may re-emerge.  Aside from help of classic selection guides, purchase decisions are based mainly on blogs, community platforms, fanzines, forums, or magazines that are played on by and for the target group.  It is important to be immersed in the scenes and to inquire into a very concrete expertise. 

Among others, the print media comprise debuts of young (local) authors, or trend themes culled from bestseller lists.  In the realm of comic books things are allowed to be a bit “bloodier” or racier.  The nonfiction section entitled “Lifestyle” can cover anything from cookbooks to travel blog publications, up to political polemics.

The audio-visual section consists of a differentiated presentation of films and series, current console games of different publishers, audio books, as well as music CDs ranging from pop to rap.  The selection depends on the demand, so         there are no age limitations on the media that are imposed by the FSK (German voluntary self-regulation of the movie industry) or the USK (German self-monitoring of entertainment software).   update quickly integrates new media formats into the existing presentation, being a facilitator of modern media offerings.             

Togetherness Makes Stronger – The Event Program       

The goal of the concept is to enable the creation of a multimedia, web, and discourse offering that allows for (sub)cultural diversity and creative thinking.  An important premise of the event work at update is the concentration on content that meshes with current events.  By its function, the library is a “proto-democratic” space, where dissent, debate, provocation, and naïvety are permitted room.        

In its program work  update strives for offerings in cooperation with eligible partners in the city.  An important prerequisite in this is the forging of a municipal network – with the independent scene, the departments of the Kulturreferat, as well as with other municipal departments and institutions dealing with art and culture arbiters.  The benefits of this sustainable and very valuable cooperation speak for themselves:  The institutions have longstanding experience in the program work with the target group.  At the same time, the interplay of communal resources such as surface area, infrastructure, and media efficacy allow the staging of major events with heightened media penetration.  Examples of this cooperation are:  The participation in the International Documentary Film Festival, an exhibition about right-wing extremism, career counseling formats liasing with the Employment Agency, or formats in media pedagogy in conjunction with the municipal network Inter@aktiv.

Despite the content-related orientation towards leisure, cooperation with schools is an important factor in the program work.  Teachers are very accessible and cooperative when it comes to extra-curricular or pupil-related (learning) offers.  Regardless of whether these are workshops about Fake News, multi-lingual readings, or extremism debates.  The practical project work brings about widespread interest and sold-out offerings.

Generation W and its Library – update and Participation

The stacks and the event work at update have always one goal:  The active participation of its users.  What does participation look like in the context of the update offering?  Public libraries are pilots and facilitators of information and media competency in the digital age. The challenges of “cultural participation” lie in the conception of projects and in the possibility of introducing personal themes and interests – especially by young adults:  Developing concepts to actively help shape urban, haptic, and digital culture.  And all of this publicly funded., and  together with cooperation partners and a tight dovetailing of the stacks.  One example is the projected cooperation, joined by the Music Library, with the Office of Music and Band Culture and the Munich Media Center.  The “Syndicate”offers the  young Munich music scene a presentation platform, musical equipment, as well as support and networking in order to promote the municipal music scene and its visibility.


Karina Fink (31) heads the stocks and program work update. young & adult in the Munich Municipal Library. Aside from the selection of media, she is responsible for the event work.


Individual text passages were edited/taken over from articles by Raphaela Müller, the former head of update.    

Translation:  Andrew Clifford Larson