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Library Planning Research,  Space Planning

How many seats do I need in my library?

Having a library building or learning environment that supports users in their research process is crucial for effective learning activities. Determining the number of seats needed in your library involves considering various factors to ensure adequate seating capacity. Our research has shown that a wide choice of library seats and spaces is the most effective.

To enable us to program and plan the learning activities in a library building, we need to ask our selves – how many seats do I need in my library? It’s simply not effective to have a library building or learning environment that does not support users in their research process. You need a methodology and/or process to develop the space and the services. Visit Aaron Cohen Associates, LTD to start the library planning and programming process.

Data Collection

It’s important to program enough seating to accommodate users’ needs and avoiding overcrowding. Many of our projects start with an understanding of the space utilization or underutilization of the collection areas. By using data capture methods and reviewing user feedback we can help fine-tune seating arrangements.

User Needs

Aaron Cohen Associates, LTD observes usage patterns and user feedback. We continually study how others library consultants approach the questions of library seating. For example, Quality Metrics and Brightspot wrote in “Library Design: How Many Seats Do We Need?” developed a weighted statistical strategy to understand the shift in library spaces. Basically, libraries have changed from primarily housing books to accommodating various programming and services. This is a significant trend in modern library design. Libraries are now embracing their role as vibrant community hubs and student success centers.

Certainly, collecting data is essential to inform the design process. Conduct surveys, interviews, or observations to understand user needs, preferences, and behaviors. This data can guide the development of learning space models that cater to the diverse requirements of users.

Network of Learning Spaces

The question of how many seats are needed in a library is indeed a common concern in library design projects. As libraries have evolved to become more than just spaces for accessing information, they now serve as hubs for connection, creation, and collaboration.

User Needs

Understand the needs and preferences of the library’s target users. Consider the demographics, such as student population, community size, or specific user groups, and their typical patterns of library usage. This information helps gauge the demand for seating.

Library Functions

Determine the range of activities that the library intends to support. Besides traditional reading and studying, libraries now offer spaces for group work, workshops, events, multimedia creation, and more. Each of these functions requires suitable seating arrangements.

Space Flexibility

Design flexible spaces that can accommodate different activities and adapt to changing needs. Incorporate movable furniture, modular seating, or versatile configurations that allow for easy reconfiguration of the seating layout as required.

Collaborative Areas

Provide collaborative spaces with ample seating for group discussions, project work, or interactive sessions. These areas typically require larger tables or workstations to accommodate multiple users.

Quiet Study Areas

Allocate sufficient seating for individuals seeking a quiet environment for focused study or research. These areas may feature carrels, individual study pods, or secluded corners with comfortable seating options.

User Flow and Space Distribution

Consider the overall layout and circulation patterns within the library. Analyze the expected traffic flow to ensure an efficient use of space. Distribute seating throughout the library in a way that optimizes access to resources, amenities, and services.

Space Utilization Data

Refer to historical data or conduct surveys and observations to understand how existing library spaces are utilized. Analyze peak usage periods, popular areas, and seating occupancy rates. This information can help determine the demand for seating in different zones or sections of the library.


Refine the learning space models based on the collected data and feedback. Continuously evaluate the effectiveness of the configurations and make adjustments as necessary. Consider factors like traffic flow, accessibility, and user comfort.


We researched library vendors and partner with them on research projects. These vendors and suppliers help us test different furniture, lighting, and acoustic options in a library setting. For example, we did a study for Howard University Founders Library. Here, we engaged in a pilot phase where users can provide feedback on the functionality and usability of the environment. This step allows for further refinement and optimization.

Environmental Factors

We pay attention to environmental factors that impact library services and operations productivity. We work with vendors to optimize lighting conditions (ex. Lucalight) to provide ample brightness while avoiding glare. Consider acoustic design principles to minimize noise distractions and provide adequate sound insulation. Additionally, strategically plan adjacencies between different areas, considering the proximity of resources and amenities that support learning activities.

Private Space

Creating a library or learning environment that supports users in their research process is indeed crucial for effective learning activities. Providing a wide choice of library spaces can enhance the learning experience and cater to different preferences and needs.

Private Space

Carrels or individual study spaces that offer a degree of privacy are important for focused work. Consider different interior space configurations that accommodate both individuals and small groups. These configurations can include corner spaces to create a sense of privacy or be situated along window walls, known as the “living edge.”

Goal Setting

Start by setting clear goals for the library space design. Define the intended purpose of each area, such as quiet study, collaborative work, research, or group discussions.

Visit Aaron Cohen Associates, LTD to start the library planning and programming process.