10 Tips for a Better Library Interior (That Don't Cost a Lot)

ImageIn the article 10 Steps to a Better Library Interior: Tips That Don't Have To Cost a Lot, an interior designer offers simple and inexpensive ideas you can try at your library.

Here are the high points, but read the full article to see examples and before & after photos.

  1. See with your customer's eyes ...
    customers entering the building were confronted with the overflowing holds section, long lines for self-check blocking their way, and little clarity about the library’s overall layout. With the holds and self-check stations pushed off to the sides, and the entry opened up to exterior views, with products and services beyond, the library now has a welcoming entry and intuitive flow. Much of the impact was achieved using mainly elbow grease to move collections and reorganize the interior. Additional changes include paint (40¢/sf) and carpet ($3.50/sf).
  2. Remove barriers
    Find ways to remove visual and physical impediments to using your library and easily accessing the resources within. For example, if tall shelves are blocking sight lines from the entry, find ways to consolidate materials in order to remove shelving or lower the height.
  3. Use less for more impact
    If displays are taking over your library, consider paring them down so remaining fixtures have more impact. If you have painted walls to enliven your interior, did you use too many colors and lose the effect in the process? Unify items such as displays through consistent use of materials or color ...
  4. Unclutter
    Resist the urge to add signs about every service or rule for using the building, and ask yourself why it isn’t intuitive in the first place. Then address the core issue. Chances are, customers are going to ask a person rather than visually sift through a series of notes anyway; each interaction is an opportunity to add value to the customer’s experience.
  5. Consider the whole
    Don’t accept every cast-off piece of furniture, fixture, or other item that comes your way. Instead, consider the whole. Find ways to unify furnishings and fixtures through material, color, and form. Consolidate free materials and community notices with other self-service items, such as change machines, self-check stations, or copiers.
  6. Support how humans use space
    People seek out natural light and views and want to be sheltered. Look for existing opportunities in the interior architecture to create reading nooks. Evaluate whether your seating takes advantage of natural light or views to the exterior, and think about whether shelves could be rotated or moved to let more daylight into the interior of the space.
  7. Zone your interior
    Examine the space with noise in mind: find the sources of noise and activity within each area and seek to avoid conflicts in privacy, sense of security, sociability, and acoustics. You might own the most comfortable lounge chair ever manufactured, but if you locate it near the copiers or with its back to a main aisle, no one will sit there. Locate quiet reading areas away from the fray. Use the building’s architecture or library shelving to create a sense of enclosure and help signal how to behave.
  8. Create a variety of experiences
    Allow customers to decide what type of social interaction they want, on a scale of none to lively collaboration. Don’t assume that seating is seating is seating—provide variety and choice. Teens, in particular, appreciate choice in how to study or collaborate ...
  9. Light to shape space
    Our eyes need variety in light intensity so they can rest, but one must be careful of too much contrast as well—our eyes tire quickly when they must constantly adjust between, for example, a dark wall next to a bright window. Vary lighting levels for visual interest and to cue behavior.
  10. Embrace color
    Color can help give boundaries to a space and signal how to behave. It can add warmth or liveliness or gravity. And, especially when applied through paint, it is easy and inexpensive to change, so you can alter your library interior over time. Colorful acoustic fabric panels were installed for about $22/sf and also help mitigate the sound of excited voices.

Source: 10 Steps to a Better Library Interior: Tips That Don't Have To Cost a Lot by Traci Lesneski, Library Journal, 20 Sep 2011 Photo courtesy of  Group3 Planners, LLC via Flickr