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Step 5: Clarify

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      In my article, “10 Steps to a Better Library Interior,” published in 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.

      Successful library interiors have a thread that binds the interior components together. Not to be confused with matching, this concept means that all aspects, from the interior architecture to the furniture, work in harmony and relate to one another. Harmony can be achieved in many ways. One method is to use repetition of material, visual line, or a color family. Another way is through gradation of size, color, or even activity.

      In a previous blog post, I wrote about the famine effect many libraries suffer: an inability to let go of accreted items or to refuse so-called windfalls of furniture. Resist the urge to hoard. Consider each new acquisition of furniture and each new application of color in the context of the whole interior. Find ways to unify furnishings and fixtures through material, color, and form. Pay attention to the details of your interior architecture—the wood species and color, the ceiling material, the window trim detail. Consolidate similar items, such as locating the free materials and community notices with other self-service items, including change machines, self-checks, or copiers.

      Librarians sometimes decide to freshen or warm up the library interior by using paint colors (makes sense given that paint is inexpensive and easy to apply). In many cases, however, the desired effect is not achieved. Too many un-related colors are used (primary colors do not make a cohesive interior), multiple colors are applied with the same intensity, or inconsistent rules are used to determine where color should be applied. Err on the side of fewer colors, not more. Recognize that just as a library collection has sub-collections, paint can be applied using a hierarchy. Be consistent in your application of color and mindful of what your objective is in using a particular color. For example, if you want to add color to call attention to all of the public lounge areas, perhaps adding color to the janitor’s closet should be avoided. If you add color to enliven the teens’ area, color on the columns in adjacent areas may detract from that focal point.

      Clarity illustrates intent, and a library’s intent is to promote learning. Learning is enhanced when the environment where it takes place allows the brain to focus on the task at hand.

      Next month . . . STEP 6: CAPITALIZE ON ASSETS.

    • prior to renovation, St. Paul’s Library had three different shelving types and mismatched study chairs and tables; the result was visually jarring
    • the renovation clarifies the interior, jettisoning mismatched furniture and keeping only the pieces in harmony with one another and the building itself
    • About the Author

      Traci Engel Lesneski

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