Resources for Space Planning in Libraries
Whether you are planning a new building or renovating an old one, you will need to develop a detailed space plan that takes into account the actual space needs to meet your library's mission and service plan. Library space planning expert, Linda Demmers of Libris Design has put together a guide to some of the best resources and tools for library space planning as well an an introduction to the lingo.
- Space Planning Terms
Here are some common space planning terms--in case you wondered just what the difference is between assignable and non-assignable space. You'll need to be familiar with these terms to use space planning guides and tools.
- Guides to Space Planning
These basic guides can walk you through the space planning process.
- Tools for Basic Space Planning
You can use these spreadsheets to determine your space needs
- Beyond the Basics
Space Planning Terms
Here are a few terms you should be familiar with before you get started:
A space plan takes your library's mission and plan of service, based on significant community input and information about projected growth of the community, and translates those needs, expectations and projections into space requirements. The size of each space is based on what needs to happen in that space, including seating, collections, technology, display, programs and meetings, and staff work areas. A simple space plan is the number of items (such as furnishings and shelving) planned multiplied by the square footage required for this specific item.
Assignable space is the area of a building that is used for public or staff functions. The assignable space is the sum of all of the assignable square footage (or net square footage) occupied by furniture and equipment or other programmed activities. The assignable square footage for a specific object is the area occupied by its footprint plus the area around it required for using it. For example: A table for four occupies 4' x 6' (footprint), 3' behind each chair and 2' on both ends of the table for a total assignable square footage of 100 square feet (10' x 10').
Non-assignable space, or unassignable space, is the space in the facility that supports its operation such as shafts, ducts, elevators, stairwells, corridors, restrooms, mechanical rooms, electrical closets, and the thickness of walls. Non-assignable space is frequently calculated on a percentage basis, typically 20% to 30% of the total building.
Gross square footage, or total square footage, is the non-assignable and assignable space combined. Construction costs are based on gross square footage. This is the total footprint of the building.
The library building program contains the documentation of the library's space planning activities as well as information about the functional requirements and physical characteristics of the library's spaces. It may include information about lighting, telecommunications, finish materials, acoustics, adjacencies, security and other relevant information that you will want to share with the design team. A good building program can be a project's memory as well as the primary planning document for your project.
Guides to Space Planning
Need a little help getting started? Here a few places to start:
Linda Demmers' Space Planning and the Building Program provides a good introduction to the process.
The Connecticut State Library also has an excellent Library Space Planning Guide assembled by Mary Louise Jensen.
Building Blocks for Planning Functional Library Space, Scarecrow Press, 2001, is another great place to get started. This Library Administration and Management Association (LAMA) publication, in its second edition, provides the basic square footage requirements for common library inventory items as well as drawings which illustrate how the square footage was derived. An extensive bibliography is included.
Lee Brawner, Raymond Holt, and Anders C. Dahlgren have provided space planning information to the library community for many years. Some of their publications include:
Anders C. Dahlgren's Public Library Space Needs: A Planning Outline, Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction, 1998, one of the standard sources for library facility planning. It is available from the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction website
Dahlgren's Planning the Small Library Facility, 2nd ed., Library Administration and Management Association (LAMA), American Library Association (ALA) 1996, is currently out of print, but if you can locate a copy, it is still one of the best basic guides to space planning for a small library.
Another useful summary can be found in Lee B. Brawner and Donald K. Beck's "Appendix A - Library Space Planning Guidelines" in Determining Your Public Library's Future Size: A Needs Assessment and Planning Model, pp.123-125, ALA, 1996.
Tools for Basic Space Planning
Linda Demmers, Libris Design Project Manager, created a simple Excel spreadsheet that can be used for quick space needs analyses. By entering the unit quantities of specific library inventory items; i.e., two tables for four, a quick space needs analysis can be prepared.
Presenting Space Needs Analyses and Examples of Library Building Programs
The space requirements can be presented in a simple one page Space Allocation Chart or a more detailed document, a Space Needs Assessment. These documents would be the basis for a more detailed building program.
A good discussion of the role of the Library Building Program appears in McCabe, Gerard B. "The Library Building Program." In Planning for a New Generation of Public Library Buildings, 67-76, Greenwood Press, 2000.
The Libris Design database provides a sophisticated space-planning tool that can be used to produce a detailed library building program and project cost estimate. Beverly J. Obert, Executive Director of the Rolling Prairie Library System writes, "By using this massive Access database, you can design a library down to the smallest detail. You can designate numerous areas, from a garage to a room for servers."
State Libraries Resources for Library Facilities Planning
Many state library agencies provide planning assistance to their constituents. Check with your state library, if you haven't already done so. Here are a few other sites worth visiting:
The Connecticut State Library has an excellent Library Space Planning Guide assembled by Mary Louise Jensen. Using this guide, librarians and trustees can obtain a general estimate of their library's space needs, and help initiate a larger facilities planning process.
The Massachusetts Public Library Construction Program has a Checklist for Success [Word file] and other Planning and Implementation Resources.
Facility Planning Standards
Since the Public Library Association abandoned quantitative planning standards, many jurisdictions have developed their own standards for delivering library service. Facility planning standards are typically based on a per capita allocation or on a checklist of recommended or required features. These can be used to determine the number of reader seats, technology workstations, meeting room seats, and collections your library should plan to accommodate. A review of some of these standards may help you to right size your own facility.
The Wisconsin State Library has had long established Standards for basic library service. Currently in its fourth edition, Wisconsin Public Library Standards include both quantitative measures and checklists. The quantitative guidelines can be applied to either municipal population of the jurisdiction or service population of the area.
Planning for Collections
Richard B. Hall, Bond Act Manager, of the California State Library Office of Library Construction, notes that the most serious errors he has seen in library building programs have been in the area of planning for collections. "90% percent of the time, when I find a major problem during plans reviews, it is in the layout of the shelving because of a calculation error made in the building program or an incorrect assumption made by the programmer or architect for either volumes per linear foot or how many books a shelving type will hold."
Your job as the library planner is to identify specific collections, the quantity you will be housing, and select a shelving type. Then take out your calculator, open your excel spreadsheet or jump into Libris Design. Many of the basic planning sources cited above provide excellent guidelines for planning collection space.
Linda Demmers, Libris Design Project Manager, created a simple Excel spreadsheet that can be used for collection space planning. By entering the volume count for specific collections and selecting a shelving type, a quick space needs analysis can be created.
Links to Other Resources
- ALA Fact Sheet Number 11. Building Libraries and Library Additions: A Selected Annotated Bibliography
- PLA Managing for Results Facilities Workforms - This series includes a range of workforms for space and facilities planning.
- ALA Publications on Buildings and Facilities, including:
- Checklist of Library Building Design Considerations, 4th Edition (2001), by William W. Sannwald
- Countdown to a New Library: Managing the Building Project (2000), by Jeannette Woodward
- Interior Design for Libraries: Drawing on Function and Appeal (2002), by Carol R. Brown
- and titles that address specific types of libraries or library spaces, such as:
- Designing a School Library Media Center for the Future (2001), by Rolf Erikson, Carol Markuson & AASL
- Teen Spaces: The Step-by-Step Library Makeover (2003), by Kimberly Bolan Taney
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