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Flexibility is Key: Innovations in Library Design

by on March 29, 2015

There’s no doubt about it: the way people use public libraries is changing, and the design world has come to reflect this shift. I am currently in the throes of renovating my library’s children’s room, and I was shocked upon beginning this project to find how different library fixtures are now than they were when we underwent our last partial renovation in 2012. For a department that has not physically changed very much since we moved into this building in the 1970s, it will certainly look and operate very differently when we’re done, thanks to a host of new products and choices.

“Modular” is a new buzzword in library design across all departments. Every designer my board and I interviewed for our project threw the term around, and a recent Library Journal article agrees[1]. Modular fixtures are flexible and can be arranged different ways. For example, the Modular Display Shelving System mentioned in the article can easily accommodate a different breakdown of shelves, screens, and bins based on your library’s needs. What’s more, the configuration can be altered at any point in time. Modular seating, multiple examples of which can be found in Library Journal’s piece, can be arranged in any number of patterns with the components all in one area or spread throughout the library.

This type of furniture is a smart investment in that buyers are not limited to one particular set-up. If, for example, a modular fixture is purchased to house DVDs and a library decides to cut back on its physical media collection in five years, the piece can easily be used to accommodate other materials or tablets. Similarly, modular seating allows for both group and independent work, depending on your patrons’ preferences.

Mobile shelving and other fixtures is also hot. By placing large pieces on casters, staff can easily move displays from one area of the building to another. This allows freedom to use collection space for programming or even change your layout if you decide it isn’t working anymore. With this type of furniture, a library is no longer locked into a certain footprint.

Finally, sleek silhouettes and bright colors are popular for seating areas. Most of the furniture featured in the Library Journal article comes in eye-catching shades that look inviting to library users. This trend is significantly removed from the more institutional-looking pieces that were so popular in decades past and reflects a library’s fun, appealing attitude.

Like everything else in today’s library world, flexibility is key when it comes to choosing a new design. Pieces that have multiple uses or configurations will remain useable even if the face of the public library changes. Add in some vibrant colors and interesting shapes, and it is easy to update your space to last well into the 21st century!

[1] What’s Hot: Library By Design, Fall 2014. (2014, November 25). Retrieved December 16, 2014, from http://lj.libraryjournal.com/2014/11/buildings/lbd/whats-hot-library-by-design-fall-2014-2/

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