Stephanie Shook, NCIDQ, IIDA, LEED AP
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Key Considerations for Library Renovation Projects The simple reality is that Library services are evolving at a faster rate than Library systems can renovate spaces. When planning a renovation within the confines of an existing building or tenant space to meet the ever changing landscape of 21st century Library services, keep these considerations in mind to ensure the library will continue to be an essential resource for the community
Rethink, Redesign, & Reward Renovation projects present the opportunity to find hidden value in your Library. This is the time to rethink everything about the facility and services provided.
Think about how and why staff operations work currently in the Library. Do materials flow well? If not, is it because of the building limitations? Look at every step of each process and see if there are ways to streamline operations to save on time and staffing effort. Can space be captured and repurposed for public use?
Think outside the “box” and consider drive-up service opportunities, material returns, after-hours material pick-up lockers.
Study patron behavior at different times of the day. Where are they occupying spaces? When are computers in use? Can efficiencies be found if service points are relocated and consolidated? Or should they be mobile?
Take this opportunity to discover new methods for displaying material in a more browsable way by lowering shelving, adding face-out books or intermittent face-out display shelving, and widening aisles allowing patrons to view items from a comfortable distance.
Reinvent Library program space. Consider expanding meeting space with a retractable wall that opens into the library for large programs or divide a large program space into smaller study rooms with movable walls.
Could the library accommodate quick and easy adjustments to improve situations, peak use, or events?
How do you keep the youngest patrons coming back to become avid lifetime readers? Consider a changeable activity area to play, learn, and grow. Rotate activity panels or play bins to keep interest fresh.
Seeing is Believing Take the time to visit other libraries that are either new or recently renovated. Bring key stakeholders to see what’s out there and how it can apply to your project.
Look at Everything! The flooring, furniture, lighting, staff areas, equipment, etc.
Talk with librarians that were involved with the process to hear their perspective, where the dollars were spent, and the lessons learned.
Take pictures and document what works and what doesn’t.
Ask about temporary facilities or staying open through the construction process and their experience during construction.
Calling on the Community Reach out to the community early in the process for their feedback and insights. Interaction with the community creates a level of understanding of their needs that may not be shared otherwise. Community involvement can also create buy-in and a sense of ownership when the project is underway.
Any which way you can… As recent COVID-19 events have proven, change can happen quickly and unexpectedly. Incorporating flexibility into the design is one of the most important keys to the longevity of a Library renovation. Plan for an infrastructure that can promote the ability to rearrange and accommodate change without demolition or construction.
Can underutilized spaces perform double duty to be in constant use? Think about mobile furniture and shelving for quick rearrangement to host impromptu meetings or to separate study tables for focused study.
Does story-time or crafts need a dedicated room or can it be part of the children’s space?
How many public computers are really needed? Consider lap top dispensers to accommodate peak use times and allow patrons to sit how they please.
Power and technology are consistently in high demand. Power locations should be considered for multiple furniture and shelving arrangements to promote flexibility.
Low-profile raised access floor systems can be a great solution to accommodate power and data placed anywhere with the ability for relocation without construction.
Tight budget projects might incorporate other power options. Under-carpet wiring can save on cost but receptacles will sit on top of the floor. Manufacturers have been providing rechargeable devices that can charge overnight and sit on study tables or stand near seating areas to provide convenience power anywhere.
Replace or Reuse, and Relax Furnishings play a big role in the longevity of a library renovation. Considering durable well-built furnishings with good warrantees should be top priority. Incorporate varying types of furniture that can work for all types of patrons and meet the needs of each space.
Mobile furniture is great for flexible frequently changing spaces. Consider how spaces can be accommodating with mobile furniture for quick and easy adjustment at peak time use.
High-back booth seating is a great option for semi-private study spaces in open areas.
Adjustable height computer tables work for all types of users.
Powered study tables with ergonomic chairs offer long term comfort.
Is the existing furniture worn but in good shape? There is often an economy to reupholstering good quality furniture.
Are your study tables in good condition? Updating existing tables with power can be considerably less than purchasing new.
Finish before you Start Selecting finishes can be a fun interactive process. Imagining color, textures, and patterns to bring new life to old and worn spaces brings an energy of anticipation. One of the most important considerations for the longevity of a Library renovation is the durability of those finishes.
Using the correct types of finishes in the appropriate locations will serve the library for years. For example, extending the entry flooring (or walk-off carpet) into the library space far enough to clean dirt from patron shoes. This type of flooring is easier to clean and holds up to abuse. Flooring Manufacturers have been creating patterned walk-off that looks great, works hard, and can coordinate with standard carpets.
Carpet tiles can be more costly initially but have inherent flexibility to easily replace damage or swap out for cleaning stubborn stains.
Corner guards and wall protection have come a long way to seamlessly work with the interior palette and protect those high traffic areas.
Paint color can be an impactful opportunity to change the feel of a space. Consider the quality of the paint to combat fading and stand up to harsh cleaners. Consider the sheen of the paint to help hide surface imperfections.
Understand how and when to maintain finishes to keep warrantees active.
Redesigning the Library within the confines of an existing building or tenant space can be successful with careful planning and considerations. Library Architects and Interior designers familiar with library services, patron needs, and where trends are going, bring a fresh perspective to help generate insight and opportunities for the library renovation. They can be integral with Budgeting and Assessing existing conditions to keep the same team players through the process. The end goal of the Library renovation is to provide spaces that invite patrons to experience all the Library has to offer.