Library Facility Design • Collection Spaces

In the past, space for the library collection used to be the primary focus of library design. Today, it's just one component, along with space for technology, collaboration, and instruction. But the collection is still an essential part of the library, and one that can be designed with intention and creativity to create ease of access for all users.

We're going to look at four elements in planning for your collection, including a zone map, shelving options, display areas, and signage.

When conducting your needs assessment, as discussed in the previous lesson, you will discover the collection priorities for your school. An effective way to take this information and transform it into a spatial representation is a zone map.

You can create a zone map on a blank piece of paper, a whiteboard, or software like PowerPoint. List the media in your collection. Then place each item in a circle. Change the size of the circle depending on the relative size of the media type. For example, if your nonfiction collection is twice as big as your fiction collection, its representative circle should be, too. Play around with the positions of the varied media in a way that makes sense for your community. Do you want the magazines next to the graphic novels? Do you want new fiction displayed separately from the full fiction content? If you can break up the collection into small clusters and locate them closer to where students might naturally access them, that can create visual variety and promote more browsing.

Next, consider your shelving options. Tall perimeter shelving can be great for some of the collection, but for interior shelves, look into island shelves on casters. These can be moved to separate and define areas and create flexibility for changes in the space over time. Stick with shelves that have backing, and remember to select shelving that's adjustable to accommodate picture books and other oversized books.

A vital part of housing the collection is accommodating space for display areas. There are many ways to display books to attract student interest. Find what will work best for your community by observing other libraries, visiting bookstores, and tracking experiments in your current library setup. Are students more likely to try out a book if it's got a seal of approval from other students? Do you want displays near self-checkout stations? What about integrating objects with the book displays to ignite curiosity? There's not one right way, but be sure that you're including display space in your plans.

Finally, as you contemplate collection placement, don't forget to also consider how you will communicate its organization with signage. In fact, if you don't have the budget for a full or even partial collection space overhaul, signage is an easy way to make a big change. Find out if the language makes sense to the students. Can you change library jargon to terms students use themselves? What about information desk instead of reference? Or check out station instead of circulation? How can you incorporate symbolic markers to increase ease of access for all students?

Additionally, here is where you might think about how the classification system of your collection plays a role in its design. If you're genrefying your collection, clear signs for each category of fiction will go a long way in increasing student understanding of the new organizational system.

In planning your collection space, incorporating community needs is key and can be accomplished through a zone map, intentional shelving, well-designed display areas, and deliberate signage.

MLA Citation Editorial Team, SLC. "Library Facility Design: Collection Spaces." School Library Connection, January 2019,

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Entry ID: 2171740

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