What is a Facilities Plan? | Why have a Facilities Plan? | Making a Facilities Plan | Elements of an Excellent Youth Space | Children's vs. Teen Spaces | Accessibility | Assessment of Facilities Plan | Examples of Excellent Spaces and Successfully Executed Facilities Plans | Resources

What is a Facilities Plan?
ImaginOn. The youth space for the Charlotte Mecklenburg Library, NC and the Children's Theatre of Charlotte.

A facilities plan is the result of an institution and community evaluation of the current offerings of a library or library department in light of the long-term desires and plans for growth that are supported by both the library’s mission and vision and the community’s needs. More specifically, it is a plan for the remodeling or renovation of certain aspects of library facilities, if not a plan for a complete renovation of a library building. The plan is a balance between what the library wants to offer to its community and what it can afford to offer. During the development stages of a facilities plan, the library in question has the opportunity to explore seemingly unfeasible dreams with the caveat of potentially incorporating whole or partial elements of those reaching goals into the final plan.

Facilities plans are not always specifically drawn up for seemingly simple departmental renovations, but planning should be coordinated with the institutions master facilities plan. If no such master plan exists, steps should be taken to be sure that departmental desires for renovations are in line with the library’s long-range institutional plans. When evaluating how much space to allot for each department, especially considering a children’s or teen section, make the space proportional to the percentage of total library usage and circulation by the age group the space will be for (Feinberg 22). Children's and teen spaces do not have to be huge; a well-designed space is always more effective than a poorly designed one, regardless of size.

Without a facilities plan, a library is without direction when they begin consulting with outside firms on general and specific design elements. By establishing what the library desires to see and fleshing out distinct justification for the elements they hope to bring into the library, committees in charge of coordinating with architects and designers will be better prepared to clarify when designs do not reflect the goals of the facilities plan. "A building project of any type, to be successful, should combine extensive planning, participation by everyone in the learning community, continuous communication, and an ability to look into the future without a crystal ball." (Lankford 1).

Why have a Facilities Plan?

How a space is set up is not just a matter of where shelves and furniture are placed. The arrangement will affect what activities can be done in the library and how patrons view the space created for them. The placement of materials will dictate the traffic flow in the space and how different parts of the space can be used. A good design takes into account how children and teens see the world and learn, and how different architectural principles affect this (Feinberg 17) . The plan allows the library to make sure the space will fit its needs. Design should reflect how the space is intended to function. A library that plans to do a lot of programming will want to make sure they have allocated space for programming that won't disturb patrons who are not part of the program. A library who wants a quiet study area will need to set up space that is not right near a doorway that gets a lot of foot traffic or a loud computer terminal. Design reflects what the library's goals are and its service philosophy. Design can also affect patron behavior to encourage or discourage select actions. Having computer terminals set near the entrance where they are highly visible encourages their use, while putting all the tables right next to the librarian's desk encourages quiet. This space also acts as one of the most powerful promotional tools the library has for itself. The space allows the library to showcase exactly what materials and resources it can offer. It reflects what the library thinks teens and children want and need, and what their tastes are.

The library is not the only one to benefit from space design or the creation of children and teen spaces. Allocating space is one of the best ways a library can show that it values people of different age groups (Walters 58). Giving an age group a space to call their own not only shows the library cares, but it empowers teens and children by giving them a feeling of ownership in the library. A space for teenagers helps to visibly differentiate them from children and acknowledges that the library does not view them as children. Space also provides a feeling of independence. One of the most important things any space can do for children or teenagers is to provide them an area in the library where they can be themselves. There are different behavior expectations for children and teen spaces versus the rest of the library. In the adult sections of the library, children and teens are expected to be calm and quiet and act in a manner that will not disrupt the adults. By providing children and teenagers with their own spaces, the library is giving them an opportunity to just act like children and teenagers. This space concept was developed by Sociologist Roy Oldenberg and is referred to as a Third Space . Outside of the library, school age children and teenagers spend most of their time in school or at home which are very regimented environments. The library space becomes a neutral ground where children and teens can be themselves and safely try out different identities and interests as they interact with each other and the adult librarians. The concept of a Third Space has become one of the leading design philosophies for teen spaces across the country. The benefits of a Third Space include an enhanced sense of self and independence, greater interpersonal skills, and a love for the space they can call their own.

Making a Facilities Plan

The enactment of a facilities plan is highly dependent on the provision of funding, which needs to be procured before any real construction can be considered. As such, it is vital to find advocacy for renovations in any place possible. “[F]acilities projects are highly visible to the community. Unlike many other issues …, facilities projects have a tremendous length of impact" and therefore a great breadth of community interest and investment (Baule 1). By tapping into that interest, not only will an institution gain the input of community members but also potential financial support.

Successful plans often incorporate multiple levels and groups of people working towards a common goal. From within an institution, committees that represent the affected departments work with library administration, community members, and outside vendors to produce a realistic report including actionable elements such as blueprints and budgets. Throughout this process, there will be constraints discovered as a result of budgetary restrictions and should be respectfully and realistically addressed as they arise. As such, "[t]he team leader must establish a clear channel for decision-making on the team and ensure they stay within budget. The design team should articulate a list of what items could be added if the bids comes in significantly lower than expected and what items could be removed from the bid if necessary to control the budget" (Baule 3).

Several texts offer ready-made facilities and building design plans and checklists for libraries if they're having a difficult time getting started, or for suggesting ideas that may have been overlooked. One of the more thorough titles is Checklist of Library Building Design Considerations (Fifth Edition) by William W. Sannwald. The entire book is filled with different checklists for various possible departments and sections of a library, from the obvious like children's and teen spaces to things like how effective is the flagpole outside the building, if there even is one. Even if your library believes it has everything under control and nothing overlooked, it may be worth consulting one of these thorough texts to double check and confirm that the plan is including everything, even the "small" details.

Important Benchmarks

Project Objectives

Outline what the service model is for the library and how the library wants the space to reflect that model. What exactly should the space accomplish that the current space does not? Provide a sense of what the most important aspects of the space should be and how the library wants to use the space for programming, quiet study, or technology access.

Community Needs and Information

The library must identify what services are most important to the community and target age groups. Many project objectives are created based on a community needs assessment. A current needs assessment should be conducted just prior to writing the facilities plan to make sure the information is the most up-to-date.

Current and Future Collection Assessment

To ensure that a space will meet the future needs of a collection, the facilities plan should take into account projected collection growth. It is also good to know what parts of the collection are expected to expand or contract. If the library wants to add more picture books when space is available, these require different spacial needs than paperbacks or magazines. Thinking long term about collection plans will allow the library to maximize allocated collection space and decide exactly how much space is needed.

Shelving and Furniture Plan

Shelving considerations not only affect budgets but space atmosphere as well. Different departments can have largely different shelving needs and the placement of those shelves can have a surprising impact on the inviting feeling of the collection space. When developing renovation plans, purchasing all new furniture is not always necessary. Needs for replacement items or additional items should be evaluated and accounted for in the budget. By retaining old furniture, limited budgets can be stretched further. Mary Anne Lenk suggests “When selecting shelving, furnishings, fabric, and carpet, ask which styles, colors, and fabrics will be continued and can be replaced--then choose accordingly” (4).

Likewise, consider how the layout of furniture will either draw patrons in or make departments uninviting. By locating social spaces near reference desks, immediate noise might turn away patrons looking to study. Alternately, having completely silent spaces near the front of various departments may make the collection seem uninviting. When weighing these potential impressions, it is important to refer back to the master facilities plan in conjunction with the library’s mission, vision, and values.

Computer Terminals

When determining computer needs, a library should evaluate not only what technology they currently offer but what they do not. Planning renovations offers the perfect opportunity to upgrade technologies and stay current or ahead of the curve. It is also easy to unintentionally ignore basic structural impediments to successful installment of new technology. Be sure to pay attention to where the building can support the weight and power needs of the computers or technologies being introduced. If elements of an older building are being retained or added on to, they can often interfere with the availability of a wireless network. Additional routers or boosters are called for to strengthen the signal throughout the building and satisfy patron demands.

Elements of an Excellent Youth Space


This is the hardest element to define because when it is done well it is intangible. The ambiance is created by the combination of the style of furniture, paint color, lighting and general arrangement of the space. This is the emotional impact the space has on its patrons and how welcoming the space feels. This also where trendy colors and furniture styles come in. They may be popular for a year and then the space takes on a dated look that will be unappealing. The design should aim to create a welcoming ambiance for years to come and just the life time of one trend. Lighting and noise control are an important part of ambiance that is easy to overlook. For the sake of safety and security, spaces should be well lit at all times during the day. It is important that no matter how high shelves are or how many nooks and crannies the space contains they are still well lit. Sound reverberates well in a wide open space, especially places with high ceilings, and hard surfaces reflect sound which makes the space seem noisier. Rugs, carpets, and cloth chairs help dampen sounds. A well designed space has elements in place that will stop sounds from traveling far distances.

Traffic Patterns

A well thought out traffic pattern, like the ambiance of the space, is something that few notice when it is done well. Placing popular items right at the entrance of a space can cause the entrance to be blocked. Putting the computers or play area in back of the quiet study spot means that anyone who wants to be on the computers or play will have to walk through the study spot and may not be conscientious of their noise levels. A good design considers how people will move about the space and how those with different needs will get to the materials they want. It anticipates problems like noted above and organizes the space to minimize congestion and disruption.


Even a fancy and well-designed space will not be used as much if it is not easy to find in the library. A well-designed space thrown in the back of the library or a far corner can make it feel as though the space was an afterthought or something the library is trying to hide. Children's areas near the library entrance or in their own wing work well because the children do not have to be taken through the adult sections of the library to reach their area. This also reduces the amount of noise that seeps into places where quiet is expected. Teens have similar space requirements with one addition. Most teenagers do not want their space right next to the children's area. This encourages children to wander into the teen space and makes most teenagers feel that their identities as burgeoning adults is being ignored. Teens do not want to feel like they are still viewed as children and putting them by children makes them feel like they are merely in an extension of childhood instead of on their way to adulthood.


Comfort goes hand in hand with being welcoming. This can mean furniture that is sized appropriately or can be used for hours. Comfort is also part of being a Third Space. It means creating a space that children and teens want to spend a prolonged period of time in and where they can be comfortable in their own skins and be themselves without out too much adult interference. By creating a comfortable and inviting teen space, the library can become a social gathering location for the community. Parents can easily interact with one another during story times for younger children and teens can enjoy the library for social reasons as well as possible school related activities.

Youth Involvement

This is of particular importance to teenagers. One method of getting teens into their library space and making sure it is attractive to them is to ask them to help design it or to manage the space. While making the facilities plan consult teens about paint colors or the name of the space. This helps to imprint the space with an authentic teen feeling because it was in part designed by teens. This does not mean the library should take the teens' suggestions as gospel. They might choose design elements that will quickly become dated or are impractical for the library. (Gorman 264-271) One possible solution is to allow the teens to create the sign on paper or using re-purposed materials, then hang it in an easily removable way. This allows the sign to be easily changed so that each generation of teens can customize their space as fads change and add their own personal touch. The Teen Advisory Board of your local public library is a great resource to use for teen ideas concerning their new or renovated space.


When creating a computing space for a public library, it is important to consider the ways in which computers will be used. Teens especially expect a library computing space to serve their many computing needs. It may be best to plan for a variety of computing areas within the children's or teen department. This way, youth can use the computer for quiet study and homework as well as for interactive play and collaborative computer use. For collaborative computer use, consider incorporating round tables, wheeled chairs, and laptops into the library's facilities plan ("Design Principles for Public Computing”).

Any teen, child, or parent with an electronic device that can be plugged in will expect the library to provide a number of outlets. The more outlets the library offers, the more people they will find sitting in the library for a lengthy period of time. Some places purposefully limit the number of plugs they offer to limit the amount of time people stay sitting. That decision is up to each library, but many patrons now expect there to be an outlet available no matter how busy the library is and are very pleased to be able to use the library space.


This is not just about having attractive displays, though that is part of it. Merchandising also refers to how books are placed on shelves. A shelf completely full of spine out books does not circulate as well as a shelf that contains several face out books. Face outs make browsing easier. Facing out popular titles and attractive covers highlight the library's collection and make the shelves more attractive to patrons.


Children and teens today are used to multitasking and the library design should reflect that by offering an array of activities. Reading areas, tables where groups can meet, and computer centers are all part of offering variety. For children, it's important to provide a variety of toys and games that children can play with at the library and several different areas in the children's space where they can play.

Storage Spaces

While perhaps not immediately considered when building a youth space, lockers or cubbies for backpacks and book bags can help keep these spaces clutter-free and allow for easier movement among stacks and computer terminals. This addition will be especially helpful if the library is located relatively close to a public school, or if you see a lot of students coming in with homework. These spaces can also accommodate for smaller sports equipment, such as skateboards and rollerblades, keeping these potentially hazardous (to others) items out of the floor and pathways of other patrons. With the possible addition of lockers or cubbies comes the potential for theft, so the decision for locks or no locks needs to be given consideration as well.


This is perhaps more important for children's spaces than for teen spaces, but bathroom facilities and drinking fountains are extremely important considerations when designing spaces for young people. If the nearest restrooms in the library are all the way across the building, accidents can easily happen. Likewise, if drinking fountains aren't low enough for small children to reach on their own, they are not being encouraged to use facilities independently, and parents may become frustrated with having to assist their child every time they want a drink. With a children's space, furniture and shelves need to be on a smaller scale so that smaller bodies can use them just as easily as adults use regular-sized facilities, and this includes considering their needs beyond books and toys.

Children's vs. Teen Spaces

The needs of children and teens are different, which is why they need different spaces independent from each other and adults. The brain development of children and teens are in different stages and they respond to different visuals and have different emotional, social, and educational needs that need to be considered when designing their respective spaces. Because of these differences children and teens also use space in different ways so they need spaces that act differently.

Children use space for a variety of tasks. They play, read, socialize, explore, and do homework all in the same space. A children's space needs to be a multipurpose space. Children go from one pursuit to another in the course of their time at the library. Teens are more used to multitasking, meaning they might socialize while working on homework and listening to music. Their space needs to fulfill this desire and allow teens to do many tasks in the same space or even the same seat.

It is popular and tempting to give every space a particular theme so it resembles something like a pirate ship or a castle. These themes though, can make a space appear too young for older children and too cute for some to take seriously or feel comfortable in. Themes based on color and design are preferred. But children and teens are drawn to different designs. Teens prefer a space that is comfortable like their bedroom (Bolan 72) . Children prefer something more fantastical and whimsical. Themes do not need to be dramatic to still be effective. If a library does decide it wants a themed space, pick a theme that feels timeless and appeals to a wide range of ages.

One large difference in the design between children's and teen space is the need for space for adults. In a children's space it is imperative to keep the needs of caretakers and parents in mind so that they will comfortably stay in the children's area with their children and supervise them. Parents and caretakers are the people who bring children to libraries and, for the most part, they are the ones who decide how much time a child spends in a library. A children's space without room for adults might deter them from bringing their children to it. However, in a teen space that consideration would be counter-productive. The teen space is there to provide a sense of independence for teens away from adult (with the exception of the librarian) or parental supervision. Designing the space to invite parents in would ruin the appeal of the space.


Be sure to plan for facilities that are accessible to all children and teens regardless of disabilities. Universal design advocates simple changes that make an area or item equally accessible for disabled and non-disabled users, rather than a separate option for disabled patrons (Hogue-Wojahn, 2006). This allows disabled patrons to use areas less self-consciously and saves organizations the expense of purchasing two versions of everything. Some of the fundamental principles of universal design that can be applied to facilities planning are to minimize distractions and physical effort and avoid segregating disabled patrons. When planning library facilities this can be as simple as deciding to interfile the large print YA books with the rest of the YA collection or installing computer programs that make icons larger and keyboards less sensitive. Additional case studies by Mueller (1997) have shown that changes as simple as keeping the layout similar on all floors of a building or using larger type, rather than all caps make an area more accessible.

In a different understanding of accessibility, be sure to provide bike racks outside the main entrance for teens and even children to safe park and lock their bikes while visiting the library. If the library is located in a larger town or city where youth can easily ride to the library on their own, they need to be able to have a safe, well-lit area for them to leave their vehicle of choice. See Storage Spaces above for ideas about smaller sports "vehicles" like skateboard and rollerblades.

Assessment of Facilities Plan

In order to create an effective library space, (teen, children’s, or otherwise) several stages of collecting information, planning, and evaluating may be necessary. Sommerville and Brown-Sica (2011) recommend thinking of your library in three different ways when planning your facilities:

  1. The library as a resource: how do patrons find, access, and use the materials provided by your library, including books, computers, and other multimedia resources.
  2. The library as service: not only how and where you provide reference services to teens and children, but what programs and activities you provide and the space requirements for those.
  3. The library as place: how comfortable and welcoming is it to spend time in.

All three of these aspects will need to be planned for and assessed in different ways.

The first step in evaluating the success of the facilities design is creating goals for your children’s or teen space in each of these areas, then creating a plan that has specific measures to achieve these goals. At some point, a focus group may be required to mediate conflicting plans. Ensure that once you have a general goal, you also create a specific goal that can be measured, like the number of programs you’d like to host, their attendance, and the percent increase in circulation. For some reversible changes you can make the changes then evaluate, but for many more permanent changes you’ll want to evaluate before hand through focus groups, surveys, social media feedback, and simply talking to patrons.

Another form of evaluation is advised by Preiser and Wang (2006) who suggest assigning a rating on a 1 to 5 scale for each of the nine primary aspects of facilities (adequacy of space, noise, lighting, temperature, odor, attractiveness, security, disabled accessibility, and furnishings) These ratings are particularly useful because, unlike statistical feedback, which can only be done after the changes are implemented, they can be assigned to the planned space so that the plan can be edited as needed.

Examples of Excellent Spaces and Successfully Executed Facilities Plans

General Facilities Plans/Reports

Glenview Public Library
GPL began discussion of their renovations long before any construction began. By beginning their needs assessment with the community and responding to their desires for a new building over mere renovations or additions to the previously existing building. Four years and $28 million dollars later, they are receiving nothing but positive reviews on Yelp.

Spokane County Library District

SCLD clearly demonstrates a solid understanding of the importance of developing a future-reaching facilities plan that will not only familiarize the library with the communities current needs but imagine those that will develop in the future.
"The Library Facilities Master Plan is a management tool to explain and communicate needs, and guides short-term and long-range facility decisions. It’s a roadmap to the future that responds to service changes and population growth" (1).

Craven-Pamlico-Carteret Regional Library System

This report incorporates elements of the library system's long-range plan and includes demographic data that may be helpful for a facilities plan that would include a remodel of the entire building or buildings, not just renovations of certain departmental spaces.

Pictures of Well Received Facilities Renovations

Children's Spaces

The Trove - White Plains Public Library, NY

Southfield Public Library, MI

Minneapolis Public Library

Teen Spaces

Southfield Public Library, MI

YOUMedia Harold Washington Branch Chicago Public Library

Rockwell County Library, TX


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