Current LIS Clips: The Library as Place: The changing nature and enduring appeal
of library buildings and spaces
2006 - Compiled and annotated by Sue Searing and Karla Stover Lucht
In this issue:
Part One: General
topics and non-academic libraries
perspectives on libraries
Space planning for
In 1996, the Benton
Foundation issued a report that galvanized American librarians to rethink their
visions of the future. "Buildings, Books, and Bytes: Libraries and Communities
in the Digital Age" reported a public opinion poll on the future of libraries
and contrasted it with what library leaders foresaw. Key among the findings
was the high value that citizens placed on erecting and maintaining library
buildings - ranking it third in importance, right behind providing children's
services and providing books. In the ensuing decade, many publications and events
have contributed to a lively discussion about the centrality of "the library
as place." This issue of UI Current LIS Clips focuses on publications of the
past two years (2004-2006), with an emphasis on research findings, case studies,
and a variety of topics ranging from green architecture to the lessons learned
from successful bookstores. Because of the preponderance of writings about academic
and research libraries, Part 2 of this issue focuses on them alone.
Architects' perspectives on libraries
1. "Expert Opinion."
Library Journal (Fall 2005 supplement): 45-46.
Six very brief
case studies of new and remodeled libraries, with advice from the seasoned
library architects who designed them. (The entire supplement is devoted to
buildings and furnishings.)
- "Listen to people and place, hire a creative architect,
and be open-minded." Steven Erlich: Steven Erlich Architects
- "Work with a
library architect who can help you develop your program and plan flexible
interior space that can change with changing library uses. Involve the local
community during the concept phase to reach consensus on services, resolve
site issues, and gain widespread support for your building project. Explore
self-service options such as self-checkout for some tasks, which will allow
staff more time for in-depth service." Mark Schatz: Field Paoli Architects
"Use architects who use libraries-not just 'design them.' Go see several libraries
of the size you are planning. Know and understand budgets-and the complete
elements of the total budget. Make sure the person you interview is the person
who stays with you. Attend planning sessions at the Public Library Association
and American Library Association. Check references thoroughly." Jeffery A.
Scherer: Meyer, Scherer, & Rockcastle, Ltd.
- "Worry less about technology and
think more about creating diverse and flexible spaces that users want to be
in…[W]hile the technologies will change repeatedly in the life of the building,
the qualities of light, color, joy, and delight will remain for a long time
if done right." Stephen Johnson: Pfeiffer Partners
- "Talk with an architect
who not only understands how libraries work but who will also work with you,
your staff, the board, and the community on new ideas and offer creative approaches
and solutions." Catherine Grey: Meehan Architects
- ing their vision when it's
identified early in the design process." David Ross: BSA Architects
Mary Colette. "Do I Need an Architect or Not? Some Things You Should Know."
Searcher v.19 no. 9 (October 2005): 48-54.
By law in many
states, the design of most non-residential buildings requires an architect.
Architects integrate the work of consultants into their designs - such as engineers,
interior designers, landscape architects, and security specialists. They may
partner with manufacturers to create custom building materials and furnishings
Selecting an architect
for a non-residential project can be a complex process, involving fee-based
selection, design competitions, or RFQs (requests for qualifications) and RFPs
(requests for proposals). Clients should look for common philosophies and values
in an architect, and should consider what is most important: reputation for
stunning building designs, experience with similar types of facilities, or hiring
can provide services at every stage:
- Pre-Design: Needs assessment, feasibility
studies, master and long-range planning, site analysis, community planning,
programming, space planning.
- Design: Design development, sustainable building design, construction documents,
- Post-Design: Building commissioning, post occupancy evaluations,
The client's "problems"
are translated into design parameters, which architects visualize geometrically
as planes (e.g. walls) and volumes (e.g. rooms). They develop their ideas as
sketches. Before purchasing property, it may be wise to hire an architect to
do a site analysis and feasibility study.
Reasons to hire an architect:
(This article also features
short sidebar interviews with library architects Sam Miller and Geoffrey Freeman.)
- They'll "turn design problems into advantages,
limitations into design parameters."
- They think in three dimensions and foresee
the structural ramifications of design decisions.
- They approach the design or
remodel of a building within the context of its site or environment.
- They have
intimate knowledge of building systems and materials and how to use them together.
They help clients determine their true needs and priorities.
- They act on the
client's behalf, rejecting defective work and bringing in consultants as needed.
They have professional liability for their work.
3. Scherer, Jeffrey A. "Designing the Sustainable Library: An Ethical Imperative." In: Libraries as Places: Buildings for the 21st Century, pp. 161-181. Munich: K.G. Saur, 2004. (IFLA Publications no. 109)
Scherer describes how the Fayetteville (AK) Public Library's Blair Library was designed and built in accordance with "green" ethics.
- The community's desire for a process that could be independently verified and audited was satisfied through the Green Buildings Council's LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) program, which entailed an additional $26,000 in fees.
Green planning required long-term thinking about costs and benefits in a systemic sense.
- The architect gave priority to the community's needs and values rather than promoting his own aesthetic signature.
- Sustainability encompassed: site planning; water efficiency; energy efficiency and renewable energy; conservation of materials and resources; indoor environmental quality.
- Green design saves money on utilities, while a "healthy building" improves productivity and reduces liability.
- Because building-related costs are 6-10% of an average public library's
expenditures over a 20-year period, it is short-sighted to strive only to
keep "first costs" low.
- The Fayetteville Public Library incorporates "daylight harvesting" and "water harvesting" that reduce ongoing costs.
- The most expensive element in new construction is the basic structure and exterior,
where there is little leeway for green design. However, the Fayetteville project specified a
percentage of recycled material in the steel and concrete, and recycled or reused waste from
the construction itself.
4. Esmay, Michael. "Library Administrators, Leadership, and the Building Expansion Process: An Architect's
Point of View." Library Administration & Management vol. 20 no. 3 (Summer 2006): 121-127.
How do library expansions come about?
Why do library expansions end up being so large and costly?
- Most often a shortage of space spurs consideration of expanding.
Someone, usually the library administrator, makes the case for expansion to the library board, and the board decides whether to proceed.
- Where the library administrator is not a strong leader, the push for expansion may come from the public.
- Relying on focus groups is seldom useful, because they involve so few people, and the participants cannot view the library in its totality.
- If the board has a long-range planning process in place,
it will look for opportunities to acquire land for future growth,
implement financing strategies, and maintain good community relations.
Who are the players and personalities?
- The old rule of thumb was to provide .75 to 1 square foot per person served by the library. Today, more than 2 square feet per patron is typical.
- Children's rooms are no longer just miniature versions of adult reading rooms; they must include spaces for book display, story hours, computers, and other activities.
- Tweens and young adults are increasingly served in set-aside areas that must address noise and security issues.
- Libraries now house a host of new media.
- Merchandising library materials - for example, by facing book covers out and creating topical sections for nonfiction - requires much more space than traditional shelving.
- Large, flexible computer resource rooms are important components of the building.
- There is a tendency to create more, larger, and more flexible community meeting rooms.
- Some libraries have incorporated art galleries into their design.
- For staff, the trend is toward "larger, better situated, more humane, and better equipped work areas."
- Separate areas for local history collections, quiet study, services to seniors, and so on are often provided.
- Smaller libraries are following the lead of larger libraries by installing separate information desks, in addition to the reference and circulation desks.
- "Deep storage" of less frequently used materials on compact shelving helps maintain the breadth of a collection.
- Nonlibrary functions, such as cafes and bookstores, are being added -
although Esmay feels that the costs typically outweigh the benefits.
What is involved in reaching consensus?
- The library board, ideally, does strategic planning, develops fund-raising programs, and garners public support. The decision to expand the library belongs to the board.
- A library consultant may help the library administrator in evaluating
the current building and making recommendations.
- The public's actual contribution to planning should be limited, though
their needs must be understood and should drive the changes.
- The architect's most important work occurs before the actual design
of the building. Experience with library buildings is less important than
good listening skills. the ability to ask the right questions, and a commitment
to "serve the needs of the library, not the needs of his or her ego."
- The library board typically appoints a building committee to act
as liaison between the board, the library administrator and the architect.
This can be quite a time-consuming job.
- A hired construction manager can develop cost studies, working drawings,
specifications, bidding packages, and scenarios to keep the library open during
- The leadership role belongs to the library administrator. He or she
defines the needs that drive the expansion, works with the staff to gather
and analyze usage data and projections, communicates with the board and the
architect, and coordinates the project.
- The project begins with information gathering and input from staff and other key people.
- The administrator makes the case for expansion to the board.
- The administrator and architect work together on preliminary designs.
- The initial budget estimate is developed, with help from the construction manager.
- The board must approve the program requirements and proposed budget. Budget decisions can be influenced by politics; the library administrator will have to prioritize and defend program elements if the approved funds are insufficient.
- When egos intrude on the process, the library administrator must serve as the referee.
Space planning for public libraries
5. Dewe, Michael.
Planning Public Library Buildings: Concepts and Issues for the Librarian.
Aldershot, England: Ashgate, 2006. 354pp.
This thought-provoking overview defies easy summary, as it ranges from the multiple missions and roles that public library buildings fulfill, to the future of the library as a community space. Although he focuses heavily on libraries in the social and economic context of the United Kingdom, Dewe also discusses exemplary buildings in the U.S. and elsewhere. A chapter titled "Sources of renewal and innovation" covers the symbolic value of the library building, its role in urban and rural regeneration, the conversion of historic buildings, political agendas, design competitions, funding sources, and the balance between aesthetics and function. Other chapters explore: options for service points (not limited to the traditional central library and branches); site selection; renovations and additions; health and safety issues; the planning and design process; "identity, communication and style" in interior and exterior design; and the organization of collections, reader spaces, and work spaces. The author stresses that he has not written a how-to-do-it manual, but rather a basic introduction to the principles and practices of planning and designing public library buildings, with attention to important current issues and controversies. Librarians who have never studied library buildings, or who need to refresh their knowledge, will benefit from the ideas gathered here.
6. Worpole, Ken.
"Designing Paradise: Library Architecture in an Age of Lifelong Learning."
In Creating Public Paradise: Building Public Libraries for the 21st Century,
pp. 16-19. The Hague, Netherlands: Biblion Uitgeverij, 2004.
In this talk, delivered at a conference in March 2004, British scholar Worpole reflects on ten trends that are affecting the library as place:
- "Each library will develop its own bespoke programme and service priorities." The standard model of a central library with neighborhood branches is being reconsidered in light of changing demographics and cultural patterns. Libraries will provide focused services and "local distinctiveness."
- "Future libraries will be developed in partnership with other services." In order to share the costs of capital investment and tailor programs to needs, libraries are sharing space with educational agencies, municipal offices, nurseries, career services, police, and art galleries, for example.
- "Adaptability of internal design, circulation, access and hours of services is a key factor in building layout and design." Changing and expanding services necessitate freestyle floor plans and adaptable space configurations. Some areas, such as cafes, need to be accessible at times when other areas must be closed and secure.
- "Reading development and literacy are likely to become even more central to what libraries offer communities." The desire to share the experience of reading and interpretation means that libraries must provide for meeting space for reading groups, bookshops, and "self-organised informal settings."
- "Libraries will become key communications centres for mobile populations." Libraries serve as email access points for business travelers, tourists, refugees, and those without home computers. Due to advances in wireless technologies, including laptop computers and mobile phones, libraries will increasingly provide connectivity but not equipment.
- "Long stay use of libraries for study purposes requires friendly and efficient support services: toilets, catering, recreational quiet zones." Public libraries are being used more and more for education, and students who spend long hours there want amenities such as lounges and cafes. Library design is adopting "a domestic or 'club' feel" and aims to be "the living room in the city" and the heart of the community.
- "Electronic links between homes and libraries will increase." There is a growing convergence between home and library in matters of décor, style, and technological connectivity. Citizens can access online catalogs, reserve and renew materials, and use licensed content from home, while library websites can serve as online community portals and local network providers.
- "Children's services will grow in importance as the library becomes a secure, electronic safe haven in the city." Libraries not only welcome children but treat them as people and citizens in their own right. Specially designed children's spaces (physical and virtual) should be promoted as safe places for young people.
- "Virtual library services will be provided 24 hours a day." Sunday hours are proving popular. Self-issue terminals and other advances in library automation will free up some staff for more direct engagement with users; the use of call centers to filter public enquiries may do likewise. Some online services will be provided even when buildings are closed.
- "Librarians will change their role from custodians of culture to knowledge navigators."
Computer-literate staff must know how to transfer these skills to library users.
Managers will engage in more partnership projects with other agencies.
Staff will focus less on processing and more on assisting and advising readers.
Librarians' professional ethos will become much more proactive and entrepreneurial.
7. Knisely, Jennifer S. "Children's Library Spaces Support Emergent Literacy."
Bookmobile and Outreach Services, vol. 9 no. 1 (2006): 27-39.
"Emergent literacy skills" is an umbrella term for phonological awareness, print awareness, and oral language development -skills that children aged birth to five must acquire as prerequisites for effective formal reading instruction. To nurture emergent literacy through storybook reading and other programs, the library should design developmentally appropriate early childhood spaces:
- Select washable surfaces for floors, counters, tables, etc.
- Locate diaper changing tables and supplies conveniently but so as not to disrupt the room's activities.
- Plan storage areas for toys, books, etc. that are accessible to young patrons, to foster a sense of welcome and independence.
- Create a cozy side area to accommodate "cuddly reading" and one-on-one interactions.
- Be sure that traffic patterns do not disrupt the quiet area nor interfere with the active play area.
- Feature children's artwork in display areas. Such displays are popular with parents and local media, as well as the children themselves.
- Label shelves with pictures as well as print signs, to encourage individual exploration.
- Play soft background music.
- Allow room for strollers, car seats, and other baby carriers.
- Install child-sized seating and shelving, but also adult-sized chairs and shelves for materials of interest to parents and caregivers.
- Besides books, stock the library with videos, computer software, sound recordings, toys, art supplies, science equipment, dramatic play materials, etc. - and the necessary technologies for using them.
- If possible, build in windows to expand the horizon of exploration for young library users.
- Locate heating units, electrical outlets, and trash containers with health and safety in mind.
- Choose furnishings made of non-toxic materials.
8. Dempsey, Beth. "Power Users: Designing Buildings and Services from the End User's Viewpoint Transforms Access for Everyone." Library Journal vol. 130 no. 20 (December 2005): 72-75.
projects at the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh and the Brookdale Branch of Hennepin
County Library were premised on making the library more intuitive for users.
Focus groups at the Carnegie Library identified a group of "power users" who
understood the library's systems and made good use of all its resources; but
most users found the library complicated and therefore confined their use to
a small set of resources. The library employed consultants who specialize in
making complex products, services and environments easier to understand. The
consultants shadowed users and staff, pinpointing the spots where users lost
their way and where staff intervention would be most useful. At Brookdale, discussions
with citizens and community groups gleaned similar information.
(among them many new immigrants) need information and assistance in a few high-interest
areas, such as homework, technology, small business, and careers. The library
reduced its collection by 50 percent and created subject-based "information
neighborhoods." The neighborhoods are delineated by large, commercial-style
signs and distinctive carpet patterns; each neighborhood contains all the materials
on the subject, including circulating and reference books, periodicals, and
databases. The computers in the area default to that subject's homepage. The
Dewey Decimal System is still used, but patrons don't have to understand it
in order to find materials.
banned library jargon in its signage; the reference desk is labeled "Ask a Librarian"
and the circulation desk, "Customer Service." The location names are enhanced
with action words. At the Customer Service area, the sign reads: "Get a library
card. Check out and return materials. Pay fees." Placement of signs, information
kiosks and maps was determined by observational studies of how users move through
is a problem in libraries. Appointing a Signage Czar and creating a consistent
sign system can help. Signage should be conceived in a hierarchy based on its
purpose (to navigate, advertise, educate, or label) and each type should have
a consistent design template and content. Carnegie Library tested the language
of its new signs with users before installing them. Although the library will
change over time, once patrons understand the basic patterns, they will be self-reliant
and self-confident, and the library will be "future-proofed."
9. Lackney, Jeffrey A.,
and Paul Zajfen. "Post-Occupancy Evaluation of Public Libraries: Lessons Learned from Three Case Studies."
Library Administration & Management, vol.19 no. 1 (Winter 2005): 16-25.
Post-occupancy evaluation (POE), conducted after a facility has been in use for a period of time, systematically evaluates whether it meets the organizational goals and users' needs. While POE brings many benefits, it is not standard industry practice, may raise fears of liability if the report is negative, and may not be included in the construction or operational budget. This article reports on three POEs of new public library buildings in Palm Desert (CA), Queens Borough (NY) Flushing Branch, and Salt Lake City (UT). Each project had unique architectural goals. The POE involved
For each of the libraries, the authors present the project's context, the POE findings, and the lessons learned, which range from the need to design for queuing at the circulation desk to the importance of placing bathrooms near public meeting rooms. Some problems, such as insufficient elevators, are not easily solved, but others can be remedied by relocating services, improving signage, fine-tuning the heating and cooling systems, and so on.
These case studies illustrate that successful library buildings must:
- Deciding on the evaluation process (in these cases, gathering a mix of quantitative and qualitative data from staff and visitors on a variety of functional and operational factors) and comparing them to the goals that had been set for the new facility.
- Conducting interviews with administrators.
- Administering Web-based surveys to staff and visitors that addressed building layout, functionality, legibility, aesthetics, environmental quality, accessibility, safety/security, operations, and planning for expansion and organizational flexibility.
- Photographing problematic environments.
- Sharing and discussing multiple interpretations with library administrative
staff before releasing the report.
POE can rely in-house surveys and take a few weeks or can be conducted by a hired
consultant and take up to several months. POE provides a baseline for continuous
- Embody both traditional and progressive ideas about what a library is.
- Meet the changing needs of users without sacrificing the functional requirements of the staff.
- Take advantage of natural light without creating glare, generating excessive heat, or damaging collections.
- Create spacial openness yet support easy navigation and supervisability.
- Meet community demands for "a more socially informal library" while still permitting quiet study.
- Accurately predict levels of usage.
"Libraries as Places."
This annotated list of reasons why public libraries matter as civic spaces
can be found on the Urbana (IL) Free Library's news page.
UFL recently completed a successful addition and renovation project.
Special topic: Libraries in shopping malls
11. Blakenship, Donna Gordon.
"Readin', Writin' and Shoppin'." Retail Traffic, vol. 33 no. 10 (October 2004): 42-46.
This article, written for businesspeople, extols the mutual benefits to stores and libraries of locating public libraries in shopping malls. Examples include the Crossroad Bellevue mall, which houses a branch of the King County (WA) Library System, and the Glendale branch of the Indianapolis-Marion County library. A library contributes to a mall's character as a suburban "downtown", offers customers a quiet oasis, and can serve as an anchor to "replace the department stores that are dying off in older malls." Libraries draw foot traffic to the mall with public programs, and are often designed to resemble bookstores more than traditional libraries. Start-up costs and rents may be higher than other branches, but the high circulation figures make shopping mall locations very cost-effective.
Morris, Anne, and Anna Brown. "Siting of Public Libraries in Retail Centres: Benefits and Effects." Library Management, vol. 25 no. 3 (2004): 127-137.
Case study: Cerritos (CA) Public Library
- Libraries have been located in shopping centers in the US since the early 1970s, and are catching on in other countries, including the UK, Australia, and Singapore. Librarians have long understood the benefits of being connected with retail developments, but little has been written about the benefits to the shops. Morris and Brown selected five libraries in shopping centers in England and interviewed library, mall, and shop managers at each, to learn how the libraries' presence was perceived.
- The initiative to locate the libraries in malls came from their communities, not the mall owners.
- Advantages to the libraries include a rise in adult library usage, more "opportunistic" use (e.g. when other family members are shopping), the ability to draw on a wider area of population, free parking, services such as security and toilets, and opportunities (largely unexplored) to partner with stores on programs.
- Disadvantages for libraries include high rents, undesirable locations within the malls (e.g. on upper floors), expensive alterations to spaces designed for retail purposes.
- Some effects of being located in a shopping center are mixed:
A regional mall may draw on a wider geography of potential library users, but they won't want to travel back and forth to borrow and return books.
- Borrowing may drop, while the use of reference materials, newspapers, and computers rises.
- Libraries risk excluding poor people, who can't afford to shop at the mall, although some writers suggest that libraries bring their regular users with them.
- Advantages for the shopping centers include increased traffic and a wider variety of potential customers. However, some retailers believe that library users look but often don't buy.
- Neither librarians nor retail managers perceive competition between libraries and shops, except when the library charges for a service - such as video rentals, used book sales, and photocopying. Special agreements between the library and the shops can ward off any bad feelings.
- Most interviewees in the study stated that the library had a positive impact on the mall's image as "up-market" and "accessible."
- While the library can be a resource for business information, it is underutilized in this regard. Retailers could also make greater use of library meeting spaces.
- Libraries should promote their services to mall occupants.
- Libraries and bookstores should work together more.
- Opening hours of the library should be coordinated with those of the shops.
- Businesses and libraries should cooperate more on projects and events, to attract more customers and provide good public relations.
- Libraries should adopt a retail-style appearance.
Cerritos Library: The Experience Library Project Site.
rich web site relates how Cerritos (CA) conceived, designed, and built a strikingly
innovative new public library focused on the user and grounded in the philosophy
that "every experience is a learning experience." In addition to practical advice
on each stage of the process, from idea generation through the grand opening,
there is a useful set of essays on "lessons learned." Here's a sampling:
The web site includes many photographs and documents, including the building
Good ideas can be made to fit any budget. For libraries that wish to copy some
of the Cerritos Library's innovative furnishing, cheaper alternatives are suggested.
- Services: New service points, a quadrupling of public computers, and the anticipated
increase in usage required new policies and training programs.
- Staff: To keep
staff involved and informed, robust communication systems were established.
Changes in spaces and services prompted staff reorganization.
- The Building:
New components, such as the Library Friends store and a high-tech Conference
Center, entailed new job definitions and procedures. Security staffing had to
- Moving the Books: It took a very experienced professional mover
AND all members of the library staff to pull off a successful transfer of books
to the new building.
- The Story Line: "[E]very two and three-dimensional element
that you include within your library must convey a visual message orchestrating
the Story Line... whether through architecture, interior design, learning experiences,
or themed components, every element must play a visually coherent role….Cerritos
Library's Story Line is 'Honoring the Past, Imagining the Future', " and therefore
each area in the library has its own theme based on a specific time period.
School library media centers
14. Hart, Thomas L. The School Library Media Facilitites Planner. New York: Neal-Schuman Publishers, 2006. 253p. plus DVD.
Intended as a practical handbook for school library media specialists, architects, district level media coordinators, and administrators, this book provides step-by-step advice on planning and building a new school library.
- Before You Begin: Essential Background and Vision
- The first step is to create a planning team. In addition to the school library media specialist, the team members might include administrators, district media and/or IT specialists, teachers, parents, and sometimes a consultant.
- The next step is a needs assessment. This requires evaluating the existing programs and collection, and defining priorities for the new facility's programmatic space and infrastructure.
- Next, a detailed planning document, also called a "program statement," must be developed to guide the administrators, school board, facilities personnel, and architects. Hart recommends studying floor plans and planning documents for other library media centers, both successful and unsuccessful. (The companion DVD provides many visual examples.)
- Planning the Facility
- The planning document may include statements on the school's demographics, the library media center's philosophy and goals, the need for flexible spaces, the location of the center within the school, the collection size and formats, types of activities, and functions and equipment.
- Each type of space (e.g. reading areas, computer areas, workrooms) should be outlined, along with its functions and any special furnishings and equipment needed.
- Numerous special considerations must be listed, such as climate control, acoustical control, lighting, and safety and disability issues.
- The dimensions of furniture, shelving, and storage units must be specified. (This chapter includes guidelines and formulas.)
The book concludes with a glossary of architectural styles and terms, a 60-page sample planning document, and a sample contract and request for bids.
- Building and Moving In
- After the planning document is finalized, the next step is to select an architect. Because few architectural firms specialize in schools, a rigorous selection process, starting with an RFP, is essential.
- Once a contract is signed, the design phase gets underway with the architect and the planning team. Over the course of several meetings, floor plans and drawings will be drafted and modified to meet the program's needs and to stay within budget.
- The school library media specialist is rarely involved in the selection of the contractor, but must understand the roles of contractors, sub-contractors, and project managers.
- The school library media specialist plans the move, which may involve volunteers and should be carefully scheduled and coordinated. (This chapter provides detailed checklists.)
15. Klafehn, Chris. "Sight, Sound and Supervision: Space Planning for K-12 Library Media Centers."
Colorado Libraries, vol. 32 no. 1 (Winter 2006): 25-27.
Klafehn provides detailed advice on materials and dimensions for many components of the ideal school library media center:
The following should NOT be in a school library media center:
- Circulation area: positioned at the main entrance; open on both ends; a book return unit easily accessible; sit-down and/or stand-up positons for computers, staff and volunteers; transaction ledges above the work surfaces for students to place books on; shelving behind the desk for books being processed as well as professional and parenting collections; sightlines from the desk to the entire library.
- Shelving: single-faced shelves lining all the walls; lower or tiered aisle shelving in the interior space, oriented diagonally for better sightlines; 25% of shelves empty to allow for collection growth.
- A secondary desk for reference in larger libraries and in middle and high schools, with direct sightlines to the circulation desk.
- Technology/reference/research/internet/LAN area: multifunctional, freestanding workstations without easily damaged keyboard pullout trays.
- Classroom or instructional area: seating 24-32 students; in a direct sightline from the circulation desk; rectangular tables each seating 4-6 students; a whiteboard/projection screen.
- Storytime area in elementary schools: colorful rug or soft, stackable seating rather than inflexible built-in tiers; browsing bins for picture books.
- Lounge area: near periodicals and fiction collection; a sofa or loveseat for young children; individual chairs for older students.
- Librarian's office and workroom: behind the circulation desk; a window for viewing the library; furnished with desk, cabinets, sink, work table.
- Audiovisual storage room, aligned with the workroom.
- Teacher resource room, where multiple copies of reading texts can be stored.
- Conference room(s) for staff and community meetings.
- mall group room(s) for student projects and meetings.
- Media production space.
- Built-in story pits or risers that encourage jumping and limit sight lines.
- Multiple levels and balconies, which are difficult to supervise and waste space on stairways.
- Extensive windows, which decrease wall space for shelving.
- Built-in planters which take up space and require maintenance.
- Architectural details that interfere with sightlines.
- Circular, centered and/or oversized circulation desks that create blind spots for supervision.
- Single-door entrances that impede traffic flow.
- Carpet designs to define areas. Use shelving and furniture instead.
- Clerestories, which can create echo chambers.
- Potentially unsafe items such as mobile shelving, lamp cords, and rocking chairs.
- Loveseats and sofas in middle and high schools, which "can create very interesting human interaction."
- Exciting primary colors. The color scheme should be peaceful.
- Solid-colored laminates that are hard to clean; dark fabrics that show lint.
Special and medical libraries
Blackburn, Janette .S. and Carole.C. Wedge. "Design as a Catalyst: Fostering Collaboration and Community in Special Libraries."
Information Outlook vol.9, no.11 (Nov 2005):14-19
The authors discuss what factors and issues should be considered when renovating or expanding a library's space to accommodate the needs of users today.
- What type of teaching, training, or research will the new space support?
- For Gottesman Library at Teachers College, Columbia University, the renovation produced seminar and group workrooms, classrooms, a display area, and a café.
- At Marquand Library for Art and Archeology, Princeton University, the renovation and expansion saw more assigned carrels for Art and Archeology seniors and graduate students to support the focus on research. Also, power, data and wireless connections were added to study tables.
Evolving Service Models
- Carrels that accommodate desktop computers
- Wired and wireless connections for student laptops
- Equipment for presentations and videoconferencing
- Laptops for rent
- Rethinking of service point locations
- "One-stop shopping" model-single service desk at the main entrance supports all floors of the library
- No matter the model, service points should support patron-staff interaction in a comfortable environment.
The Library as a Place
- The Africana Center, Cornell University has movable furniture, and uses its main-floor classroom as a study room at peak times.
- Mobile, lockable cart assignments permit individual researchers to study wherever they like as an alternative to assigned carrels.
- Another alternative to assigned carrels may be locking files or cabinets assigned to researchers that are located near study areas.
- Design elements should reflect the unique population served.
- Features that help to define a unique space include art, large expanses of glass, exhibition halls, teaching spaces, and cafes and lounge areas.
17. Ludwig, Logan, and Susan Starr. "Library as Place: Results of a Delphi Study."
Journal of the Medical Library Association, vol. 93 no. 3 (July 2005): 315-326.
An expert panel of 30 health sciences librarians, building consultants, architects, and information technologists were asked to reflect on 78 opinion statements about future trends that might impact the use of library space. Consensus emerged on 52 statements concerning changes in technology, scholarly communication, learning environments, and the health care economy. Among the specific implications for building design and space usage were:
Although the Delphi study methodology aims at identifying consensus, it is helpful to analyze predictions on which consensus did not emerge. Panel members disagreed not so much about desirability of changes (e.g. 24/7 hours of operation), but about factors such as cost-effectiveness, match to institutional mission, and views of human nature.
- Libraries will devote less space to print collections and to the facilities, like copiers and index tables, which support users of print.
- By 2015, many academic health sciences libraries will be integrated into multifunctional buildings with instructional space, including distance learning classrooms.
- Health sciences libraries will evolve into "centers for knowledge management," supporting "the full spectrum of activities from knowledge creation to knowledge utilization" and necessitating changes in staff workspaces and service points to house new equipment and facilitate sustained consultations.
- Secure, high bandwidth wireless connectivity will be ubiquitous and the building's infrastructure must support it. Only a few desktop computers will be supplied for walk-in users.
- Since most users will bring their own portable devices, seating and classrooms must be designed to meet their needs.
- By 2010, the primary reason for visiting a health sciences library won't be to access information, but to take advantage of "time-saving or value-added information services and for places to collaborate and study." Therefore, libraries should offer access to food services in the building or nearby, both enclosed group study areas and open quiet areas, and one multifunctional desk for circulation and reference services.
- Staff offices will evolve into collaborative work spaces for cross-functional teams.
- Library staff will increasingly work with users in the users' offices and labs.
18. Connor, Elizabeth, ed. Planning, Renovating, Expanding, and Constructing Library Facilities in Hospitals, Academic Medical Centers, and Health Organizations.
Binghamton, NY: Haworth Information Press, 2005. 218pp.
This volume collects thirteen case studies of medical library facilities, organized by type - special libraries (an association's library and a historical collection), hospital libraries, and academic medical center libraries. Each case presents unique issues and solutions, and the chapters are illustrated with floor plans and photographs. Some contain special features. For example, chapter 2, a report on the renovation of the Osler Library of the History of Medicine at McGill University, includes guidelines for calculating packing and unpacking time. Chapter 4 describes the difficult merger of two hospital libraries, without glossing over the problems and delays. Chapter 8 details the composition and tasks of various teams that planned and managed the renovation of the library at the University of Massachusetts Medical School. Editor Elizabeth Connor notes that a number of best practices emerge from the case studies:
- Involving library staff in the planning process.
- Engaging the services of a library consultant.
- Visiting other libraries to get ideas.
- Keeping patrons informed about the project's progress.
- Understanding the language and tools used by architects, engineers, and designers.
- Reviewing the project regularly, including frequent walk-throughs of the construction site.
- Acknowledging and celebrating people for the expertise, time and energy that they contribute.
The bookstore model
Helen. "Change in Store? An Investigation into the Impact of the Book Superstore
Environment on Use, Perceptions and Expectations of the Public Library as a
Space, Place and Experience." Library and Information Research News, vol. 28,
no. 88 (Spring 2004): 13-26.
Cartwright used focus group interviews and questionnaires to probe the attitudes and behaviors of library and bookstore users and staff in the United Kingdom.
- Book superstores in the UK, as in the US, have been viewed both as threats to public libraries and as models for libraries to emulate.
- Bookstore users viewed libraries in positive terms, and library users were likewise positive toward bookstores.
- Both groups felt that bookstores are warmer, more modern, more stylish, and more comfortable than libraries.
- Young respondents held more negative opinions of libraries than older respondents.
- Lower-income respondents saw libraries in a more favorable light than higher-income respondents, but income was not correlated with attitudes toward bookstores.
- Females rated libraries as more welcoming and comfortable than did males.
- Asked whether "the library is a place for the community," 94% of library users said yes, as did 74% of bookstore users.
- Asked if "the bookstore is a place for the community," only 36% of library users said yes, compared to 49% of the bookstore users.
- Looking at actual usage, middle-income earners were found to be decreasing their use of libraries while increasing their use of bookstores.
- Bookstores are places where users, especially young ones, prefer to linger and socialize.
- Libraries are preferred for studying, working, and finding information.
- Both bookstores and libraries are valued by their respective users as places of "escape."
- he bookstore's display of stock is more appealing than the library's.
- More up-to-date stock, comfortable seating, café facilities, and improved displays would make the library more inviting.
- Respondents perceive different purposes for libraries (educational) and bookstores (recreational) and want them to look and feel different from each other.
- Bookstores are becoming "the leisure destination of choice for many readers."
20. Woodward, Jeannette. Creating the Customer-Driven Library:
Building on the Bookstore Model. Chicago: American Library Association, 2005. 234pp.
Libraries shouldn't mimic book superstores, but all types of libraries can learn from bookstores' successes. (While Woodward covers many topics, including customer service and marketing, this summary only covers issues related to the use of physical space.)
- Comparing libraries and bookstore. (Chapter 2)
- Location matters. Like stores, libraries should be sited in convenient, safe areas.
- Libraries generally have more impressive exteriors than bookstores, but parking and signage are sometimes inadequate.
- Stores and libraries alike have electronic security systems at their entrances, but in stores they are made less off-putting by placing colorful displays nearby.
- Long, narrow, and badly lit library shelves compare poorly to the eye-catching displays in bookstores.
- In many libraries, only the children's room offers a cheerful ambiance that fosters delight in reading.
- Libraries nobly allocate money to collections, while staff workspaces deteriorate into grungy cluttered areas that do not inspire confidence among library users.
- What's all this about ambiance? (Chapter 8)
- Although bookstore buildings are often little more than warehouses, their décor conveys a sense of comfort and spaciousness.
- Customers need to be informed, and should therefore be greeted by uncluttered entrances that feature signage, service desks, printed guides, and obvious paths into the heart of the building.
- Customers need to be entertained. The building design should balance functionality and excitement. The interior design should "stimulate the mind and awaken the imagination," for example with a "fun" color scheme.
- Customers need to get a good buy. It should be easy to find the most popular items in the collection.
- Customers need fast service. Not only should the placement and design of checkout counters minimize waiting time, but there should be displays or other distractions to entertain patrons when long lines occur.
- Customers need to feel safe, in an environment that is solid, permanent, and well maintained. Parking lots should be well lit.
- Customers need to feel special. Some libraries have an "institutional feel" due to drab paint and carpeting. A service desk near the entrance can double as a greeter station. By lowering ceilings in group study rooms and reading niches, a cozy atmosphere can be achieved.
- Color triggers psychological and physiological reactions. Warm colors evoke comfort and energy; cool colors promote restfulness and concentration. Choosing colors is tricky, because they look different in different lighting.
- Get rid of clutter!
- Cleanliness (or lack of it) has a huge impact on public perception. Make custodial services a priority.
- The Art of Display. (Chapter 9)
- Librarians can learn from the field of visual merchandising.
- Attractive displays can compensate for the boring arrangement of books on shelves by classification.
- Simply repackaging books in new shiny vinyl covers, or CDs in unscratched cases, will stimulate interest and boost circulation of older titles.
- Color is the best tool for attracting attention to displays.
- Common materials to create displays include paint, construction materials like foam board, fabric, carpet pieces, paper, and artifacts related to the topic of the display.
- Constantly updating exhibits in prominent display cases can prove a burden, but the cases may also be used to spotlight the work of local hobbyists and collectors. Local museums may be willing to lend less valuable items.
- Adequate lighting and signage are essential to good displays.
- Finding Their Way: The Importance of Signage (Chapter 10)
- Signs are among the most important means of communication between the
library and its users. Contrary to what some librarians believe, many people
do seek and follow signs.
- There must be enough signs that users can find their way around the library,
but not so many that they add clutter and visual noise.
- Signs should harmonize with the décor yet stand out sufficiently to be
- A signage system (as opposed to just a bunch of signs) requires careful
planning based on an analysis of user needs.
- Signs with a specific function (e.g. designating call number ranges) should
be similar in color and design.
- Terminology should be consistent (e.g., not "magazines" on one sign and
"periodicals" on another).
- Signs should be easy to remove and replace, durable, and professional
looking, even if homemade.
- Directional signs should be provided at decision points, such as exiting
from an elevator.
- Post library rules where people are likely to break them.
- Rather than spending a lot on professional signage that will become outdated,
consider investing in materials and software to make signs as needed in-house.
- Begin designing a signage system by touring your library as a customer.
- Food and Drink in the Library (Chapter 15)
- Cafes within bookstores inspire customers to stay longer and buy more.
- Damage to books from food spills and insects may not be a big factor where collections are weeded regularly. In research libraries, the feasibility of permitting food and drink will depend on how collections are organized, and whether valuable and irreplaceable materials are housed separately.
- Cafes should be large enough to accommodate both customer tables and preparation and storage areas.
- A separate entrance is desirable, so that cafes hours need not match the library's hours.
- A café must comply local sanitation regulations and will probably require additional insurance.
- Outsourcing the café operation is usually a good idea, and an RFP (request for proposals) process may be used to select a vendor.
For further inspiration and information
John E. and Gloria J. Leckie. The Library as Place: History, Community and Culture.
Westport, CT: Libraries Unlimited, forthcoming in December 2006.
Libraries as Places: Buildings for the 21st Century; Proceedings of the
Thirteenth Seminar of IFLA's Library Buildings and Equipment Section
together with IFLA's Public Libraries Section. Ed. by Marie-Francoise
Bisbrouck et al. Munich: K.G. Saur, 2004, 210pp. (IFLA Publications no. 109)
Twelve papers -- three in French, nine in English -- cover recent library architecture in Europe and North America.
Includes many black-and-white photographs.
Marshall, John Douglas. Place of Learning, Place of Dreams: A History of the
Seattle Public Library. Seattle: University of Washington Press, 2004. 192pp.v
before the opening of Seattle's new central library, designed by internationally
renowned architect Rem Koolhaas, this warts-and-all history focuses much of
its attention on the buildings that have housed Seattle's collections over the
Futagawa, Yuki o. Library. Tokyo: Edie Edita Tokyo, 2006. 319pp.
Inspiring color photos of the interiors and exteriors of fifty libraries in Japan, the US and Europe, designed by notable modern architects, including Frank Lloyd Wright, I.M. Pei, and Frank Gehry.
Thumbnail floor plans and brief commentaries in English and Japanese are included.
Each year, the
April issue of American Libraries focuses on library architecture. In
addition to a handful of feature articles on the theme, many color photographs
of newly designed library interiors provide inspiration and ideas.
has been compiling data on new and renovated library buildings since 1969. The
December issue highlights "The Year in Architecture" with lists of new and renovated
buildings and their costs, trend analyses, a directory of architects, and color
photographs of library interiors and exteriors.
Library Design Resources
This extensive pathfinder provided by the Environmental Design
Library at UC-Berkeley identifies relevant reference books, websites,
keywords, subject headings, indexes, journals, organizations, and more.
Whole Building Design Guide.
Sponsored by the
National Institute of Building Sciences, the WBDG brings together information
about requirements, standards, technologies and trends for many sorts of buildings.
Click on "Building Types" on the left-hand menu; then find "Libraries" on the
alphabetical list. On separate pages for academic, public, school, and presidential
libraries, the building's key attributes are described, and standards and guidelines
are cited. A section headed "Emerging Issues" suggests trends and future developments
that building planners should keep in mind.
Fred, and John Moorman. "The Curse of Carnegie: Can Modern Public Libraries
Find True Happiness in Historic Buildings?
A humorous list of twenty-one "useful aphorisms" presented at the Public Library Association conference in March 2006. Example: "Despite our attachment to an historic library,
if no one can park anywhere near it,
it's a bad idea to spend millions fixing it up."
The Library as Place: Symposium on Building and Revitalizing Health Sciences
Libraries in the Digital Age. National Library of Medicine
and Association of Academic Health Sciences Libraries. November 5-6, 2003.
Also available on DVD.
This excellent conference program offers valuable insight about how information is organized, accessed, and stored in contemporary libraries. While the focus is on health sciences libraries, much of the information is relevant to all libraries.
The website includes videos of all sessions and PowerPoint slides for most of them.
Karen. "Information Architecture and Customer Service."
This conference presentation from spring 2006, including the speaker's notes as well as the slides, describes how the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh applied the concept of "information architecture" grounded in the users' experience when it remodeled its main building. Rossi gives many examples of changes not just to the organization and demarcation of space, but also the placement and wording of
signage and the design of the library's website and online catalog.