Author: Anders C. Dahlgren, Library Planning Associates, Inc.
This outline is intended to help librarians and library trustees determine whether to initiate a facilities planning process. By completing it, librarians and trustees can obtain a general estimate of their library’s space needs based on their library’s underlying service goals. With that estimate, planners can assess the adequacy of their library’s existing overall square footage and determine if a more detailed study is called for.
The process described in this outline evolved from a simple concept—that library space needs are based on what a library must house in order to serve its community adequately. The things a library must house to meet its community’s needs all have identifiable spatial requirements. Determine the library’s inventory and its space needs follow.
This outline defines six broad types of library space—collection space, reader seating space, staff work space, meeting space, special use space, and nonassignable space (including mechanical space). It suggests how library goals relating to each of these areas can be projected to meet future needs and provides a way to translate resulting service assumptions into space needs.
In brief, the process outlined involves the following steps.
• Identify the library’s projected service population, known as the design population.
• Estimate the collection inventory the library will provide to meet future service requirements and calculate how much floor space is needed to house that projected collection.
• Estimate the number of seats the library will need to accommodate in-house use of the collection and how much floor space these seats will require.
• Estimate the number of staff work stations that will be necessary to support the staff’s projected routines and how much floor space they will require.
• Estimate the type and capacity of meeting rooms that the library will need and how much floor space these will require.
• Calculate an allocation for miscellaneous public- and staff-use space (called special use space).
• Calculate an allocation for vestibules, furnace rooms, rest rooms, and other types of nonassignable space.
• Consider whether additional special allocations of space may be needed to accommodate unique features, services, or collections.
• Assemble the estimates for all of these types of space into an overall estimate of space needs.
The results of this examination will inform all subsequent planning by local trustees and library staff. Comparing the findings of this simplified assessment against the space available in the existing building will mark an initial indication of need. The space needs indicated here can be used to evaluate the adequacy of the present site or the amount of property that will be needed at a new location. It can also provide an early gauge of a prospective building project budget.
Library planners must also acknowledge that availability of space, or lack of it, is not the sole reason for examining physical facilities. The need to improve energy efficiency and the condition of heating, ventilating, and air conditioning systems; to insure handicapped accessibility; to adapt to meet the electrical and telecommunications requirements of tomorrow’s library technologies; and to assess the general effectiveness of the work flow are other suitable reasons for examining the structure that houses a local library. Changes in community demographics, social trends, and local economic factors may also infuse the discussion. What worked well for the community in the library’s former plan of service may constrain the delivery of services today.
However, this outline simplifies the mechanism for assessing a library’s space need and does not presume to produce an exhaustive estimate of space needs. It is intended to provide a quick, initial estimate of a library’s space needs. Many factors affecting service projections and space needs are beyond the scope of this short publication.
This outline assumes the library has a long range plan of service in place to guide the determination of the future service goals that in turn will shape the library’s space needs.
The outline requires use of data that should be readily available to local planners—annual circulation, total holdings, and so on. If a particular data element is not available, it is well within the spirit of this process to make a reasonable estimate of the missing data. A special data-gathering effort could be undertaken, or a sampling exercise might provide useful information to incorporate within this process, but such efforts will involve more time and energy than this outline is meant to require.