Planning the Library Space from Scratch
In the Beginning…
The opportunity to start from scratch in creating a library can be both exciting and overwhelming. There is so much to consider. When the architect generates the concept for the building and the walls are printed into the plan, the areas begin to take shape. If you are expanding on a current footprint, you are likely to update the existing space to be more useable in keeping with the changes that have taken place in library furnishings. In the past, patrons were somewhat isolated one from another in order to study, but this has evolved into more collaborative study efforts. With this change, the shape, size and versatility of tables have become a factor as opposed to study carrels. I have not seen data on the level of sound in the library of today, but I would imagine it has risen a few decibels in the past few decades. Ask yourself, what is the atmosphere I want to create in my library?
Window and door placement determine useable space around the space needed for traffic flow. When adequate shelving for the collection is superimposed on the floor plan, the open areas around the shelving are what remain for reading areas (lounge as well as table with chairs), study areas, common areas for community events, staffing and requirements for the building codes.
An analysis of the demographics for your library and how it is used will determine the classification breakdown of study vs. easy reading areas. How much study compared to easy chair reading areas do you see for your library?
Staffing tasks are usually found on the perimeters of the library floor plan, except for those areas that need to interface with customers. These service stations are integrated into furniture that is easily accessible to the patrons of the library. A newer philosophy in libraries is one in which the manager or director is readily available to both staff and public so that lines of sight and communication represent an open door policy. This helps the staff see when a person may need their assistance, as well as to know when a situation may need their attention.
Any data and electrical requirements must be looked at early on in the planning. Although most new buildings are being built as "wireless," there are still good reasons to look at convenient areas where a patron could plug in to recharge her laptop or other accessories that she may use in the course of her daily living (cell phone, personal organizer, etc.) These outlets can be designed to be brought into the furniture in various ways. There is a commonly known power strip as well as variations in style on tabletops as well as mounted on vertical legs inside an enclosure of the furniture. The furniture style and the component's capability will determine which one is best suited for your project. What needs will your customer have that relate to data and electrical when he visits your library?
The bookstore model
Bookstores and libraries are becoming more similar in appearance. There is a central point that a customer/patron is directed to by signage when he enters the facility and knows what he wants and doesn't need help finding it. "Merchandising" and making use of displays in new ways are the buzz now - research from both retail display and areas that use themes to draw attention to one area while uniting the whole space seems to be the wave of the future. Many libraries are shelving by topic. As libraries compete with bookstores there is likely to be more self service. The concept of your local library advertising the fact that they have a good supply available has brought the need for new ways of displaying multiple copies. The way in which customers can browse the shelves to see what the library has to offer has become paramount to increasing their circulation. What are your goals and the underlining theme of your library?
The answers to all of the above issues will determine the style, types and quantities of furniture and shelving that is used in your facility.
Tish Murphy resides in Phoenix, Arizona and is available for speaking and workshops relating to furniture requirements and utilization of space. www.libraryfurnishings.com
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