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New Space Planning Guide for Libraries

The Massachusetts Board of Library Commissioners (MBLC) is pleased to announce the release of Library Space: A Planning Resource for Librarians, a guide to planning new or reconfigured public library spaces. “This space planning guide will not only help plan flexible and efficient library buildings that meet a community’s unique needs; it will also save communities time and money as they begin exploring options for a new or reconfigured library,” said Lauren Stara, Library Building Specialist.

Library Space: A Planning Resource for Librarians creates a formal set of best practices for designing library space that may be applied to libraries across the nation. The guide empowers librarians, administrators, space planners, and architects with tools for the planning and design of public library buildings. It takes the user through the step by step process of determining what to consider when designing a new library for their community, and includes illustrations of different room types, adjacencies, shelving, and seating that can be considered for a building project.

The link to download the resource is

Because library services are changing so rapidly, formal standards for space planning have been lacking for many years. 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. MPLCP staff worked closely with the Boston-based global design firm Sasaki from June 2019 to November 2020 to develop Library Space: A Planning Resource for Librarians.  The process included a series of site visits to recently constructed or renovated public libraries across the Commonwealth, an in-depth analysis of thirteen selected case study libraries, and a focus group with the directors of the case study libraries where we discussed the successes and shortcomings of their completed buildings and the planning process. The information gleaned from these activities was used as the raw material for the best practices presented.

A Zoom session to explain the document and how it can be used will be held on December 10, 2020 from 1 p.m. to 2 p.m.

Library Space: A Planning Resource for Librarians is in part derived from an earlier project undertaken by the MBLC and Sasaki called the “Ecosystem Study.” The study surveyed library users and library staff across Massachusetts to learn how and why they use the libraries in the state. The study provides statewide recommendations that have implications for many programs and services offered by the MBLC, including the Massachusetts Public Library Construction Program (MPLCP).

Since 1987, MBLC’s Massachusetts Public Library Construction Program (MPLCP) has guided communities through more than 200 projects. The MPLCP is nationally recognized and serves as a model program for other states. There are currently MPLCP projects underway across the Commonwealth in Grafton, Greenfield, Hadley, Littleton, Marlborough, Medford, Norwell, Sharon, and Sherborn.

For over sixty years, Sasaki has brought together the best of landscape architecture, planning, urban design, architecture, interior design, civil engineering, graphic design, place branding, and data science to shape the built environment. Alongside a robust built practice for civic and institutional clients, they provide unparalleled expertise in uncovering the diverse needs of communities—utilizing research and data to understand the library ecosystem, how user expectations are evolving, and how library services are changing to meet these expectations. Sasaki has offices in Boston, Denver, and Shanghai and works with clients around the world.

About MBLC

The Board of Library Commissioners ( is the agency of state government with the statutory authority and responsibility to organize, develop, coordinate and improve library services throughout the Commonwealth. The Board advises municipalities and library trustees on the operation and maintenance of public libraries, including construction and renovation. It administers state and federal grant programs for libraries and promotes cooperation among all types of libraries through regional library systems and automated resource sharing. It also works to ensure that all residents of the Commonwealth, regardless of their geographic location, social or economic status, age, level of physical or intellectual ability or cultural background, have access to essential new electronic information technologies and significant electronic databases.

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