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Massachusetts Board of Library Commissioners Resource Guide Collection

MPLCP Library Building Programs: Flexibility

Flexibility is key

Your building program is based on 30-year projections of service population and community needs. How can you plan for the future when modes of information transfer and access are changing so quickly?

The best approach is to make your facility as flexible as possible. A few possibilities:

  • Track trends in the way patrons use libraries -- social behaviors influence physical space.
  • Locate permanent structures like elevators, exit stairs, and restrooms on the perimeter of the building. Make interior walls non-load bearing if possible, and consider mobile shelving units in low-density areas; walls and shelving will probably change over time.
  • Select service desks and furniture with flexibility in mind to make future rearrangement possible.
  • Design cabinetry and other casework for a variety of uses -- built-ins can be great, but are very expensive to move.
  • Provide plenty of electrical and data outlets, and include the ability to move them when needed with elements such as modular walls and raised floors. Incorporate electrical and data outlets in tabletop locations and lamp bases.
  • Accommodate a wide variety of patron uses with moveable seating and displays.
  • Make signage changeable with slots for printed text rather than permanent letters, making it easy and affordable to change it.
  • Incorporate a café space with vending machines and/or reconsider restrictions on beverages and food in the library.
  • Keep abreast of new technologies and brainstorm ways to incorporate them or at least reduce the barriers to implementation in future.
  • Zone HVAC and lighting so that levels can match need in different parts of the building. If a BMS, or Building Management System, is installed, incorporate local control of lighting, heat, and cooling when needed, rather than off-site. Make sure staff are fully trained in the system's use. If possible, separate ventilation from heating and cooling, allowing fresh air to circulate without having to be conditioned.
  • Make sure the carpet or other flooring material goes under shelving units and millwork, so they can be repositioned if needed.