The public library is a community cornerstone. While technology is drastically changing our day-to-day, making us less reliant on print, there is still a place for the library.
Today's modern library serves as a center for discovery and communication - a space to congregate, to teach and to learn. These institutions are extending their mission beyond knowledge storage to a central public space and destination for the surrounding community.
Public libraries are transforming their interiors, moving away from institutional designs of the past to environments that are collaborative, flexible and comfortable. These environments require furniture solutions that are supportive. Here are five key design strategies for consideration when modernizing the public library.
1. Incorporate Daylighting
Daylighting techniques include removing tall barriers, bringing in natural light and reducing the need for artificial light. Access to natural light is shown to reduce eye strain, be a calming agent and contribute to energy savings. Natural light is also shown to increase mood and benefit overall well-being. How can designers incorporate daylighting? Design open environments so that light flows further into space. Use glass wall systems like KI’s Lightline wall instead of traditional drywall. Also, incorporate large windows wherever possible to diffuse light.
2. Create a Variety of Work Areas and Spaces
Library patrons no longer just sit in a chair or plant themselves at a table reading a book. Many come to libraries to use technology, to find a quiet, comfortable place to read, study or work, or to take a community class with neighbors. Designers should consider planning for conference room style meeting spaces, lounge areas for groups to socialize as well as spaces where individuals can focus on their own. Some may even offer auditorium or fixed seating to accommodate community performances or large gatherings.
3. Make Spaces Flexible
Library needs may change on a daily basis depending upon what events may be hosted or to accommodate ebbs and flows in visitor traffic. Spaces and the furniture solutions selected should be flexible so that users or employees can quickly and easily reconfigure areas. Individual tables can be moved and pushed together to accommodate a group and chairs can nested when not in use. Create smaller work or study spaces using mobile screens.
4. Integrate Technology and WI-FI Access
While the history of the library lies in books, its evolution revolves around technology. Library-goers want a public space where they can quickly utilize knowledge resources. Computer lab style environments with PC’s allow users to research. A reliable connection to WI-FI lets users take advantage of lounge areas where they can read a book but can also stay connected with their personal mobile devices. Easy access to power is essential to creating a positive library experience.
5. Take a Cue from the Coffee Shop
How many of us head to Starbucks to study, work or even meet with friends? Creating café spaces in public libraries extends that sense of community. Coffee shops are places people go to connect and to learn. Providing café height tables and stools and lounge seating that’s inviting will bring guests in, likely lengthening their stay and the use of the library.
To learn more about public library transformations, click to view the Cabot Public Library Case Study.