April 23, 2018
Many years ago, I interviewed for a job, which, thankfully, I did not get.
Walking around this library building revealed a number of obvious problems that, apparently, were not seen as such by the current authorities in the library. In a community with tight parking, all the parking closest to the front door was reserved for library staff.
The children’s room shared space with the periodical storage area. It was simply roped off with a sign at about 2.5 feet in height. In the space of a few minutes, several toddlers found themselves severely reprimanded by library staff or parents when they blithely ran under these adult size barriers while playing tag.
A bit of walking around by effective planners with fresh eyes could have changed the ambience, if not the building design. That is needed in nearly all library settings.
There is a technique in management literature called “management by wandering around.” Proponents assert that managers must spend a lot of time wandering around their firm or organization, making their presence known, asking pertinent questions, and noting essential issues. A first level of library planning will be walking (or driving in a system with branches) around to look with fresh eyes at the physical facility. Effective library planners will look at the facilities and equipment with fresh eyes as if they are new users approaching the library for the first time.
An outdated and dilapidated building will be apparent to nearly all – except, of course, for those that insist on seeing cramped and outdated Carnegie-type structures as “quaint.” However, there is more to look for, so encourage the planning team to do so.
Some Questions to Consider
Look to the library signs. If you are on the staff or the board, you know where the building is, but does a new comer? Municipal traffic personnel can usually place directional signs at nominal cost.
You may know where the reference desk is (and what that means) but does the public?
Can you find the administrative offices with ease, or do you need a tour guide?
Are the shelves overcrowded with obviously outdated material?
Is the physical arrangement of the materials unfathomable even to library professionals not to mention the average user?
Are there areas of the library where the lighting is a challenge even to the fully sighted?
Can those in wheel chairs get around the entire library or are they consigned to only a part of the building, or worse, left waiting at the door?
- For a sample building assessment by Hennen Library Consulting see: BUILDING ASSESEMENT FOR ALTOONA PUBLIC LIBRARY APRIL 2017 by Thomas J. Hennen Jr.
- If your library is in a fast-growing community with a cramped library and a lot of new housing units being built, consider the Hennen Library Consulting information on Impact Fees here. Or look at our Library Impact Fee Template
- I was a public library system director in Wisconsin for over 30 years. That meant frequently turning to the state library agency for help in building matters. I found the following report to be very helpful for building planning. Public Library Space Needs: A Planning Outline published by the Wisconsin Division for Libraries and Technology for Anders C. Dahlgren, President, Library Planning Associates, Inc. at https://dpi.wi.gov/pld/boards-directors/space-needs NOTE: An Excel workbook based on this worksheet can be downloaded from the Division’s web site at https://dpi.wi.gov/sites/default/files/imce/pld/pdf/plspace.pdf#page=35
- Hennen’s Public Library Planner was published in 2004. It is still available from ALA Publishing. In the book, I included an interactive spreadsheet for calculating building costs based on national building cost data. You can still get the book from ALA Publishing, but the cost data is now quite dated. If you would like an updated version of this Excel spreadsheet, contact us at https://hennenlibrary.org/home-page/contact-us/ For a preview of the book see Contents and Preface as well as Chapter 1 Hennen Public Library Planner