Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Space planning in libraries P- 12. Management of Libraries and Information Centres & Knowledge Centres * By :PK gupta

इस ब्लॉग्स को सृजन करने में आप सभी से सादर सुझाव आमंत्रित हैं , कृपया अपने सुझाव और प्रविष्टियाँ प्रेषित करे , इसका संपूर्ण कार्य क्षेत्र विश्व ज्ञान समुदाय हैं , जो सभी प्रतियोगियों के कॅरिअर निर्माण महत्त्वपूर्ण योगदान देगा ,आप अपने सुझाव इस मेल पत्ते पर भेज सकते हैं - chandrashekhar.malav@yahoo.com

Space planning in libraries

P- 12. Management of Libraries and Information Centres & Knowledge Centres *

By :PK gupta

1. Introduction

When we design a library building, we need to keep in mind its functions, its present and future needs. The building should provide a conducive environment for the use of the resources and at the same time, facilitate efficiency and economy in administrative functions. A library building is expected to perform the following functions  (Kaula, p. 55) :

(i)                 Effective technical operations of the library;
(ii)                Efficient and rapid production of information and material on demand;
(iii)               The provision of quiet, comfortable and attractive areas for study;
(iv)               The provision of individual and collective studies for the users doing intensive research work;
(v)               The provision of facilities for developing reading habit;
(vi)              The provision to facilitate the contact of users with the contents of the library;
(vii)             The storage and preservation of reading materials; and
(viii)            The accessibility of the reading materials to users without the loss of time.

2. Preliminary research

Designing the library is an art and most of the librarians get the occasion to design the building once or very occasionally in their professional lives. However, one can benefit from the experience of others. Therefore, much before the actual designing starts, one important activity is to visit as many new library buildings as possible which would give a better perspective. One can learn from the successes and failures of others by visiting recent library buildings. The librarian has to identify the right kind of libraries for the visit. Besides, the librarian has to observe the various features, use of technology, experience of the users, and experience of the staff too.  

Another way of conducting research is by conducting a survey of the present users of the library in order to get their views on what features are required in the new library building. A focus group meeting with the users will also be of help.

3. Library space planning : who does what.

Library is planned from inside out. The external shape of the building, color, designs, orientation etc will be decided after the interior functional areas are meticulously planned by the Librarian. The librarian has to specify all the functional areas of the library envisioning the future, space requirements for each functional area as per professional standards,  other specifications for each functional area,   movements and traffic circuit and  inter-relationships between the different  areas. Librarian has to do the planning keeping in view the growth of the library in the next 20 years.   Once the functional areas are fully described to the architect, the latter  plans for the floor plan, furniture layout,  provision of lighting, electricity and internet, ventilation, window details, cooling, heating, internal fittings,  prevention of direct  sunlight into the library, acoustics, aesthetics etc.  The architect translates the librarian’s ideas into graphical form, which, at the later stage, gets implemented by the engineers.  In some countries of the west, a Library Consultant who has rich experience in designing libraries is also appointed. The job of the library consultant is to not only make available his experience but also suggest innovative ideas without getting  influenced by the way the library functions at present.  In order to get a better perspective, the library consultant may meet the library users, senior administrators of the organization of if necessary,  or conduct a survey seeking views of all stakeholders. The close interaction of librarian, library consultant and the architect continues till the final designing and drawing stage is complete. Once the designs and drawings are approved, the architects, engineers and contractors  take over the works  and the role of Librarian and the Library Consultant is to make periodic inspections and provide guidance to  the construction team whenever required.

4. Principles of planning libraries

Important principles of planning libraries are :

(i)                  Functional aspects of the library get a priority over the appearance and aesthetic aspects;
(ii)                The building should provide economy in administration and operations;
(iii)               The study areas should be close to the active book collection;
(iv)              The building should represent simplicity and user-friendliness;
(v)                Future requirements in terms of functions, stock and services be given due consideration;
(vi)              There has to be provision for expansion of the building, if the need arises in future;
(vii)              Adequate provision has to be made for the physical conveniences for the staff.

5. Location

Location of the library has to be, as far as possible, be central or most easily accessible to the largest number of users. If a hall is to be chosen for the library in a multi-storied building, the ideal place will be ground floor rather than the basement or the upper floors. In a university campus which houses several buildings, the site which is near the academic block has to chosen for the library rather than the one which is at the far end of the campus.  For a city central library, a site right in the heart of the city is preferred rather than a site located in the city outskirts, though it has scenic beauty around. The traditional thinking that the library has to be necessarily located in a quiet place conducive for study is to be discarded. On the other hand, the ideal place is the one which attracts the maximum number of users.  It is possible to build an environment conducive for study even amidst busy surroundings, but it will be a challenge to ensure good use in a place which is not convenient for the library users to visit.

6. Functional areas in libraries

Broadly speaking, the following are the functional areas in the libraries :

-          Entry/Exit gates
-          Cloak room(s)
-          Circulation Desk
-          Display area for new books, notices, etc
-          Card catalogues or OPAC terminals
-          Reference/Information desk
-          Periodicals/newspapers display
-          Reference sources such as dictionaries, encyclopedias etc
-          Reserved books (Textbooks) area
-          Stacks
-          Reading tables and carrels
-          Discussion rooms
-          Special collection such as rare books/art books/archives
-          Toilets for men and women
-          Cafetaria
-          Rooms for Librarian and Deputy Librarian
-          Technical processing rooms
-          Multi-purpose halls for lectures/meetings or exhibitions
-          Audio-visual hall
-          Digitization lab
-          Room for computer servers, UPS etc
-          Desks for library office staff,  such as clerks
-          Temporary storage area for back issues, old newspapers, weed out books etc.
-          Book repairs and bindery
-          Photocopying
-          Computer terminals for browsing,  printing, scanning, etc

The above list must not be taken as an prescriptive model since the functional areas depend on the type of library, its objectives and activities and requirements of the users. For instance, in a small library,  various functions including technical processing, book repairs, administrative works, digitization and even computer servers can all be  accommodated in one room, while in a big university library, even the rare book collection might demand several halls.

7. Space requirements for different functional areas

Space requirements for different functional areas  can be worked out on the basis of Indian Standard, Design of library buildings – recommendations relating to its primary elements (Second Revision) (IS 1553 : 1989) (2) Originally it  had been brought out in 1960 by Indian Standards Institution (now renamed as Bureau of Indian Standards) with the title, Code of Practice relating to Primary Elements in the Design of Library Building (IS : 1553 – 1960 ). The original standard had been prepared by the Sectional Committee on Library Buildings, Fittings and Furniture under the Chairmanship of Prof. S. R.  Ranganathan.  The standard was revised in 1976 and 1989 (2).  Though the standard was primarily meant for university and college libraries, a large part of its content can be applied to other libraries too,  such as public libraries and special libraries.  Some important recommendations from IS 1553 : 1989 are reproduced below :

(i)                  Each floor of the library building shall be at one single level to facilitate the movement of book trolley from one part to another. Thresholds shall not be provided anywhere inside the
building (Ref :  9.1)
(ii)                The rooms shall be arranged in such a way that the staff other than those servicing the reading room shall not have to pass through the reading room disturbing the readers (Ref :  9.1.2).
(iii)               Entrance to library building and exit from it shall be only through the counter enclosure in the general reading room at the point of entrance from the entrance lobby (Ref :  9.2).
(iv)              Gangways are not only essential for efficient functioning of the library but also to allow easy access/passage to firemen to various parts of a room/building. The minimum clear width of gangways shall be as follows (Ref :  11.1) :

-          Longitudinal gangway not less than 1 metres;  
-          Cross gangway not less than 1.35 metres;
-          End gangway (between the end wall and nearest row of racks/reading tables ) not less than 1.325 metres).
(v)                Dimensions of stack room should be as follows (Ref : 11.2) :
-          Each unit book rack 2 metres long may be assumed to house 700 to 750 volumes and 1sq.metre of stack room area may be assumed to house 150 volumes.
-          Center-to-center distance between consecutive racks is 1.80 metres (on the basis of 0.45 metre of rack depth plus 1.35 metres of cross gangway width).
-          The distance from an end wall of the stack room to the center of the nearest row of racks is 1.55 metres (on the basis of 1.325 metres of the end cross gangway plus 0.225 metre of half rack depth).
(vi)              Reading room  (Ref :  11.3) :

-          The average area per reader in the reading room should be 2.33 sq. metres and the size of the reading table is 2.4 metre x 0.6 metre. The centre-to- center distance between two consecutive rows of reading tables is 1.8 metres.  (It has to be noted that the BIS Code recommends narrow reading tables and the chairs are kept only on one side of the table in order to prevent cross talking. See Fig. 2). 
(vii)             Size of other rooms (Ref : 11.4) :

For use of
Area in sq. metres
Librarian and Deputy Librarian
Classifier, cataloguer, Accession Librarian and Maintenance Librarian
9 per person
Secretary to Librarian
Visitors’ room
Administrative and professional staff not at service points and other than those mentioned in (b)
5 per person
Group discussion room
2 per person
Conference room
2 per person
Seminar room
2 per person
Committee room
2 per person
7 per person
(viii)           For details of principles and practices governing good lighting of libraries, reference shall be made to IS : 2672 : 1966 which also recommends the levels of illumination to be achieved by general principles of lighting. For daylighting, reference shall be made to IS 7942 : 1976. (Ref :  14.1).
(ix)              Internal noise consisting generally of conversation, frictional noise (chairs scrapping the floor and the impact of heels on hard floor) and mechanical noises (from book hoists and typewriters) shall be controlled effectively, for example, by using noise absorbing materials in ceiling, walls, floors and partitioning surfaces  (Ref :  15.1).
(x)                All legs of movable furniture should be provided with rubber shoes. The book trolleys should be with rubber tyres. (Ref :  15.1.1).
(xi)              The maximum acceptable noise level in a library should be 40 to 45 dB (Ref:  15.2).
(xii)             For details of methods for achieving noise reduction and sound insulation, reference shall be made to IS 1950: 1962 (Ref :  15.3).
(xiii)           Provision for airconditioning to maintain uniform temperature of 22±1 degree Celsius and relative humidity at 50±5 percent round the clock throughout the year for at least the storage space where rare books, manuscripts and similar irreplaceable materials are stored, shall be made. (Ref :  16.1).

The IS 1553 : 1989, though comprehensive, it does not provide guidelines for facilities required for ICT applications such as computer terminals, Wifi, Server rooms, cabling, electric points, etc which are essential part of modern libraries. Separate standards related to these applications are available and may be consulted by the library planning team.

 Alternate Text
(Source : IS 1553 : 1989)
 Alternate Text
(Source : IS 1553-1989)

8. Relative position of functional areas

(i)                  Near the entrance/exit gate : Cloak rooms. (In bigger libraries, it is advisable to have only one gate for entrance and one gate for exit while in smaller libraries, there can be one gate for both entry and exit. Library should not have any additional entry/exit points).
(ii)                Lobby area : Issue Desk, Reference and Information Desk, OPAC terminals, Catalogue cabinets, New book Displays, Notice boards
(iii)               Middle of the library, but away from the stacks and reading areas : Librarian, Deputy Librarian, Technical Processing, Clerical staff, Computer server room
(iv)              Middle of the library but away from the library staff area : Stacks, Periodicals section, Reserved books section, Reading tables and carrels, Audio-visual hall, Photocopying, Internet terminals/scanning (It is essential that reading areas have to be near the stack areas. If they are to be provided in the stack hall itself, the reading tables may be placed near the windows in order to ensure natural light and air).  
(v)               Far end of the library : Book repair and binding, Digitization lab, Cafeteria, Discussion rooms, Special collections, Toilets , Multi-purpose halls for Seminar/conferences/exhibitions halls,.

9. Secondary collection

As the collection grows, it will be a good practice to categorize the collection into two sequences, namely, the active and secondary collection. The active  collection consists of the recent additions and the collection from where the books regularly move. On the other hand, the secondary collection consists of older editions of books, not-so-relevant and obsolete materials. Secondary collection can be kept in upper floors or in compact shelving described in the following paragraph. The purpose is to make  the active collection attractive by retaining latest and relevant books. Developing a secondary collection facilitates the old and not-so-relevant books move to a less prime location and they can be weeded out depending on the policy.

10. Compact shelving

Compact shelving, also called as High Density shelving, is a shelving system that rides on moveable carriages over floor-installed rails.  The rails are mounted on the concrete floor. Compact shelving is available both manually and electrically operated. There are safety devices which can stop the movement in case it makes contact with an object such as book trolley or human being. The main advantage of compact shelving is that it reduces the shelf space drastically by eliminating the aisles.  Less used books and reading materials can be shelved in compact shelving. Also, in some institutions where the library has to be used as a multi-purpose hall too, such compact shelving is used.

 Alternate Text
Fig. 3 : Compact shelving system

11. Multi-tier stack Systems (MTSS)

Multi-tier stacks (MTSS) are steel shelving systems which are assembled as two or more tiers of shelving sections in which the bottom shelving is the support for the upper level floor. In this system,  shelf uprights or columns and floor decks are self-supporting.  Each level of stack supports the level above. In this system,  the shelves cannot be moved easily.  Because of lack of flexibility,  MTSS are less preferred than the freestanding modular bookshelves. Nevertheless, MTSS can be used for storage of secondary collection books.
Alternate Text 

Fig. 4 : Multi-tier stack system (MTSS)

12. Weeding out policy

Library needs to have a policy for weeding out reading materials. Extra copies of old books, grey literature, outdated materials, mutilated volumes, old CDs, DVDs, floppies, etc. add to the maintenance cost besides occupying large space in libraries. Also, of late, because of the migration to e-books/e-journal format, a large number of print materials remain unused. A policy for weeding out has to be evolved and it should specify what type of books and journals or electronic objects  can be weeded out and the procedure.  The weed-out activity has to be a continuous process.  Weeding out books and journals  will make space available for new additions, which, otherwise, demand building extensions.

13. Digitization of old materials

In the electronic era, digitization of less used and old books helps in space saving provided the library complies with the copyright laws. Many libraries have digitized too old materials and built digital libraries.  It is common to find own publications of the parent organization and  theses submitted to the universities being digitized and made available either through intranet or for a wider public through internet.

14. Noise prevention

Library has to be designed so as to provide maximum noise-proof area which is required for serious study. Prevention of noise can be done by increasing sound absorbing material while reducing sound reflecting surfaces in the library. Sound absorbing surface include  soft false ceiling, wall to wall carpeting for the floor, curtains for windows, providing cork or rubber/linoleum covering for the floor etc. Concrete walls, floor, ceiling etc reflect the noise.  Rooms such as offices, bindery, cafeteria etc be provided spring doors so that the noise does not reach the reading areas. Book trolleys need to have rubber wheels. Chairs and tables be provided rubber or cushion-padded legs.

15. Space requirements in electronic era

One of the important implications of IT is the decrease in the use of print resources. While the use of print textbooks and general reading materials has not severely been impacted yet, the use of print journals and reference sources such as directories, handbooks, almanacs, yearbooks, etc has gone down drastically. While reading for pleasure continues in all kind of libraries, new gadgets such as e-book readers, laptops, tablets, desktops and mobile phones are steadily slowing down the use of the print books. In research libraries, most of the reading by scientists is done by accessing e-resources rather than from print materials.  Reading has become more need based and less as a habit. One noticeable phenomenon has been the disappearance of reading habit  for current awareness. While libraries have taken up the challenge and try to woo the readers by various marketing techniques, the onslaught on the print materials is definite and irreversible. Therefore, storage area may not grow as it used to be in the previous era. This has to be taken note of while planning the library buildings. Some of the libraries have converted a part of the reading space into rooms in order to provide discussion rooms.

16. Air-conditioning

Air conditioning has become almost a necessity for libraries. Apart from providing a comfortable study area and increasing staff productivity, air conditioning prevents physical deterioration of reading materials. Burchard and his associates observe that ‘air conditioning in the strict  sense means the simultaneous control of eight factors, viz., temperature, humidity, air motion, air distribution, dust, bacteria, odors and toxic gases (3). Air conditioning also produces a noise-free environment.

17. Facilities for the physically challenged

It is necessary that the library provides facilities for the physically challenged persons to use the library. There has to be a ramp entrance in order to facilitate readers  with wheel chair or walkers or crutches. None of the doors in the library should have thresholds since they hinder the movement of wheel chairs. Besides, special toilets with wide door are to be provided so that a person with wheel chair or walker can use them.  If the reading materials are located in more than one floor, lifts are to be provided.  Besides, library staff need to be sensitized to the needs of physically challenged readers and manual assistance be made available either to locate a book or move the reader with a wheelchair or evacuate the physically challenged persons in case of emergency.

18. Fire safeguards

Libraries contain reading materials which contain the legacy of the past. A major part of our book collection are irreplaceable and therefore, fire safeguards have to be kept in mind at the planning stage itself. The conduit electricity wiring, plug/socket points have to be of good quality. The false ceiling materials, if used, are to be fire-proof.  Electric circuit breakers be made available in each hall of the library in order to cut off the supply in the event of electricity overload or fire.  Adequate fire extinguishers have to be made available in all halls of the library and staff be trained to use them in emergency.  In big libraries, fire sensors and hooters are installed in order to provide automatic warnings in the event  of fire. Besides, there has to be an exclusive emergency exit gate for evacuation in case of emergency.


  1. Kaula, Prithvi Nath (1971). Library buildings : Planning and design. Delhi, Vikas, pp. 55.
  2. Design of library buildings – recommendations relating to its primary elements (Second Revision). New Delhi, Bureau of Indian Standards, 1989.  (IS 1553 : 1989). 10 p.
  3. Quoted in Kaula (1971).Op cit, p. 153.

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