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Step 4: Unclutter

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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.

      I’m always amazed at a library staff’s ability to collect. I’m sure the practice would be great psychological fodder, considering the tenets of the library profession. Consistent favorites are signs, displays, signs directing customers to the displays, pamphlets, and notices on the service desk. Clutter abounds in many libraries.

      As I mentioned in the blog post “Use Less for More Impact,” visually chaotic surroundings intimidate many library users. Where should customers focus their attention? Resist the urge to add signs about every service or rule for using the building, and instead ask yourself why it isn’t intuitively apparent what to do in the first place. Then address the core issue. Chances are the customers are going to ask a live person (or give up and leave) rather than visually sift through a series of notes and directions anyway. Using a retail analogy, each interaction is an opportunity to add value to the customers’ experience and keep them returning—and therefore learning!

      Many libraries collect but forget to purge. Just as good collection management practice includes both acquisition and weeding, so too does good interior environment management require editing. Since libraries are often underfunded, a starvation mentality often pervades, making it difficult to let go of items or to turn down a perceived windfall. Continually ask yourself, William Morris style, “Is this useful? Does it contribute to the overall success of using my library? Is it so beautiful that it adds to the delight of using the library?” If the answer to any of those questions is no, out it goes.


      Next month . . . STEP 5: CLARIFY.

    • many libraries collect but forget to purge, leaving patrons to sort out what’s important visually, a problem Mount Prospect Library faced before a renovation
    • following the renovation, without the previous clutter, service areas and amenities are now easy for patrons to find on their own
    • About the Author

      Traci Engel Lesneski

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