Library Planning Research,  Space Planning,  work in progress

How People Use Libraries

Changing Library

Libraries have evolved over time to adapt to changing societal needs and technology advancements. Today, many libraries have computers and labs where students can do their homework, and information literacy areas where the staff can help patrons with their research needs. Some libraries also have designated spaces for media workstations and desktop publishing such as a Mac Lab or a one-button studio. Additionally, libraries have begun to rent out their reading rooms and stack areas for private receptions, and other groups to use multipurpose rooms and auditoriums as a way to generate funds and good will. These changes in how libraries are being used reflect the libraries’ ability to adapt and remain relevant in today’s society.


The term “infotainment” refers to the blending of education and entertainment in places such as libraries and museums. This concept has led to changes in the way libraries operate, with a greater emphasis on active participation and engagement from patrons. Libraries are no longer rigidly controlled environments, and patrons are encouraged to participate in a variety of activities, some of which may generate noise. This shift towards infotainment reflects a recognition that people are more likely to engage with and learn from experiences that are interactive and enjoyable. Below are some functions that make up a sample library facility program:

  • Quiet study and reading areas
  • Collaborative and interactive spaces
  • Technology-rich environments
  • Comfortable and inviting spaces
  • Flexible and adaptable spaces
  • Acoustically designed spaces to manage and control noise levels
  • Adequate space for storage and circulation of library materials
  • Library Design

    For the library designers, it is crucial to create facilities that cater to the diverse needs of patrons, and provide a balance between quiet and interactive spaces. This can be achieved by providing a variety of spaces for different activities, such as quiet study and reading areas, collaborative and interactive spaces, technology-rich environments, comfortable and inviting spaces, and flexible and adaptable spaces. Additionally, acoustical design should be taken into consideration to manage and control noise levels, and adequate space should be provided for storage and circulation of library materials.

    Functional Program

    Below is a sample lists of library activities that patrons can engage in. This list has expanded significantly over the years. Basically, you can create a list to start library programming. Aaron Cohen Associates, LTD library consultants develops new libraries, renovates and reorganizes space / service plans. Below a sample of library functions:

  • Browse new or old materials in the display areas, general stacks, or at dedicated equipment stations
  • Study or perform research by reading, writing, listening or watching anywhere in the library
  • Ask reference questions at service desks or at specially designed workstations/offices
  • Attend classes in multipurpose, seminar or class rooms or in specially dedicated areas
  • Go to tutoring sessions in reading rooms or in group study rooms
  • Use the copiers, microcomputers or similar equipment anywhere in the facility
  • Attend cultural events in auditoriums, multipurpose rooms, reading rooms, on the terrace or lawn
  • Get involved in volunteer programs in areas set aside for that purpose or in the general library
  • Meet friends or associates anywhere in the library, but especially near the entrance or in the current periodical lounge
  • This diverse range of activities allows libraries to cater to the needs of a wide range of patrons and provide a variety of services in a single location.


    Library Interiors

    Designing an interior environment that can accommodate such a diverse range of activities and patrons requires a sensitive and holistic approach. The designers need to be aware of the disparate requirements of each activity and yet be able to blend them into a coherent whole. This includes creating a general spatial arrangement that develops into one logical floor plan which can change as needs change. For example, browsing areas should be relatively easy to rearrange and demount. This is important because as technology advances, the majority of materials to be browsed may displayed by their moble phones, and patrons will use their own pocket-size devices to screencast. Basically, a flexible design approach is needed to cater to the changing needs of patrons and technology advancements.

    Serve a Diverse Range of Patrons

    Libraries serve a diverse range of patrons with varying needs. Some patrons may seek assistance from reference librarians, others may use the online catalog to find specific materials, and students may use the library for studying and research. Business people may need to use a small meeting room for work-related tasks. Additionally, some patrons may visit the library just to relax and browse, or even take a rest in the periodical area. Overall, libraries are versatile spaces that cater to a wide range of users. We know because our library programming results in a diverse set of net assignable functional requirements. Our reports can be used to strategically improve the library.