When a library design book shows up as available in my local library system, I’m quick to place a hold. So I was excited to see that Collaborative Library Design: From Planning to Impact, had a copy available.
This book is what I like to think of as library design eye candy (much like The L!brary Book). It doesn’t have a lot of practical ideas or applications. All of the projects are major renovations or new construction. They were expensive and required architecture firms and years of planning. But that doesn’t mean there’s nothing in here for the average school librarian looking to spruce up their space. Finding ideas and inspiration is a key element of dreaming up what your library could be. And this book is full of beautifully photographed spaces and descriptions of the thought processes that went into designing them.
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Read This Book: Collaborative Library Design
While it’s true that for many school librarians, an opportunity like building a brand new library is very rare, that doesn’t mean we can’t glean ideas and inspiration from this book. The visuals of the library design, seeing the objectives of the various planning groups turned into reality, are all useful. Sure, most of us probably won’t be a part of a multi-million dollar construction project. But maybe we can be inspired by a storytime corner and try to create a similar space in our library. Or maybe we can use information gleaned from the story of creating ADA accessible spaces and shelving that children can access when we present to our administration asking for funds for new mobile shelves.
Some things to note about this book:
- All the libraries designed and renovated in this book are by one architectural firm, the author’s. Most were in the New York State/New England area and were built or renovated in the late 90s/early 2000s.
- Each chapter is written by a different constituent involved in the library project.
- There are a mix of public, academic and school libraries. Some are new construction/additions while others are renovations of existing spaces.
- The furniture is very library traditional – all wood, reading lamps, etc. That’s not my personal preference for school libraries, but it is nice to see that it can be a part of a beautiful, functional library space.
Don’t go it alone!
Form a committee, get other constituents of your space involved. While this is critical for new construction, it’s also important with smaller projects, like advocating for funds for new furniture, painting the walls, replacing the flooring, etc.
List your objectives and requirements
I love how each library team puts together what they value within their space and what they’re looking for. Each is different – some want an art gallery, others want to take advantage of great views, many are looking to balance quiet and loud spaces. Knowing what’s important to you early in the process is critical.
Many of these libraries had some point in the process where a more affordable but less permanent solution was offered. What if you just renovate the library that’s falling apart and too small? Do we really need that extra space in the children’s area? I love that the teams planning these libraries pushed back and recognized the importance of building a library that could be enjoyed for generations, rather than one that would need to be replaced in a short span of time. Yes, it’s not easy to get funding and there’s a million bureaucratic hoops to jump through. And even with all that, it still might not happen. But if you don’t at least dream and try, you’ll never know.
Pay attention to acoustics and different space uses
Almost every example here talked about how the libraries supported different functions – quiet reading spaces, socializing, meeting space, study space, etc. And functional acoustics are key to making those different spaces work. This is the biggest challenge I face in my library, with a huge, beautiful domed ceiling that makes even the lightest whisper audible to just about everyone. For me, this is something I’m going to be thinking about a lot as I reimagine my library space.
While Collaborative Library Design is geared more towards larger renovation and construction projects, there is still plenty of inspiration to be found for your average teacher librarian. The eye candy and the peek into the design process are both worthwhile. Check it out.