WebJunction's Focus on Space Planning for 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
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.
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
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.
Richard Waters, Principal Consultant for PROVIDENCE Associates Inc., a library building consultants firm, authored these library space planning guidelines as part of the building program for a new Missouri River Regional Library. This useful document includes definitions of basic space planning terms, information on collection capacity, and square foot requirements for user stations and staff workspace.
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.
Beyond the Basics
Presenting Space Needs Analyses and Examples of Library Building Programs
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."
Some great examples of detailed library building programs are available on the California State Library's Office of Library Construction website. Among the 45 building programs available for downloading are the Julian Library in San Diego County; Castroville in Monterey County; and Acton/Aqua Dulce, a County of Los Angeles Public Library branch [Note: these links have since expired].
State Libraries Resources for Library Facilities Planning
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 Utah State Library provides a Toolkit for Planning and Building Public Library Buildings.
Facility Planning Standards
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.
The Mid-Hudson Library System offers recommendations on library space planning including five reader seats for every 1,000 people in the library's chartered area with 30 square feet per reader. Other recommendations include the number of volumes and required space, the amount of staff workspace, and the number of public access computers.
Planning for Collections
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.
PLA Managing for Results Facilities Workforms
ALA Publications on Buildings and Facilities, including:
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.5 License.
This work is licensed under a  Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 United States License