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Step 8: Create variety

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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.

      One size does not fit all. Websites such as pinterest.com and dwell.com and television shows such as HGTV’s “Secrets from a Stylist” have broadened the general public’s tastes and opened many minds regarding design and possibility. These venues for design exploration and exposure combined with the ability to customize everything we consume (from the fine-tuning of our coffee to the color of our laptops, from the comfort of our mattresses to the timing of our news consumption) have influenced your customer’s perception of your library building. Today’s library customers appreciate design, are more conscious of their surroundings, and expect choice in their experiences, including in your library building.

      Humans are hard-wired to value visual and spatial variety in our surroundings. Consider a forest, as an example. It offers an abundance of visual textures (e.g., moss, berries, leaves, roots, bark, tree canopy, filtered sunlight, and animals) and types of spaces (e.g., a ground hollow, nest, cave, and perch in a tree). This diversity provided security and sources of nourishment for our ancestors. We find innate comfort in a visual and spatial variety that reflects nature. This phenomenon does not mean we must duplicate the colors and textures found in nature. It means that just as a forest has ground cover, mid-ground plants, and a tree canopy, so too should your library interior. Consider the last seminar you attended in a hotel conference space. It was likely a nondescript box void of natural light, with putty-colored walls and floor and a flat ceiling with ubiquitous fluorescent lights. Have you noticed how disquieted you feel in a room like that? That discomfort can be attributed to many things, from uncomfortable seating to the amount of fresh air available, to the lack of daylight. It can also be a result of our innate need for visual and spatial variety.

      Variety and choice should also be offered in experience. Libraries invite collaboration to varying degrees. While a sea of study tables could technically allow different types of collaboration to take place, it doesn’t support them. Worse, it ignores our need for spatial variety and choice. Successful library interiors offer spaces and furniture that support a broad range of gathering options through different types of experiences. This approach can be accomplished in simple ways, such as providing a mix of seating environments (a booth that supports collaboration versus a solitary high-backed lounge chair near a window for privacy). Or it can come from more complex means, such as customizable lighting or movable walls that allow customers (and staff) to create places that work for the level of interaction they desire. Your customers will thank you for whatever amount of choice and variety you can offer.

      Next month . . . STEP 9: LIGHTING SHAPES A SPACE.

    • teens, in particular, appreciate choice in how to study or collaborate, which is playfully accomplished at the Bud Werner Library in Steamboat Springs, CO
    • About the Author

      Traci Engel Lesneski

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