Planning a Small Scale Library Building. Flexibility and Sustainability

Textbook, 2017

68 Pages













Due to certain circumstances, those who are willing to design a small scale new library building, convert an available building, ameliorate or adding an extension might face challenges when applying required standards. The challenges are more intensified by the requirements of the types of libraries in need. Small library planners might be in a dilemma of standards over requirements. The outcome of this book will provide some thoughtful ideas for the library planners to some extent. This book is a result of previous research carried in several years ago. And later a couple of eminent works are consulted for matching with the derived research outcomes. On certain issues, special references were made to Keyes D. Metcalf’s Planning Academic and Research Library Buildings, international standards, regulations, and codes on green buildings. As a professional librarian in the different field, the author found that library buildings are not fully operational due to professional negligence and ignorance in the construction process. Such professional lapses are mainly focused on the discussion.

In this process, several libraries have been observed. Library readers and workers were interviewed. Experts were consulted. My heartfelt gratitude is owed to the contributors and respondents who have participated in the consultations and observations.

This work would have been impossible without the continuous support of my family members. A sincere appreciation is also owed to my beloved Nima, Nilmini, Arjun and Apoorwa who have supported and encouraged me in the process.


The well-secured library building is essential for providing a better community service for various kinds of public information use and needs. It is a highly respected and commonly used place of one's culture from the far back of the evolution of the civilization. Society development in every means such as economically and culturally depends on the knowledge possessed by its own people. Therefore, the place where the knowledge is stored considered as a monumental place. The term "library building" referred in this book has a very wide and peculiar meaning. This book does not merely consider the construction aspect of the building but discusses the needs to be considered in construction from users and librarians point of view. It must be noted that the term "library building" will readily be judged that it cannot interpret to be an architectural aspect of the building as well. This book is intended to provide some useful information for library personals, students who are learning library designing as well as architects who don't have basic knowledge of library needs and requirements. These three parties, as a team, need to know how important it is to have practical information on library building in a book. Each chapter of this book will provide materials as well as practical applications in organizing a library building or converting an existing building to a library.

Though there is voluminous literature on this topic, this work will provide some useful inside of actual requirements of the library building. The author’s (K.G.D.A. Karunanayake) previous journal articles on library building were referred. Some pieces of information contained in this book is a result of predecessors' ideas and arguments with practical research findings in six chapters. Chapter one introduces library building and its monumentality by terms and definitions used in the planning process. Chapter two presents the ideas of others in the scope and summarizes the key considerations. Chapter three discusses the green building concept and sustainability issues towards small libraries. Chapter four provides observation results in brief. Chapter five mainly includes basic building considerations under flexibility, space planning, noise control, and lighting, ventilation and security measures. The work is concluded in chapter six.


1.1 Overview

Planning a small building which is capable of catering the basic library operational functions is a prerequisite for an effective community service in the society. It is assumed that many of the buildings designed for libraries are lack of due considerations and not fully usable due to certain professional negligence and laps. Librarians are encountering operational issues and problems owing to the constructional ignorance. Present day libraries tend to deserve exterior appearance than that of interior aspect. Exterior consideration also does not represent the exact image of a library. Proper attention given for interior arrangements such as furniture, equipment, and protection of its collection is not sufficient. Such negligence might be a cause for a reader’s poor attraction, less demand or no use. It is becoming a professional ignorance of both architects as well as library personnel. The author of this book found several cities and academic libraries in such situation which are constructed under poor or less attention. One example shows that the library is constructed just away from the city centre to cater a peaceful atmosphere but ended up the construction nearby the cemetery or remote location of the city where many readers hardly could be seen in the library. Another example found nearby a public market in a city centre where trespasses occupied in the compound. Some library locations are in the best place at the beginning but disturbed by the other city buildings and commercial projects constructed at later stages. Readers in an academic library are disturbed certain hours during in noon time. Aroma of food preparation nearby university cafeteria breaks the attention of the serious readers. Some issues are unpredictable and perhaps may be beyond the control. Hence, selecting a right place at the right time might not deserve the image, present requirements and the future demands at once. Therefore, every library personals at sometimes or other may be faced with such difficulties and due responsibilities with regard to designing a new library building, renovating or expanding the existing building. Perhaps they may have problems with providing reader accommodation, lighting, and ventilation conditions and providing suitable security protection. Many library users turn away from libraries due to these poor local facilities and physical arrangements such as exterior and interior arrangements of the building.

1.2 Consideration in a Nutshell

A good library service cannot be provided without a properly designed building. The building should be designed to meet three perspectives: Material perspective, environmental perspective, and community perspective. The combination of these three perspectives produces the utmost user satisfaction.

1.2.1 Building and Material Perspective

Material perspective consists of two aspects: resources (forms and formats of documents) and equipment (official & user accommodation). It is apparent that libraries are holding different types of resources depending on the community needs and wants. Among them, many libraries house formal sources (primary) such as books, periodicals/journals, abstracts, reviews, bulletins, maps/atlases, guides, dictionaries, encyclopedias, almanacs, and reports as the main resources of the collections. Some libraries hold chronicles, artifacts/realia, epigraphy, graffiti, and inscriptions, archaeological monuments or remaining, paintings and raw materials (instruments/tools/samples/models). In addition, some collections may include semi-formal (secondary/gray literature) such as pamphlets, letters, leaflets, plays, conference papers, photographs, dissertations/thesis, newspapers, diaries, magazines, manuscripts, musical scores, gazettes, and minutes. Some collections may contain with informal or unrecorded materials: public speeches, debates, dialogs, discussions, folklores, and interviews, tales/myths and handwritten/unpublished documents. In the modern day collection, electronic sources come in both multimedia and hypermedia forms: e-books, databases, e-journals, open web resources, CD-ROM and much more forms are added. Therefore, well-secured library building preserves those different types of collections safely and houses them for the daily use of present and future user generations. This utmost expectation could be entirely met depending on the proper building arrangement of the library.

1.2.2 Building and Environmental Perspectives

Designing a building for readers is not realistic without looking at the environmental perspective. Nature of the building varies on the environmental perspectives where readers are represented. There are many different types of library client who have different community and cultural diversities. The clients in libraries in early civilization were restricted to imperial families and a very few segment of privileged groups. Materials also prioritized from preservation to conservational perspectives. Printing industry and modern technologies dramatically changed the scope of libraries towards community needs and services. Types of libraries remarkably appeared based on the services required by the environment. Hence building requirements represent the environmental perspectives rented by individual institutions such as National libraries, Academic libraries, Children's libraries, Public libraries, Reference, Research and Special libraries etc.

Particular Building Requirements - Building requirements greatly affected with the institutional needs. It might deserve particular building characteristics than common building characteristics. Characteristics of academic and special library buildings need to address the environmental perspective that they represent. Academic Libraries: Academic institutions such as schools, technical colleges, universities are providing library services for their students. Students’ needs of academic institutions are varied by the missions of the institutes. The building design for the academic institutes has different elements as per the needs of the clients. Special Library Buildings: Private or public organization such as religious bodies, government, and non-government organizations, archives and museums build library buildings for the institutional purposes. The building might have different features than generally accepted academic building elements. Research Library Buildings: A research library holds more reference materials than other libraries and clients tend to use reference materials on site. Hence, the space for housing materials as well as reader accommodation might be larger than public library buildings.

Common Building Requirements- Designing a building for a community representing with the mixture of needs and want is a complicated task than the types of the building of particular types as pointed above. National, public or city library needs more common features since the users have different, mixed and unique, perspectives. National Library Building: A national library building may have repository facilities for every publication in a state and then the capacity for holding such documents might be enormous. Only a library available for a state and then the building design needs to pose unique features than any other building in the state. Space for material housing is proportionally larger than the reading facilities. Conservation and preservation also have been given prominence in the construction plan. Public/City/Urban or Rural Library Building: The characteristics of the types of building design for public/ urban or rural has specific consideration. Some buildings consider geographical and social factors in the designs. Buildings elements which are constructed near coastal area might have specific features than other geographical locations. Environmental perspective discussed above has identical and unique features based on the factors influencing from the nature of the institutional needs.

1.2.3 Building by Defined Community Needs

Library building in common is constructed for a common purpose for different community groups. Hence, a complete library service only depends on the expected customers. Expected customers are the key factor in consideration. The nature of the customers might not be changed time to time. Proper knowledge of expected customers' needs should be in the center in the planning stage.

Academic users (researchers, graduates, undergraduates, and high school and primary students) special users (disable, scientists, and technical), civilian or citizens (children, senior citizens) are the prospective users in libraries. From the users’ perspective, providing user-friendly accommodation is highly required. Lack of pleasing and inviting library exteriors tends to keep users away from a library. Identifying the nature of the users and their basic needs is an important factor in designing the library. Libraries are differing in their concept and design as well as in their respective responsibilities, resources, and clientele. They also differ in their nature and functions. Hence, for safeguarding the real concept of a library and organized library service within a well-planned building is required.

1.3 The Focus

The creation of a library building is the result of co-operation of a whole team. Librarian and architect are playing the major role. Each will contribute professional skills and experiences to certain stages. Librarian will have to play the role of a client on behalf of at least twenty years of future users. Though a complete library service cannot be provided due to lack of sufficient fund, proper planning, consideration of future requirements and properly designed buildings out of which professional ignorance as to the best type of buildings required, plays a major role. Hence this book will provide a significant ground level contribution to such professional lack in hand to some extent.

Next well-designed libraries are an encouragement to readers. Reading rooms have to be attractive and readers should be allowed to proceed with their work in comfort. Readers and staff accommodations, as well as stack arrangements, must be thoroughly thought in the planning stage. This book will provide some useful inside for such basic interior arrangements.

Also, librarians should acquire sufficient knowledge in the planning and designing of library buildings or before occupying the existing buildings. Though library work experience supplements the professional knowledge in identifying and overcoming many practical difficulties, librarians should read professional literature, attend courses and seminars, collect required details, select the most applicable solutions to the existing problem, seek advice from other sources, make visits to different library buildings and prepare statements according to the standards. In summarizing this situation (Thomption, 1977) stated that librarian must acquire the knowledge about library planning from books, and articles in periodicals and from seeing newly built buildings both good and less good. He pointed that the librarian is the client and need to know how other librarians and architects have tackled these problems. And need to compare how successful the results for more deepen the professional knowledge. As such, this book will provide a contribution with fruitful ideas to fill the void of literature on library buildings.

1.4 Operational Definitions

There are specific operational terms and definitions related to the library buildings. Out of many, highly selected terms which modified, quoted and redefined are given below. The definitions were referred from quite early resources due to its high applicability with the related terms and relative scope of the content. “A Concise Dictionary of Architecture by Jones, 1990, Chambers Twelfth Century Dictionary edited by Macdonal, 1975, Planning Academic and Research Library Buildings by Metcalf, 1995, The Librarians Glossary & References Book by Harrods, 1977 are mainly considered and given with due references in this regard. Author-defined terms which cover the scope are also provided below. The terms are arranged under “General Terms and Specific Terms (Building Elements, Library Materials, Lighting, Ventilation, Security, Noise, and Space)

1.4.1 General Terms


Drawing is a systematic design which shows the basic sketches of the proposed project. It mainly contains details of the location, dimensions of the building plans, and elevations of the project in graphical and pictorial forms.

Preliminary Drawings

This drawing outlines the details of the project including site, structural building elements, expected space and construction specimens and preparation of preliminary design documents in much detail.

Detailed Drawing

This drawing explains the project at a larger scale in more enlarge details as a part of the preliminary drawing. It clarifies the working specifications, correlation of the building elements and materials in use.


Elevation shows the representation of a building’s exterior and interior in vertical scale.


It is a scheme for distribution or arrangement of equipment with the spaces of the projected space.

1.4.2 Building Elements

Air Shaft

A space such as a drain, air duct, air flue, courtyards and passages assigned for free movement of natural ventilation or air inside the building.


“A platform projecting from wall door or a windowsill and enclosed with a railing, and may be cantilever or supported by brackets or columns” (Jones, 1990, p.31)


“The lower part of the wall or walls of any other architectural way, basement may occupy only a small part of the whole height of the structure” (Jones, 1990, p.34)


“The overhead surface of a room” (Jones, 1990, p.64)


“An open area intimately connected with a building or buildings” (Jones, 1990, p.90)

Door Sliding

"A door arranged to slide sidewise to stables, freight houses etc. It slides in the opener against the back face of the wall" (Jones, 1990, p.108)


“An open or covered (underground) channel or pipe for the conveyance or removal of water or sewage” (Jones, 1990, p.112)


“A car or platform conveys persons or articles up or down to the various floors of a building. It is a platform for the mechanical transformation of passengers, books, or freight, vertically from one level of a building to the others. When used for passengers, the platform should be completely enclosed by walls and roofs. (Jones, 1990, p.118)


Types of materials and the process of layering a floor area of the building


“A channel, through or like contrivance to receive and convey away water, whether about the roofs of a building or forming part of a pavement, roadway or the like” (Jones, 1990, p.135)


“A porch supported by columns. A roofed space forming the entrance of a building” (Jones, 1990, p.182)


“A parapet enclosure or the like made with slender bars and of no great size” (Jones. 1990, p.184)


“To slope from one level to another, Springers on different levels” (Macdonal, 1975, p.1117)


“That part of the closure of a building which covers it in from the sky by the character of their covering; as thatched, shingled, battened, slated, titled, metal covered, tarred, asphalt, gravelled" (Jones, 1990, p.192)


“A roofing gallery, terraces or open portico along the front or side of a building” (Macdonal, 1975, p.1505)


"An unfilled space" (Macdonal, 1975, p.1519)

1.4.3 Materials


“All the shelves in a library, For different kind of shelving such as Adjustable, Brackets, Cantilever, Lundia, Multi-tier, Open bar, Roller, Rolling bookcases, Rolling press, Slotted, Supper storage, and act of putting books away in their proper places on the shelves of a library” (Harrod, 1977, p.755)

Adjustable Shelves

“Shelves are which may be raised or lowered at the wall. Shelving which enables to be done while the books are still on them is the most useful in libraries. Storage shelving requiring the use of nuts and bolts is not normally used because of the inconvenience of adjusting the shelves, which go into slots cut at the end of the shelves as the latter is pushed into position. Although most modern shelving restricts adjustability to one inch, there are some kinds which make closer intervals of adjustment possible. The most convenient adjustable steel shelving to operate, and which gives unrestricted adjustability, is the bracket type where lever built into the brackets. Wooden shelving is rendered adjustable by using tonk fitting consisting of slotted strips inserted in the shelves, by resting shelves on wooden pegs inserted in holes in the upright, or by using ‘Lundia' shelving which consists of thin metal rod uprights and the rods with turned ends which are inserted into holes in the grooved ends of the shelves sliding over the projecting part of the rods” (Harrod, 1977, p.44)

Closed Access

The stacks only library staffs are accessed.

Open Access

The stacks only readers are allowed.

Free Standing Stacks

"Library stacks whose principal support is the floor of the story they occupy. Stacks manufacturers do not regard stacks free-standing unless its bases are so boarded that they do strut bracing running from one range to another or other methods to provide stabilization, such as fastening to the floor. (Metcalf, 1995, p.416)

Multitier Stacks

“A self-supporting metal framework extending from basement to roof and designed to carry the weight of the deck floors and the book load. The columns are placed close together and permit the use of thin slab concrete or metal plate floors as well as shelf supports” (Metcalf, 1995, p.415)


"A small room or alcove in the book stack, which the reader may be permitted to retain the books on which he is working. Open carrels often consist of desks with visual barriers formed by open bookshelves or low partitions. Closed carrels have doors and often-soundproof semi-permanent walls" (Harrod, 1977, p.559)

Book Trollies or Truck

“A small cart consisting of a set of shelves on wheels used for transporting books within the library” (Harrod, 1977, p.413)

Conveyor Belts

A belt that carries books which run continually through the sections of the library

1.4.4 Lighting


“An oppressive or unrelieved dazzling light” (Metcalf, 1995, p.415)


Lumen is used for measuring lights. One lumen indicates the energy of a light in candlepower.

1.4.5 Ventilation

Air Conditioning Heating/Cooling

“Air conditioning system will free the air of humidity and manage the temperature. It will also purify the air (Macdonal, 1975, p.525)


“Moisture: a moderate degree of wetness” (Jones, 1995, p.5)

1.4.6 Security


Any intentional and unintentional damages caused by human nature interaction .

Wicket gate

The special gate controls the unauthorized in and out ways by blocking the sudden movements.

1.4.7 Noise

Internal Noise

Inside noise that can be occurred due to internal arrangements of equipment and behaviour of occupants.

External Noise

Outside noise that can be penetrated through buildings construction.

Noise Reduction Coefficient (NRC)

A single number rating derived from measured values of sound absorption coefficients in accordance with ASTM Test Method C423, Sound Absorption and Sound Absorption Coefficients by the Reverberation Room Method. It provides an estimate of the sound absorptive property of an acoustical material. NRC values range from 0 for hard, reflective materials such as flat glass and gypsum board to 1.2 for several inches of highly efficient fiberglass" (Newman, (n.d.)p. 2)

1.4.8 Space

Gross Space

"The total area enclosed by a building expressed in terms of cubic footage or square footage of floor areas, including walls. Gross space generally includes roof house, projections, and mechanical space and also one-half of all space not enclosed with walls, but provided with a roof and a floor. (Metcalf, 1995, p.415)

Net Space

“The part of the gross space left after deducting the non-assignable space” (Metcalf, 1995, p.415)

Non-Assignable space

"Space that cannot be used for library purposes such as corridors, stairwells, elevators, rest areas, mechanical rooms and unusable nook and corners which have been used for aesthetic relief” (Coben, 1979, p.66)

1.5 Summary

Designing a new library building or an ameliorating an existing building to a library for operating the basic functions is a prime responsibility of every library personnel. Lack of proper knowledge of designing such building for user community becomes a problematic issue in the field of the library. Hence, this chapter considered the issue from the library point of view. In this regard, three different perspectives such as material, environmental and community perspectives considered in a nutshell for setting up the focus of this book followed by the list of important terms and definitions needed in the planning process.


Coben, A., (1979). Designing and space planning for libraries, London: Bowker.

Harrod, L.M., (1977). Librarian glossary and reference book, London: Gower.

Jones, F.H., (1990). A concise dictionary of architecture. California: Crisp.

Macdonal, A. M., (Eds.). (1975). Chambers Twelfth Century Dictionary. Edinburgh: Chambers

Metcalf, K., (1995). Planning academic and research library building, New York: ALA

Newman, R.B., (n,d) Noise control for building: Guideline for acoustical problem solving, CertainTeed Corporation Forge.

Thompson, G., (1967). Planning and designing of the library building. New York: Nichols.


2.1 Aspects of Early Thoughts

Several scholars with professional experiences have carried out different aspects of research in the field of library buildings. This chapter reviews the available literature on certain topics with regards to site selection, space planning, physical facilities, such as lighting, ventilation, noise controlling, and security measures and maintenance. And tries to look other views related to the planning of library buildings as well.

A few research findings in the field are selected on library buildings and have been reviewed. Many works published early days which still hold valid information for the topic are being consulted. The author of this book found that there are various kinds of literature published in the 17th century onward which are fundamentally discussed the building requirements. Dewe, (1988) has pointed a few problems which are confronted by library professionals for many years. The lack of adequate documentation on recently completed library buildings is a drawback for the architects and the librarians involved in planning new buildings. "At the stage, there are two major challenges for librarians. First the need to identify gathers and interprets information about the community which is to be served by the library. Secondly, the need to acquire a more detailed professional knowledge about the planning and designing of library building which may have been provided by their professional education” (Dewe, 1988, p.75) By gathering different documentations, this chapter will include those ideologies to put back the concept of library building show how this topic is attracted by the early and modern day society.

2.2 Ideology of Monumentality

The library building has a long history with the other buildings in the early civilizations. Many of the architectural remains proved that the library building is a remarkable monument in early societies. It dragged the attention of imperials, monasteries as well as erudite scholars in far back 7 century BC. Initially, the collections were housed in the chambers of the royal palaces or monasteries. Gabriel Naude in 1627 stated on Advise Pour dresser une bibliotheque a set of instructions and elaborated that planning a library building is a great honour for a librarian. Keeling, (1968) in “British Public Library Buildings 1850-1870” discussed Nude’s two vital principles related to the library buildings.

1. The consecration of library use
2. The depreciation of elaborate and monumental buildings

As per these two ideas, library building is not a normal building like other constructions in the society. A library is a unique place where community respects it as a holy place. Advice on libraries has given priorities on the building and location of libraries. It suggested selecting the site of the library at some distance from the noisiest streets. "between some spacious court and a pleasant garden, from which it may enjoy good light, a wide and agreeable prospect, and pure air, unpolluted by marshes, sinks, or dunghills; the whole arrangement so well planned and ordered that it is compelled to share nothing unpleasant or obviously inconvenient" (p.101).

All types of library buildings are based on this concept. At the planning stage, the architect and the librarian should think of the user and the status of the building. But these conditions and ideas are seemed to be varied according to the nature of the libraries. There is some hindsight in the planning stage where deeply affecting with this fundamental concept. The aesthetic appearance and monumentality do not connect all the time due to modern day designs. Also, this concept is badly affected by the financial situation of the builder. Also highly neglected point at the planning stage. The reason might be not connecting the glorious concept of the library with its reputed services. Early libraries were situated in imperial grounds and prominent among the rest of the buildings. Even in monasteries, the library building was remarkably prominent among the holy buildings in the complex. The concept of monumentality gave a unique feature and dragged the attention of the society. In another way, the design of the building symbolizes the knowledge and the holiness. This concept is fundamentally valid though financial situation and professional ignorance are not aligned in modern-day library buildings. The idea of monumentality was changed due to certain architectural advances in the society after 1950.


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Planning a Small Scale Library Building. Flexibility and Sustainability
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