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This best practices guide helps libraries throughout the nation delve into key considerations in evolving the contemporary library experience

Library Space: A Planning Resource for Librarians

Massachusetts Board of Library Commissioners
Space Planning
Additional Services
Completed 2020

In fall 2020, the Massachusetts Board of Library Commissioners (MBLC) released Library Space: A Planning Resource for Librarians, a guide to planning new or reconfigured public library spaces developed in partnership with Sasaki. The guide aims to empower librarians, administrators, space planners, and architects with a collection of best practices for the planning and design of public library buildings.

This groundbreaking project was undertaken with the belief that the information within will help to facilitate improved library spaces and services across the Commonwealth of Massachusetts and around the country. For many years, the Wisconsin Public Library Standards have been a widely-known and used set of guidelines derived from statistics from public libraries in Wisconsin, but they do not address facilities beyond collection size and number of seats. This comprehensive new resource will empower those who have an interest in the space planning of public libraries, of any size or location, to improve their library services, spaces, and facilities through:

  1. Kick-starting their own planning projects by considering some of the program and space issues and considerations at play in the design of public libraries. For example, should one renovate, add, or build new?
  2. Identifying and articulating needs, and making a case for a project to municipalities and other potential funders.
  3. Addressing small scale space challenges on their own, without the need for outside assistance from a designer, furniture vendor, or contractor.

Coming out of a robust process of site visits, interviews with library directors, and case study analyses, the Sasaki and MBLC team developed their set of recommendations around the process of evolving library facilities and their programmatic uses for the new, diverse needs of today’s library end-users. The report explores topics such as siting and location, diverse programming, historic buildings, as well as sustainability and resilience, welcoming and open spaces, intuitive navigation, and technology and furnishings.

Components, Zones, and Prototypes

The report outlines a series of best practices at a variety of scales. It looks first to the components, or building blocks, of a public library, such as spaces for seating and collections. Second, it considers how to group and deploy components in different public library zones, for example the entry zone or children’s zone, to shape library space effectively. Finally, it aggregates the two into prototypical organizations to illustrate how the relationships among these spaces can work in libraries of different sizes. The prototypical diagrams are not actual building plans, but are rather relationship diagrams that give a sense of scale, density, and sightlines for public libraries.

Check out the full report, below:

Library Space is informed by a previous report published by the MBLC and Sasaki called “Public Libraries in Massachusetts: An Evolving Ecosystem”. This 2018 study examined library usage and borrowing patterns across the state’s full system of over 350 public libraries. Check out the full microsite here.

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