Library Planning Research

The Library Program: a Vital First Step in Design

Aaron Cohen Associates’  library programs have improved the design of libraries worldwide, integrating architecture, IT and service. A program is the first step in the conceptual design process; it is vital to give it time and attention. As part of our program work, we build connections between people, facilitate workshops and offer solutions for space and service challenges. 

A library program outlines where seating, computers, lounge seats and group study area are placed. They also show where the library provides circulation and reference services. The seating spaces can be social, collaborative, or quiet and have adaptable furniture.

The library program can have a profound influence on the quality of your library environment. It is important that a program is adaptable, able to respond to the changing needs of patrons. In addition, careful choices of furniture and lighting can enhance and modernize your space. Here are some factors to consider when developing a program:

  • Make sure your program and planning documents are easy to read and free from complex solutions.
  • If you are considering new seating, test the library space. We recommend self-sustaining scenarios/solutions and interventions. Demo the furniture, ask users what they think, run a library planning workshop, etc.
  • Ensure your library design accentuates natural light and fresh air.
  • Try to incorporate flexible, stackable furniture and moveable walls to maximize flexibility. Spaces should serve multiple purposes when possible.
  • Avoid fabrics, soft furnishings and broad-loom carpets; these materials make it harder to keep the library clean.
  • Use a variety of lighting: spotlights, up-lighters and diffused lighting controlled with dimmer switches can provide flexibility for different functions.
  • Provide book walls with plenty of new books to add more energy to your library.
  • Organize sufficient storage space to keep all equipment, last copy and special collections, so that work surfaces are clear and free.
  • Ask lots of questions, listen to your users and explore their vision.