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Massachusetts Board of Library Commissioners Resource Guide Collection

MPLCP Library Building Programs: More Information

Library Space Planning Guide

Selected Glossary

Accessibility: usually refers to compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). This legislation says that renovations or additions beyond a certain threshold* to an existing building requires the upgrading of the entire facility to full accessibility. This includes 36" - 42" aisles and hallways; no dead-ends in the stacks; elevators, ramps or lifts to all public areas; and fully accessible restrooms and service counters. The ADA website has information for existing buildings and new construction. State requirements can be found on the Massachusetts Architectural Access Board site. Accessibility can also mean access to the building or a particular area or feature, e.g. accessibility to public transportation.

Circulation: for a building, the space required to move around in the building, including corridors, stairways, etc. For furniture or equipment, the free space required around it in order to use it. The space must allow a person to move around, use, stand or sit in front, pull out a drawer, etc.

Conversion: renovating a different building type for use as a library. See also Floor load.

Efficiency: for a building, the Net Square Footage divided by the Gross Square Footage.

Ergonomics: An applied science concerned with designing and arranging the environment so that people and things interact most efficiently and safely. Especially important for staff spaces, furniture, and equipment.

FF&E: the acronym used in the building trade for "Furniture, Fixtures and Equipment" -- basically everything that goes inside, including shelving, lighting, millwork, and appliances. The authors of The Library Renovation, Maintenance and Construction Handbook (2011) put it this way on page 94: "Imagine a building. Turn it upside down and shake vigorously. Everything that falls from the floor to the ceiling is FF&E."

Finish: anything applied to the interior surfaces to make them more durable and pretty: paint, wallcovering, carpet, vinyl or linoleum, etc.

Floor load: The amount of weight that the floor of a building can support. A library must be able to handle a floor load of 150 psf (pounds per square foot), or 300 psf if compact shelving is used. This is much higher than the usual office building load of 50 psf. For this reason, converting a different building type for use as a library can be very costly.

Footprint: the ground or floor space occupied by a building, piece of furniture, shelving or equipment.

Functional space: for furniture and equipment, the total of the footprint and the required circulation space.

Gross square footage: the total area of the building, from outside wall to outside wall. In simple terms, this can be thought of as the exterior measurements, like a tape measure around the outside of the building, multiplied by the number of stories. See also Net square footage.

HVAC: an acronym for heating, ventilating and air conditioning.

Net square footage: the sum of all the floor area usable for the building's function. It does not include the "non-assignable area" (see definition below). See also Gross square footage.

Non-assignable area: the portion, in terms of gross square feet, of the building not assigned to a specific library service or staff work space.  Typically, non-assignable space makes up approximately 30% of the gross square feet of a building.  These spaces that include:  mechanical rooms, janitor rooms and storage, closets, security systems, near entrances and circulation desks, corridors, stairwells, elevator shafts, restrooms, widths of walls, and general storage rooms. Also known as unassignable area.

OPM: the Owner's Project Manager. This individual, required by state law for any project over $1.5 million, represents the library's interests in all facets of the project, including planning, design and construction. The OPM must be selected according to state procurement regulations.

Wayfinding: refers to how people orient themselves and find their way around a building. A wayfinding system consists mainly of signage, color, and architectural directional cues, e.g. a grand entrance leading to a grand stairway. See Wayfinding for more information.

*Any work done over the course of 3 consecutive years that costs 30% of the assessed value of the property or more must be brought into full compliance with ADA regulations.