Space Planning, Design 102: Implementing Your Plan

Execution of an interior space renovation is never seamless. However, after completing proper planning and taking several steps in the implementation process, you can feel confident to complete it as a DIY project. In our previous article, “Space Planning, Design 101 Getting Started” we detailed six steps for proper planning. The focus of this piece will be introducing the appropriate steps to help you realize your plan.

A DEMCO Interiors rendering of the Marinette High School Library

Use Prior Research and Planning to Develop an Overall Plan

The Big Picture

Once you have set your priorities, determined what spaces to include and made decisions about key adjacencies, it is time to create the overall plan. In this step, it’s important to take scale into account. You want to make sure that everything will fit in the space and allow proper circulation throughout. There are several tools that can help you draft your plan. If you are tech savvy, free software downloads such as Google Sketchup can be helpful. If low tech is more your speed, using 1/4″ graph paper and scaled furniture templates found online, or at a local art store, will work fine too. Download our low tech planning kit.

Your Collection

As you layout the shelving for each area of your library, it is important to make decisions about how each particular collection will be organized. This does not need to be consistent for all collections. Perhaps popular materials arranged in bookstore style categories, instead of Dewey organization, will prove to be easier for customers to maneuver and ultimately increase circulation. This may also be true for children’s picture books. In addition, this will lead to a decision regarding how the materials will be shelved — spine out or face out. This has an impact on the number of shelves needed for each collection, as spine out arrangement typically accommodates more materials than browseable face out storage. Gain more insights about visual merchandising with Anythink Visual Merchandising Guidelines.

A Break from the Norm

Consider breaking up shelf groupings by interspersing seating throughout your stacks. This offers terrific quiet reading spaces, and encourages customers to stay and continue browsing.

Rooms Without Walls

Look for opportunities to use your furniture to create a space within a space. This is most easily achieved by using shelving to create walls for a quiet tutoring area, a small meeting room or a comfortable lounge area. It’s also a simple, cost effective way to add new functional areas to an open space. Also, consider using moveable whiteboards and screens with furniture on casters to create flexible rooms.

This ColorScape shelving arrangement allows for a quiet reading nook at Washington Elementary School in Evanston, IL

Guidelines for Creating a User-centered Space

Furniture Selection
Select a variety of different furniture types to provide comfort and meet the needs of different customers.

  • Offer a variety of seating types: arm chairs, armless chairs, stools, fully upholstered, upholstered seat, wood or plastic seat, etc. Consider the different tasks that will be performed at each position when selecting the chair type.
  • Include different heights for seating and workstations such as café height products with stools, seated height tables with chairs and lounge chairs with pull-up tables.
  • Consider ergonomics for staff and customers. Offer height adjustable chairs, workstations and computer monitors whenever possible.

Universal Access

Take into consideration best practices and ADA requirements for those with special needs. Be sure to check your local ordinances, as requirements vary in different areas and can periodically change. You can also view the complete 2010 ADA Standards.

Create a Welcoming and Open Environment

  • Lower height shelving: In adult and teen areas, perimeter shelving height should not exceed 72″H, and freestanding shelving should range from 60-66″H. In children’s spaces, plan for 42-48″H shelving in early literacy/pre-school spaces and 60-66″ shelving for school age and pre-teen users.
  • Sight lines: Centrally locate service points to allow for good line-of-sight between staff and active areas of the library. Be sure to avoid large furniture or shelving that obstructs views or creates large barriers, which can create an unwelcoming feeling.
  • Natural light: Find ways to allow more natural light into a space by positioning shelving and fixtures so they don’t block windows.

Banks of shelving can look open and inviting. Atlanta-Fulton County Library System, Martin Luther King Jr. Branch, GA.

Ease of Navigation

Create a layout that’s intuitive for customers to maneuver.

  • Traffic flow and patterns: Arrange furniture to allow for a clear pathway to different areas of the library.
  • The signage and wayfinding plan should be part of the furniture planning process. Interior signage should help customers orient themselves and guide them through the building. It should be simple, visually appealing and consistent with the overall design and décor of the library. Be sure to choose language that’s user-friendly, avoiding library jargon. Make sure signs are scaled appropriately to be seen from a distance, and placed so they can be viewed from main paths of travel.

Clear signage makes navigation easy at the San Jose Public Libraries.

Understand Your Building Infrastructure and Limitations

Making It Happen

Start Small

Take into consideration best practices and ADA requirements for those with special needs. Be sure to check your local ordinances, as requirements vary in different areas and can periodically change. You can also view the complete 2010 ADA Standards. For more details on how these standards relate specifically to libraries visit Libris Design.

Test and Learn

Make small changes to experiment with different concepts. Just because a concept works for one library, doesn’t mean it will work for yours. Test new ways of merchandising your collection before committing to it completely. Purchase a few new items to gauge ease of use or comfort level for your customers. You can always order more, but in most cases these types of purchases cannot be returned.

Seek Expert Advice

Many manufacturers and library furniture dealers, like Demco Interiors, provide complementary space planning service. These companies can be a valuable resource in helping you to understand ADA requirements and best practices. They can also introduce you to forward-thinking trends and present a variety of furniture and shelving options. Utilizing a professionally trained, experienced design staff can bring additional creativity and functionality to a project. Projects over 5000 of square feet benefit from professional advice — saving time and money in the long run. A fresh set of eyes can open yours to endless possibilities.


Marisa Amara

Marisa Amara

Marisa currently works as a consultant on dozens of library space planning and furniture design projects as an associate of Kimberly Bolan and Associates. Previously, she was the Marketing Manager for DEMCO Interiors and continues to consult with the DEMCO Interiors project team through design and furniture specification stages of their large projects. Additionally, she manages DEMCO Interiors' contact programs for architects, designers and consultants and has written several articles on current library trends, space planning and design for libraries. Her experience includes extensive background in product development, furniture project sales and architect and design market relationship development. This has given Marisa in-depth understanding of libraries, their spaces and the furniture needs.