Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Library Design 101: Logical Arrangments

A great design concept means nothing until schematics are involved.  As I stated in Library Design 101: Design Concepts, form should follow function and if the space you've designed does not meet the customer's needs, it manifests itself in the form of moving furniture.  Furniture rearrangement is the type of cue we should take from our customers to create a better spacial arrangement.  Let's consider the must-haves of every library and incorporate them into a logical design using a hypothetical library layout.  Most libraries use one of two different basic layouts (shown below.)
These two illustrations do not really show the complexity of architectural design, which may provide additional space such as meeting rooms, reading rooms, and any other nook and cranny, but I want this to be relevant to the most basic of library spaces.  Therefore, the space that customers occupy can usually be broken into a Square or L-shape schematic like these.

Now that we have space, consider everything that will go into the library - tables, chairs, computers, and shelves are the basics.  In order to break up the negative space, we use furniture to form sections of the library varying by collection type.  The most common furniture used to make these distinctions are shelves.  In an L-shaped library, it is common practice to put children's materials on one side while having adult and other study furniture on the opposite side.  In a square shaped space, a little more effort must be applied.

I like to think in terms of noisy and quiet. Thinking in terms of how people use the library, you can divide them into groups of whether their transactions will be noisy or quiet.  Children, for example, are not exactly the most quiet of customers.  Placing this section in an area where noise is to be expected, like the front of the library near the circulation desk, may be an optimal placement.  For those people who come to the library seeking peace, may find refuge toward the back.  Here is a suggested schematic design (drawn in Paint, so please excuse my crude, not-to-scale drawing.)   

In the drawing, lines designate shelving units, circles represent placement of tables, and squares recommend placement of computers.  In the Square layout, I've designated the front, left space to children's materials.  From here, the customer can grow counter-clockwise into young adult and then into the adult collection.  Because my tables are not to scale, imagine that multiple tables and reading chairs occupy these areas to make a common space.  Computers are in the far corner for several reasons:
  • It gives a sense of privacy, as most people using public computers must do so to conduct private business when there is no home computer in the household.
  • It is far away from the children's area (think CIPA)
  • Computers generate noise as well, and this secludes them from the study area in the center of the library.
  • Computers placed in the back (like milk in a grocery store) forces customers to unconsciously browse the library.
In the L-shaped layout, the same counter-clockwise rotation is true, keeping in mind the children's area,  young adult section, computers, and adult study areas.  

You may have noticed some negative space remaining in my crude drawing.  I'm sure that you are thinking of multiple sections I've left out or displays that have not been considered, and you would be exactly right.  We'll get to that in my next post, Library Design 101: Designing for the Future.

Until next time, I'd love to hear your answer to this question:
In the L-shape design, considering you enter the building from the bottom left corner and proceed to the adult collection,  should the non-fiction section (Dewey 001-999) begin at the red or purple arrows?

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