The Library space types are areas where bound paper documents, film, or magnetic media are stored. A Library space type may include both open and closed storage systems and moveable shelving systems, and be applicable to file rooms and other dense storage of material in conditioned office environments. Libraries are assumed to be general purpose, and may include display spaces and reading, meeting, and electronic workstations, as defined by the desired level of access to materials being stored.
Internet access, electronic media, computer technology, and other advancements have had a profound effect on the function and design of libraries. As a result, Library space type design must be flexible enough to take into account these types of integrated technologies as well as to properly store, handle, and circulate printed and other media types. No special type of humidity control is assumed in the Library space type since storage of archival materials is not typical.
There are seven broad types of library space:
Public electronic workstation space
User seating space
Staff work space
Special use space
Non-assignable space (including mechanical space)
Typical features of library space types include the list of applicable design objectives elements as outlined below. For a complete list and definitions of the design objectives within the context of whole building design, click on the titles below.
Accessibility should be planned early in the process. Various types of disabilities should be considered including those with visual, learning, mobility, speech, and hearing impairments. Staff should also be educated and informed regarding how to provide an appropriate service or accommodation that might be requested or required.
Physical features to address in the Library space include:
- Doorway openings at least 32 inches wide and doorway thresholds no higher than 1/2 inch.
- Aisles kept wide and clear for wheelchair users. Remove or minimize protruding objects for the safety of visually impaired users.
- Connect levels of the Library via an accessible route of travel, or provide procedures to assist patrons with mobility impairments in retrieving materials from inaccessible locations.
- Provide ramps and/or elevators as alternatives to stairs. Install elevators with both auditory and visual signals for floors. Elevator controls should be marked in large print and Braille or raised notation. People seated in wheelchairs should be easily able to reach all elevator controls.
- Wheelchair-accessible restrooms with well-marked signs should be available in or near the library.
- Make service desks and facilities such as book returns wheelchair accessible.
- Provide ample high-contrast, large print directional signs throughout the library. Shelf and stack identifiers should be provided in large print and Braille formats. Mark equipment with large print and Braille labels.
- Provide telecommunication devices for the deaf (TDD/TTY).
- Provide hearing protectors, private study rooms, or study carrels for users who are distracted by noise and movement around them or who need special equipment or support.
- Provide adaptive technology for computers.
The aesthetic choices for the Library space should relay a particular message about the overall experience users will have. Consider whether the Library will be more formal and traditional or more modern and open. Determine how it will provide connections to the local community, ideals, and traditions, cultural connections, and or nature.
Provide natural daylighting where possible but consider the effects of light on collections in the process to reduce damage. Lighting levels should be even. Surfaces should not be too shiny or glossy and keep reflections, shadows, and glare to a minimum.
Provide visual contrast and use differences in colors, textures, and patterns to create an engaging experience and differentiate spaces.
Integrated Technology: Begin the design process with a thorough understanding of the technological requirements of the space, including anticipated future needs.
Shelving systems: Depending on the particular needs of a Library space, shelving systems can be integrated into the design of the room or installed as modular and adaptable units.
Heavy floor loads: Library stacks and records storage are typically designed for a 150 LB/SF live load.
Acoustic and Visual Privacy: Library space types will typically include reading and private work/study areas that require acoustic and visual separation from general circulation and work areas. Program these spaces in relation to public access to shelving for self-service.
Special Lighting: Establishing lighting zones at the beginning of the design process. Differentiate between the lighting needs for shelving, circulation, reading, and workrooms. Include energy efficient lighting.
Occupancy: Occupancy Group Classification for the Library space type is Assembly Occupancy for libraries of 5,000 SF or greater, and Business Occupancy B2 with sprinklered protected construction, and GSA Acoustical Class C1 for spaces smaller than 5,000 SF and for enclosed offices.
Many historic libraries are undergoing modernizations to address today's technology needs and changes in user needs and use patterns. Additionally, systems upgrades are essential in order to meet today's HVAC, energy, lighting, and other sustainability standards or requirements. Great care and consideration must be a part of the planning process and must be coordinated with the requirements of any historic preservation programs that the Library may currently be under, in order to create a design that respects the historic aspects of the Library and embraces the future.
- Flexibility: The Library space type is durable and adaptable, and will typically include features such as a raised floor system for the distribution of critical services (power, voice, data, and HVAC) and mobile workstations and storage. The flexible design should also allow the Library space to be used for other functions such as community gatherings, activities, or events.
Incorporate CPTED principles into the design of the space in order to reduce the opportunity for theft of materials and other acts of violence. This will entail the systematic integration of design, technology, and operational strategies for the protection of people, information, and property.
Designing a sustainable Library space should be part of an integrated process that takes into account: the materials, operations, and health and well-being of the users.
Take advantage of natural daylighting, through the appropriate placement of windows and skylights, and natural ventilation to lower utility costs. Utilize features such as shading devices to decrease direct solar gain. (For more information, see Energy-Efficient Lighting, Daylighting, and Windows and Glazing.)
Provide insulation in roofs and walls in order to reduce energy use and heat gain in the space.
Address healthy indoor environmental quality through appropriate airflow and filtering of air, and materials, furnishings, and finishes that do not off-gas.
Use durable products in the Library space and plan for products with reduced packaging and recyclability potential to minimize waste.
The following is a representative building program for the Library space type.
Tenant Occupiable Areas
|Qty.||SF Each||Space Req'd.||Sum Actual SF||Tenant Usable Factor||Tenant USF|
|Reference Computer Terminals||4||20||80|
|Research Computer Terminals||8||20||160|
|AV Work Room||1||200||200|
|Audio Visual Media Collection||6||12||72|
|Tenant Usable Areas||5,565|
The following diagram is representative of typical tenant plans.
Example Construction Criteria
Relevant Codes and Standards
The following agencies and organizations have developed codes and standards affecting the design of library spaces. Note that the codes and standards are minimum requirements. Architects, engineers, and consultants should consider exceeding the applicable requirements whenever possible:
- Americans with Disabilities Act
- GSA PBS-P100 Facilities Standards for the Public Buildings Service
- ICC IBC International Building Code
- American Libraries Magazine
- Architectural Graphic Standards, 12th Edition by The American Institute of Architects, Dennis J. Hall. New York, NY: John Wiley & Sons, Inc., 2016.
- Building Blocks for Planning Functional Library Space by Buildings and Equipment Section, Library Administration and Management Association (LAMA). Lanham, MD: Scarecrow Press, 2001.
- Going Green: Implementing Sustainable Strategies in Libraries Around the World: Buildings, Management, Programmes and Services by Petra Hauke (Editor) and Madeleine Charney. IFLA Publications, Oct 8, 2018.
- How Green is My Library? by Sam Mulford and Ned Himmel. Libraries Limited, December 22, 2009.
- Library Security: Better Communication, Safer Facilities by Dr. Steve Albrecht. ALA Editions, 2015.
- Library Security Guidelines Document by LLAMA BES Safety & Security of Library Buildings Committee. June 27, 2010.
- Sustainable Libraries by Rebekkah Smith Aldrich.