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Step 2: Remove barriers

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      In my article, “10 Steps to a Better Library Interior,” published in the September 15, 2011, issue of the Library Journal Library by Design Supplement, I outline several tips on how to improve a customer’s experience in your library building without spending money on a major renovation. I have had many follow-up requests for more information, so I have decided to offer a deeper discussion on each step in this blog series.

      Intuitive wayfinding and the ability to visually read a building are important aspects of a well-designed library interior. As with a book or article, a library interior succeeds best with consideration of the whole and great editing. Find ways to remove visual and physical impediments to using your library and easily accessing the resources within. For example, if tall shelves block sightlines from the entry, consolidate materials in order to remove shelving or reduce its height. If no amount of weeding will allow you to eliminate or lower shelving, consider changing the orientation of your stacks. Do the shelves create aisles inviting exploration, or do they create walls that prevent sightlines through your building? Are views to the exterior available, enabling customers to orient themselves?

      Fixtures and furniture can be a barrier. Monumental service desk: R.I.P. Large, inflexible, and immovable custom-built desks present a visual and literal barrier to your customers. Often these desks have been located front and center, and customers’ eyes stop there. It’s time to get out of your comfort zone and down-size those desks, or replace them completely. Push the desks a bit to the side to open up views through the library. Most leading library systems are using service desks made up of reconfigurable and flexible furnishings with a much smaller footprint.

      Sometimes libraries have added and removed rooms over the years, in a piece-meal fashion and without comprehensive consideration of the interior. This process can lead to rooms that block access to areas of the library, or to rooms located in areas that do not make visual or functional sense. Think about how to reconfigure your interior to enhance the overall usability of your library by first considering the whole. What is your goal for users of your building? What should each area of the library represent, or help you accomplish? Once you can answer these questions, steps to take in editing your library will become clear.

      Next month . . . STEP 3: USE LESS FOR MORE IMPACT.

    • before the renovation of the Dakota County Wescott Library, tall shelves blocked sightlines from the entry
    • the renovation included removing some shelving and reducing shelving heights, which allows for sightlines through the building
    • About the Author

      Traci Engel Lesneski

      • Interior Designer / Principal
      • traci@msrdesign.com
      • 612 991 7764
      • View Bio