Building Literacy: Public Library Construction

Some Things Never Change

August 05, 2020 Massachusetts Board of Library Commissioners Construction Team Season 2 Episode 3
Building Literacy: Public Library Construction
Some Things Never Change
Show Notes Transcript

When recording recent episodes with former library building specialist Patience Jackson, she called our attention to a speech from 1915 that exists in our files. The writer and speaker was Alice Chandler, who made advisory visits to libraries across the Commonwealth, critiquing everything from their buildings to their cataloging systems. In her speech, which our colleague Liz Babbitt reads in its entirety at the end of this episode, Ms. Chandler relays the numerous faults of recently constructed library buildings throughout Massachusetts. As library building specialists, we were taken aback by how relevant and true her statements remain. Therefore, we decided to discuss the similarities between our common comments today and those made 105 years ago by Ms. Chandler. We don't cover every aspect of planning, design, and construction, but we hope you find some useful information for your own project.

The tome to which Lauren alludes, The Practical Handbook of Library Architecture by Fred Schlipf and John A. Moorman, can be found in the ALA store.

If you have questions, comments, or suggestions for future episodes, please email me at [email protected]

Andrea Bunker :

Welcome to Building Literacy: Public Library Construction, a podcast for librarians, trustees and local officials who are exploring or undertaking a renovation, expansion, or new construction project for their library. My name is Andrea Bunker.

Lauren Stara :

And my name is Lauren Stara. And we are the library building specialists who administer the Massachusetts Public Library Construction Program, a multi-million dollar grant program run by the Massachusetts Board of Library Commissioners, which is the state agency for libraries.

Andrea Bunker :

While this podcast is Massachusetts-focused, stakeholders in library building projects everywhere may find helpful information within these episodes. From fundraising and advocacy campaigns to sustainability and resilience to the planning, design, and construction process, there is something for everyone. If there is a public library building project topic we have not covered but that is of interest to you, please email me at [email protected]

Lauren Stara :

or me at [email protected]

Andrea Bunker :

On this episode of Building Literacy: Public Library Construction, we delve into Alice Chandler's speech to the Free Public Library Commission of Massachusetts that she gave in 1915. And one of the things that struck us was how many of her statements and sentiments still ring true today. So Lauren and I decided to share some of those similarities between her text and what we continuously say on our projects when we review designs and plans and also other best practices that we see as being essential to getting an effective and efficient public library building. My background is that I was the director of the Woburn Public Library up until the end of 2018. And prior to that, I was working in Newburyport at the Newburyport Public Library. And both libraries had construction projects of varying scales. So in Newburyport, I did a reference room redesign and then at Woburn, I was the assistant director and director throughout almost the entire building project there. So it was a historic Richardson building that had an expansion of 30,000 square feet.

Lauren Stara :

My background is that my first career was as an architect, and I am a registered architect. It's in the state of California. So I can't practice here in Massachusetts, but I still maintain my registration. I pursued that career for about 10 years, and then I had a mid-life crisis and became a ski bum. And in the summers when I was skiing all winter, I got a job at the public library shelving books and checking books in and out and that was in the early 90s. And I realized that that's where my heart was, and I pursued a career in librarianship. I have worked every job in the library from shelver to director mostly in small public libraries. But I've worked in academic libraries. I've worked in a special library. I've done consulting work for all kinds of libraries, I have taught at the university level, I bring all of those experiences to this job. And I have to say that I'm in the perfect job for myself now. But the point that I want to make by saying all this is that we make some statements in this podcast that can be construed as critical of architects. And I want to make it clear that I feel that I have licensed to criticize architects because I am one and I fall prey to all the pitfalls that we address that architects bring to the table when they're working with librarians. I try to make the statements that I make about architects with kindness because I know the training that we go through and the mindset that we come into the profession with and it's very different from librarianship. It's a very different mindset and point of view. And I feel very fortunate that I have both sides of the equation in my head and I can see both sides.

Andrea Bunker :

And I think also as someone who has worked in every area almost in a library throughout my career, you know, we know what we do best. But architects know what they do best, too. There's a reason why we hire architects to do our buildings, because they have a specific set of knowledge that helps us realize our vision. And they also bring vision to these projects too. They can see beyond where our boundaries may be, because we don't have the same scope of knowledge. So well we know for effective operation of a library how things should be configured, architects bring a level of knowledge we otherwise would not be able to realize within our library buildings. I think it can be a very good partnership. I think keeping those lines of communication open is essential. I think we often, you know, as long as we have that good working relationship, we can get through any challenge and help each other to see our perspectives and move forward and get the best design for the community.

Lauren Stara :

Architects have a specific way of seeing the world we are rigorously trained to see spaces and imagine spaces in a way that other people unless you have a special talent for it, other people can't necessarily see. And as librarians, we know our business, we know how to do our job, but we don't necessarily see what kind of physical space best facilitates that job. And that's the job of the architect. Before we end the introduction, I want to put in a plug for the Practical Handbook of Library Architecture, which is my favorite book about planning a library. It's by two gentleman named Fred Schlipf and John Mormon. And we'll put the citation in the notes for the podcast, so you can locate that resource if you would like to.

Andrea Bunker :

Really good easy reading.

Lauren Stara :

Well, it's not easy because it's this thick, but it's written with such a sense of humor and really from the librarian side. If you think we're snarky about architects, oh boy, Schlipf and Mormon are way more snarky.

Andrea Bunker :

No, and wait until you hear Alice Chandler speech at the end. She's right on par, I think, with the snarkiness.

Lauren Stara :

That's something we didn't say yet is that at the end of the podcast, we have our colleague, Liz Babbitt reading the entire speech that Alice Chandler made in 1915. And it's worth listening to.

Andrea Bunker :

So thank you for joining us. And we're going to jump into some of our best practices and some of the points that we were amazed to find still stand today, so they withstood the test of time. So when we interviewed Patience and Roe, Patience brought up this document that exists in our files, called the Country Library Versus the Donor and the Architect, and it's by Alice G. Chandler. I think she was the author of one of my favorite advisory visits to the Randall Library in Stow, where she said that the course of events there wouldn't change unless there was not one but two funerals. I don't know, more snark than a Kirkus review one liner, so it's amazing. But at the time in 1915, the Massachusetts Board of Library Commissioners was the Free Public Library Commission in Massachusetts. So it definitely was not inclusive of any other type of library at that time. So when we read this document, what really struck me and I know what also struck you, Lauren is how much of what is written, we are still saying to our project stakeholders today, including the architects, when we see the plans and the drawings.

Lauren Stara :

I mean, the details of the problems may be slightly different. We have more technology now. But the basic issues that confront libraries when they're building and building are the same.

Andrea Bunker :

Right. I loved one of the quotes in this piece where she said, "You may call some of the faults trivial, but when encountered day after day, and week after week, they become important and exasperate because they were avoidable."

Lauren Stara :

Yeah, I think it's important to remember that architects are architects, they are not librarians, they have never worked at a circulation desk. They don't know the intricacies of the workflows that librarians deal with on a daily basis. And that's why library directors and staff have to be so big a part of the planning process. It's so crucial.

Andrea Bunker :

You really need to think about how are you performing a task? What is your service model? How do you plan on operating?

Lauren Stara :

I think workflow analysis is so important and not just doing the workflow analysis, but imagining how a new space can make that workflow better and how to implement it. I will say that the architect has some expertise that can help with that imagining, because architects have the ability to envision spaces where librarians don't always have that sort of spatial imagination. So I think it really has to be a collaboration, but the librarian is the one that has to guide the architect along the path of this is what we need, and they can help you figure out what kind of spaces you need to make that workflow happen well, so the librarian really does need to be involved and their voice needs to be heard throughout the process. As Alice says, "Don't forget to consult the librarian frequently as to the plans and heed the opinions given." I recommend that when you're choosing an architect, you need to make sure first of all, that the person you're interviewing is the person that you're going to be working with. Because the way architecture firms work, a lot of times there's a salesman guy, somebody with a lot of charm, and a lot of salesmanship, and they are the ones that come to the interview. But when you're actually getting into the project, you're working with other people. And you need to make sure that you meet and interview the people who are actually going to be working with you, so you can see if you're going to work well with them, if you can communicate with them, and make sure that they are open to listening to you as the expert on librarianship, even an architecture firm that has done 10s or 100 libraries in their lifetime. They are not a librarian and you do not know if you've gone to a couple of their libraries and they you say these are perfect. I want exactly this. You don't know if it was the architect who made those decisions, or if it was the librarian who was working on that project that said, "No, we don't want to do it that way, we need to do it this way." So it's really important for the library director, or other library staff, has their voice and make sure that their voice is heard and also follows up to make sure that the planning of the library follows that voice and they don't just disregard what you say.

Andrea Bunker :

And we empower our librarians to be at the table to go to those meetings to be involved in the construction trailer meetings, because decisions are made there, too, that if you are not at the table, you might have no idea that they cut something or changed something on you and that affects your operations in the long run. And I think that's also where we come in because oftentimes, if you're a librarian or director you're only going to do this one project in your career. So you won't have the opportunity to take this steep learning curve and all of those lessons that you learned along the way and implement them into another project. So at least in Massachusetts, we consult on not only our projects, but we will look at anyone's plans and give them feedback just to make sure that our libraries in the Commonwealth have efficient and effective designs and plans so that we're making our librarians aware of considerations that they might not have even thought of before. I think it's an advantage to be able to have those resources at the state level in order to help with this process that can be so daunting and so overwhelming and so all consuming when you're trying to do your other duties as well.

Lauren Stara :

Yeah, I I revealed in the introduction that I was an architect first and then I became a librarian. And now I have the perfect job because I get to do both in one place. But I want to share with you that sometimes I have a war going on in my head because my architect self says, oh, but, that would look so cool if they did it this way and my library and says, Oh, no, but it won't work. It won't work. You got to do it this way. So it's a real give and take, understanding that architects have their own vocabulary, their own jargon, their own way of seeing things, and it's very different from the way you see things. Having somebody that has the ability to translate between either somebody like myself that has a background or somebody. There are lots of library building consultants out there who have done lots of work with architects and they understand the terminology and the way architects think. I think it's really a good idea to avail yourself of that expertise. Probably the word that I say and I think we both say most often in the course of our work is the word flexibility and flexible, because it is impossible to anticipate what's going to happen in library design and library services in the future. And, in fact, what's going on now with the pandemic really highlights the need for flexibility because as libraries are reopening the ability to move furniture around to install plexiglass barriers and make one way paths, all of that is hampered by giant millwork pieces of furniture and heavy tables, heavy chairs. So flexibility and the ability to really reconfigure easily is something that we stress quite a lot. And it's interesting to me that Alice spoke about the need to plan for future changes down the road, as well.

Andrea Bunker :

I think there are library projects that we've seen where they've put in a central elevator or a massive central stair. And flexibility is really hampered, you're not able to reconfigure that space very well and still maintain sightlines for safety and security. It's a real issue. So when they're designed, it's so imperative to think about, in 20 years, we might need to expand this, in 20 years, the function of this room may be different, but you still need four walls. But how do you make it so that you can reconfigure that space and achieve that function that you're looking for?

Lauren Stara :

And I think part of the tendency to go towards a central vertical circulation core comes from design and architectural education, at least when I was in school and in early practice, the concept of a central core for things like bathrooms, stairways and elevators was really the norm and that's how we were taught and partly because that central core can act as a structurally stabilizing force in a high rise building. And so that's one of the things that we're taught. But in our building, we're not going to have any high rise libraries. I mean, that's not part of our program. And you may be in a large city, you would have a multi story building that would benefit from a stabilizing core like that. But, you know, one or two story building, it's really not necessary. And for functionality, placing those elements along the perimeter makes for more flexibility down the road.

Andrea Bunker :

So in some ways, it's interesting because Alice talks a lot about creating a welcoming library that looks like a livingroom and many houses have central stairs because they are using that also as a stabilizing core. Some things have changed.

Lauren Stara :

But in terms of increasing the openness and flexibility, there's more than just putting the bathrooms and stairways on the perimeter. There's also avoiding those massive monumental service desks, those huge pieces of furniture that are hard to move. I mean, really, the trend is toward things that can be reconfigured very easily.

Andrea Bunker :

And that's all the way down to your technology. So you have these fixed desktop computers that you want your patrons to use. But as we're seeing now, with covid, we need spacing between people. And you know, you can't put up those plexiglass barriers, but a lot of libraries have implemented laptops as part of their technology offerings. And if you can move anywhere in the building, having that mobile technology and having the ability to print remotely, it's really advantageous. I think, especially when we're dealing with something that at least for our time period is unprecedented.

Lauren Stara :

Yeah, I think that it's important to have at least a couple, depending on the size of your library, you need to have at least one or two traditional fixed desktop setups, because there are certain demographics that prefer that. But in terms of flexibility, it's much better to have a more mobile service philosophy where either people bring their own devices or you loan out mobile devices for use within the library.

Andrea Bunker :

And I think one of our other comments is put electrical wherever you have seating, because of that fact and people bringing their own devices, too. And this also flows into, you know, now there are a lot of libraries that have maker spaces or innovation labs, some sort of creating space using technological equipment, and the amount of times where we're asking for that furniture to be mobile furniture so that it is not built into the walls, you're not hampered by a millwork design that was designed for a specific space knowing that technology is constantly evolving. So trying to create a flexible space. And I know Lauren, you mentioned all the time running electrical plugs overhead, dropping them down from theceiling and some to make it more flexible.

Lauren Stara :

It's an industrial look and not a lot of people like it. I think it's fine. But it is, from a functional standpoint, if you have the financial resources to do a raised floor, you can run wiring under the floor, but even that, it's not that simple to modify a raised floor configuration. And if you have cables running overhead and dropping down, it's a lot easier.

Andrea Bunker :

And as budgets shrink, mobile furniture is less expensive than its millwork counterpart that's built in.

Lauren Stara :

people People will look at mobile furniture and mobile shelving especially and say that's more expensive than traditional steel shelving or just a regular desk chair. But in the long run, if you invest in quality furniture that has flexibility built into it, then you're not going to have to be replacing it in three or four years.

Andrea Bunker :

In Alice Chandler speech, she talks a little bit about creating a living room atmosphere for libraries and making them more welcoming and inviting. And one of the ways in which that's accomplished is through furniture. And she talks about, you know, Windsor chairs and maybe more ornate designs that maybe a little bit in tieken old and not necessarily comfortable. We still do talk with our libraries a lot about furniture, acquisition of furniture, and also what type of furniture to procure for their libraries. And recently, I feel like the discussion is what type of materials for that furniture because we want something that's durable and long-lasting, but now we also want something that can be disinfected.

Lauren Stara :

It's a trade off because we want patrons to be comfortable and that traditionally means an upholstered chair. And so in the pandemic, we're having to deal with removal of all the upholstered furniture from public space. And we need to find ways to manage that in the future.

Andrea Bunker :

And we have libraries that have gotten vinyl furniture, and that seems to work well for them. Although aesthetically, I think that's difficult for interior designers and architects because it does have more of a garish type of feel to it. Right? It doesn't have that aesthetically pleasing, soft, cozy feel. So that's really something that's at odds with what they're trying to do in terms of creating that welcoming space.

Lauren Stara :

The other thing about vinyl is that it's extremely damaging to the environment, both the manufacture of it and the lack of recyclability of it and there are other options. I don't know a lot about those other options, but there are some materials available now that have that durability and you know, stain resistance and washability and disinfectibility of vinyl but are less damaging.

Andrea Bunker :

And some of the upholstered fabrics, they're able to treat them in a way so that they do have those properties also, so that they are stain resistant, and the water beads on them. So as long as you get to it within time. I think it does eventually make its way through. It's not a completely impervious treatment.

Lauren Stara :

To my knowledge, there's no treatment for fabrics that can help with this, in fact.

Andrea Bunker :

Right. I think if we look to antimicrobial fabrics, I know that hospitals and health care settings utilize that a lot. So we do need to look at different industries and see what are they utilizing and buying for those areas because we might need to do the same for our libraries, too.

Lauren Stara :

Well, and that idea of looking to hospitals and the health care industry also brings up the concept of needing to make sure that we have furniture that can accommodate all sizes and shapes of people. There is a it's a terrible term, but the term is a bariatric chair. That's a type of chair that's specifically reinforced for people who are heavier than the average. And I think it's something that we need to start considering having in libraries as well.

Andrea Bunker :

You know, when we did our furniture tours for my building, we made sure that we had a very diverse group of people going. We had someone who was 6'6", we had someone who was five feet and everything in between. And in terms of different ages as well. It ran the gamut from 20s all the way through late 70s. So that we could see what's the experience when you're getting out of this chair. You need to think about arms for maybe some of your program room chairs, because you might have people who are unable to get up and down without having any stabilization.

Lauren Stara :

And you also have to think about how having chairs that don't have arms, because I know for myself, I have a lot of shoulder and elbow issues and an arm tends to push my arm and it irritates my shoulder. So I always look for a chair without arms. And if it's possible to take the arms off of a chair, I do. The kind of visits that Andrea is talking about presupposes the fact that you are going to try out a chair before you buy it. And I always, always recommend never purchase a piece of furniture, especially a chair that you have not seen and sat in your own self personally, or at least have spoken to somebody who has personal experience with it. Because buying furniture from a catalog is a lot easier. But if you buy furniture that ends up being uncomfortable, it's too hard or it's, you know, the depth of the seat isn't right, then nobody's going to sit in it and what is the purpose of spending that much money on a chair I mean, chairs are 500 to 1000 thousand dollars if you're going to get commercial grade, and you don't want to invest that kind of money in a piece of furniture that nobody's gonna sit in. I have no problem doing that I turn around all the time.

Andrea Bunker :

And most likely you can get the vendor to send you samples, so that you're able to try it out in real time in the library with people of all different shapes and sizes and heights, so that you are able to see what works best for your setting. Also, if you're in a library or anywhere else, if it's a chair that you're able to tip over, usually you'll find the manufacturer and information underneath the seat. So that's another little tidbit. So if you find something that you like, and you can't find out what it is from any of the staff that work in that particular building, then you can always do that. I mean, bigger armchairs. You know, you might not want to be that disruptive and tip it off onto its side, but...

Lauren Stara :

I have no problem doing that

Andrea Bunker :

I think I'm a little bit shyer than that. So, but I'll take a picture and try to find it. Chairs are one thing. Another thing is tables. And the library that I was director in had these beautiful oak long tables, eight foot ,10 foot tables, that had been in the library since it was built in 1879. And they lasted forever. They the woodworking was phenomenal. There were no nails, there were no screws, it was all just tongue and groove construction. But only one person would sit at an eight foot table or a 10 foot table. So we'd have five study hall tables that could accommodate up to 40 people and you only have five people using them. And people would come in, turn around, because they didn't see it as a place to sit. So when we're doing reviews on plans with directors and architects, we always suggest that any tables that you have that are larger than two person tables, you consider changing those to two person tables. And that gives you more flexibility for moving them around, separating them. If someone needs a larger group table area, then they can put those together. So you can reconfigure however you need to. And we've talked a lot about this with COVID-19 and social distancing, being able to take those tables and move them so that they're far enough apart so that people don't have to congregate all together is really beneficial. And that for children's areas, there are some whimsical ones that are half moons and all sorts of different configurations that achieve the same thing but then have that little feeling of fun that you want in your children's room as well. So there are lots of options out there. And we do talk about how wood tables are kind of timeless. If you're thinking about purchasing tables.

Lauren Stara :

Another point that Alice makes and that I think is even more true today is that it's important to provide a variety. Alice says "Undoubtedly the old fashioned Windsor chair in such universal use is an excellent selection for public libraries, but the lack of variety gives an institutional effect which does not suggest ease and comfort. The room does not say Come sit down and read in me." And we talk a lot about making the library feel like the community livingroom to be a place where people want to come and spend time. In this particular moment in time people are using the library just to go and pick stuff up and go home. But in normal times, that's not our goal. We want people to come in and use the library as their third space. You have home you have work and you have your third space, which is where you want to spend time.

Andrea Bunker :

She does say don't have a reading room look like an institution, but like a home, and one of those places that you can achieve that feeling is in your furniture.

Lauren Stara :

Alice also talks about an example. And she talks about this more than once of an example where the tables and chairs that are provided for children are the same size and style as the ones for adults. And it's important to recognize, again, the different sizes and shapes of people that are using your chairs and to provide at least two sizes of child size chairs. There's the toddler size and the sort of larger child size, but it's also equally as important to provide adult-sized chairs in the children's room because they're always going to be parents and caregivers, along with the children and if you don't give them anywhere to sit, then they're going to be comfortable, they're either gonna sit on one of the tiny little chairs, or they're gonna tell their kids just go get your stuff and we'll leave because they don't want to hang out there.

Andrea Bunker :

And also, I think something we discussed too, a lot is having furniture that is flexible in another way. So when we talk about furniture to accommodate technology, we don't want furniture that's exclusive to that technology. We want something that can be repurposed and reused in the future if that technology changes. So when you're thinking about buying tables for computers or workstations, thinking about, well, do we need to buy something that's specific for that type of equipment? Or can we buy something that we can use in a different way later on?

Lauren Stara :

The other thing to think about with sort of universal flexibility furniture is not just equipment, but it's about ADA accessibility because some libraries, they have one computer workstation that is designated the ADA accessible station and it has a lot of bells and whistles and and it's good to have that, especially if there's a lot of special software and special equipment, a special keyboard or mouse or whatever. But it's also best practice to make as many of the tables, chairs, workstations, what have you, accessible so that people who are limited by disabilities are not limited by where they can sit in the library. It's important to make the library as welcoming as possible in a universal way.

Andrea Bunker :

And I think we read an article just the other day about inclusive design for libraries and really thinking about the experience of every member of your community, not just a subset. So having a diverse group on your furniture committee, if you're doing a project that's that large, that is going to be to your benefit and advantageous in the long run to have as many people try out furniture as possible. We both laughed when we saw this quote, "The mahogany charging desk must have been very expensive, but the architect did not consult the librarian and it must be altered to suit their charging system."

Lauren Stara :

One thing that I will say and I don't care whose feelings I hurt, don't let your architect design your service desk, just don't do it. Because I have seen too many service does that look great and are completely non- functional.

Andrea Bunker :

And I think oftentimes, our service desks in the eyes of another look like a reception desk. And it doesn't function in that manner, and the amount of materials you need stored within that desk, the ergonomics of interacting with patrons or vice versa, if you're a patron interacting with staff, that's something that's really important to take into consideration. That was something that I didn't catch on my project and our desk had a lip on it, which made it ergonomically difficult for people to pass materials over for checkout.

Lauren Stara :

That goes back to what we were talking about at the beginning of this about workflow analysis and making sure that you've thought about how the functions that you need to accomplish take place in this new environment. And I'm a big fan of prototyping, you know, make a desk out of cardboard and figure out how you're going to do each little miniscule tasks that your cird desk people have to do and what you need. How many dreams Do you need how much nice space you need, how much technology you need, what kind of surfaces you need. Creating a functional service desk is a very specialized skill and, you know, millwork companies have a lot of experience with that kind of thing. And if you're not gonna buy something off the shelf, and to be honest, that's what I would recommend. Because anytime you can buy something that's pre-made, that's modular, that's movable, that's preferable, but if you're going to have something built, just don't let an architect design it. Get somebody who is familiar with millwork design and functionality to do it for you.

Andrea Bunker :

And that modular mobile piece for flexibility, you might not want to keep your circulation desk where it is. You might find that you need to move it I mean, in this day and age, we're dealing with one entry point and one exit point and the flow of traffic. So where do you position that and what works best. There is a lot to think about with that. I also always say to list all the items that you need in that desk. So you're thinking about how many drawers you need, you know, do you need shelving? Do you need different modular units within that desk or small filing cabinets, whatever it might be that you really need to list every single item that needs to go in there and make sure that desk accommodates it, because that is your welcoming point for your library.

Lauren Stara :

Yeah. And staff members who are frustrated because hanging files don't actually fit in their file drawer are going to be crabby.

Andrea Bunker :

Yes. Very crabby. I know that firsthand, very crabby. But who knew that there would be drawers that were designed that wouldn't have that. So that's something you really need to think about. Also, something that we didn't think about that came up are sharp corners, so making sure that the design of your desk is one that is safe and doesn't have the potential to maim someone you know that's important.

Lauren Stara :

Yeah, architects are fans of non 90 degree angles. They like to have unusual angular shapes. And they're only thinking about how things look. They don't think about safety. They don't think about durability, and they don't think about functionality, mostly.

Andrea Bunker :

I worked in one library where when you were seated at the desk, it was a curved desk, and the opening for the desk was a little bit offset from where the computer was. So whenever you sat down to be close enough to the keyboard.

Lauren Stara :

You mean the knee hole.

Andrea Bunker :

To angle your body so that your knees were underneath in the cutout where they were supposed to be, but you'd have to twist backwards to be able to reach the keyboard, so ergonomically it was an absolute nightmare, but they wanted this curved desk because it followed the flow of the outside of the building. So, oftentimes you'll see desks designed by architects that follow some other architectural line within the building. And the curved desk, it might look so neat, so cool, so amazing, but functionality wise, it is a nightmare. And we've only seen one curve desk or circular desk in one library where the staff are happy with it.

Lauren Stara :

Yeah, it was a fairly large one. The problem with a circular desk is that the geometry of a circle is such that the exterior perimeter of the desk would have to be so large to make the interior hole a functional space for even one person much less two, it would be gigantic and it would take up way too much for space and...

Andrea Bunker :

Essentially you're putting a square peg in a round hole. Your drawers are still going to be rectangular.

Lauren Stara :

Everything is rectangular that you put inside a desk, right?

Andrea Bunker :

I mean, they look really pretty. And when you go into a hair salon and you see that zhuzhee kind of fun, whimsical desk, you're like, that's really great. But they're also not all

Lauren Stara :

I'll bet the reception. Well, I'll bet that the receptionist at the salon hates it, too.

Andrea Bunker :

I'll have to survey salon reception and see what they think about their circular desks. And then when you round up materials, that's super important because you're sliding things back and forth on those desks all the time. So that top has to be able to take that type of wear and tear.

Lauren Stara :

Yeah, next time you go into a library, just look at the surface of the circulation desk. We've seen circulation desk tops made up of stone like polished granite, and they just get all scratched up. I mean, it's just not a good decision.

Andrea Bunker :

Other things that we've seen on the service desk are displays in the front of them that if you're serving someone, you can't actually access it, just like candy at the pharmacy.

Lauren Stara :

Or my favorite one is signage on the front of the service desk. If it says, you know, check out in letters on the front of the desk and you have a crowd of people standing in front of it, nobody can see the sign.

Andrea Bunker :

And then another thing that's often not thought of which I find fascinating is an interior book drop in the desk. So if you want people to be able to drop off materials at the desk, I mean, some libraries that go to an automated handling unit, they might have an opening adjacent to where the circulation desk is or service desk and you can just put your materials on the conveyor belt there depending on your service model and how you want to handle those materials. But we have seen a lot of desks that seem to forget about the fact that libraries have interior backdrops in their circulation desks. So something to think about if that's what you want. And also, you know, we always say you don't want your desk to be huge and monumental, but at the same time, if you are doing RFID, you need to think about spacing of your terminals, because you want to make sure that your pads are not picking up someone else's materials and that you won't have interference between two pads. So oftentimes, when you're working with your RFID vendor, they can give you specs in order for you to figure out what's the spacing requirement for your terminals on your desk.

Lauren Stara :

Yeah, I worked in a library where there was no book drop at the main service desk. And whenever somebody brought something to return up to the desk, we were trained, we had to say "Take it over there." And, you know, now that I am more well-versed in user experience principles, whenever there's a pain point and you tell somebody, you can't do that here, you have to go somewhere else to accomplish that, that breaks up the user experience, it makes it hard to use the library. And some people, if you're sending them between desks three or four times, they're not going to ever come back to the library. And just think about if this was your first experience, your first visit to the library and you say, "Sorry, can't do that you got to go over there." It just goes against the preferred service philosophy in a public library.

Andrea Bunker :

And likewise, for inclusive design, you have to think about an ADA compliant height at your service desks, too. So while it might be tempting for certain service areas, to have just counters, you need to think about a wheelchair accessible height as well to serve patrons. And then in terms of safety for COVID, we've talked about the need for putting up plexiglass potentially, and maybe configuring that some way into your service desk. I know we talked about lips for that, but in a different way.

Lauren Stara :

A horizontal lip.

Andrea Bunker :

Yes. So that you're able to clamp Plexiglas in when it's needed, but also for security and safety, thinking about wiring in panic buttons, or whatever you might need so that your staff and your patrons can be as safe as possible

Lauren Stara :

And also always having more than one way out from behind a desk because if there's only one way out, then if the worst happens and you have an assailant standing there, you're trapped inside the desk. So always have more than one way out. And that also benefits the current pandemic situation because it's all about one way circulation.

Andrea Bunker :

And also in normal times were, rarely is the Service Desk not in between two different service points. Right? So for ease of access and being able to get to the copier or if you have a self check, adjacent, trying to help a patron, so it's just good, good workflow and efficiency as well to have those two openings.

Lauren Stara :

And and preferably your service desk is not so large that it becomes a barrier between you and the public anyway. I mean, you know, the preferred service model is for a desk to be small enough that it's easy to come out from behind and assist a patron on the floor.

Andrea Bunker :

And I think we've been thinking a lot about circulation desks while discussing this but your reference desk, if you have a separate reference desk, if you have a combined model, that's also something to think about. How do you have a modular desk that accommodates both and can break up both so that patrons know that they're approaching either the reference librarian or they're approaching someone who works for circulation. But I think also when we think about, say, a children's task or a teen services desk, those are going to be a little bit different than your other service desks in within the space. So you know, those might have a little bit more whimsy to them. But you also need to think about the clientele that they're serving and have the correct height, the correct materials, and...

Lauren Stara :

You know, not have a 40 inch high desk in a children's room. The kids, you can't see the top of their heads. Safety and Security is one of the primary goals of a public building, safety and security of the public, of the staff, of everybody who's in the building. It's interesting to me to read what Alice says about safety and I think many of her concerns are due to the fact that 1915 there weren't a lot of building codes out there. So she talks a lot about the steep stairs, a narrow stairs, be careful of the stairs, railings, those kinds of things. And a lot of those issues have been obviated by building codes and the fact that we have such strict rules about how stairs are configured, although I will say that one thing that we struggle with and struggle with and struggle with is the insistence on the part of designers to access mechanical areas and roof areas with a ship's ladder or even a completely vertical ladder, saying that, oh, nobody's going to have to go up there. And you know what? The librarian is going to have to go there. It's just reality. So if you can possibly find the room to install an actual stairway up to to either mezzanine mechanicals or roof mechanicals, we strongly recommend that.

Andrea Bunker :

And also, when you have your maintenance workers coming in, they have to bring tools and equipment up those ship's ladders, it's really, really difficult. And be aware in value engineering, that is one of the places where they will try to save money by changing to a ship's ladder from a regular stair. And in the long run, it might not save you any money because, for instance, in our project, they changed it out to a ship's ladder and then realized that they left the elevator machine room on the roof and that is against code. So you need to bring it down within the building. So it can have other ramifications as well if you're making those changes, so you have to be aware of the fallout or the the ripple effect of any of those supposed value engineering choices.

Lauren Stara :

And I think we've mentioned value engineering a few times but we haven't really talked about what that is. In reality value engineering is just a euphemism for cost cutting. And it always happens sort of at the end of design development. And then it happens again, during construction documents when we redo the cost estimate. And everybody's eyes get wide, they have a heart attack, and they say we got to get these costs down.

Andrea Bunker :

But I do think value engineering, you might think that it's done at a certain point, but it never is done. So you really need to keep a keen eye toward what they're looking at cutting. And also, if you're a director, make sure that you're in the room, because if they make decisions, they might not be aware of how that will affect the operation of your library moving forward. The other thing in terms of safety and security when you're looking at your plans, you want to make sure that you have good lines of sight throughout your building so that you can see other service desks or you can monitor areas, you really want to limit the amount of alcoves and spaces that are hidden. I know that we have cameras and the ability for cameras to be used, but taking away that sense of you know, you want, we all want our patrons to have privacy when they're in the building. We are respectful of privacy as a profession, but don't want patrons to feel like they can do whatever they want to do and not be seen doing it. And I think we all know instances and can call up stories and incidents that we wish had never happened. And maybe if there were a better sightlines they wouldn't have. So having those sight lines, strategic placement of service desks looking at your shelving and the orientation of your shelving. Can you see down those stacks into other areas where there might be soft seating or table seating, all of that lends itself to a safer and more more secure library.

Lauren Stara :

It's especially important that there be a view of the entrance to any toilets or restroom? You know, with the opioid epidemic, there are all kinds of questionable activities that happen in public restrooms. And we need to be able to keep an eye on that. It is not an ideal service model to keep your bathrooms locked. And I know that a lot of public libraries have to do that, because they don't have good sight lines and can't monitor what's going on. The other thing about cameras is that yes, cameras have a little bit of a chilling effect, but you have to think about the effect on operations if you're going to have to pay staff to sit there and watch a monitor that's going to eat into your operations budget, and in reality cameras are usually used as a device to see what happened after something bad happens, you go back and review the tape. Most libraries do not have a security staff that's sitting there watching what's going on on these cameras. So it's not a realistic alternative if you're looking to prevent things from happening, rather than pursue a solution after something has happened,

Andrea Bunker :

Which is further reason why those sight lines are so important. And I know that a lot of buildings want to be different and maybe have different lines, and that creates spaces that are a little bit more difficult to oversee. So it's something to keep in mind if you're looking for a whimsical building, you want to limit those alcoves or little areas where you can't see from the service desk.

Lauren Stara :

A lot of times and you know with absolutely good reason. Even Alice says something about this in her speech about how the architect wants a building that they can look to with pride and bring future potential. To see to say, look what I made. And I think that's absolutely reasonable for an architect. But when an architect wants to do something that looks cool and reduces the functionality and safety of a building, you really have to stand up and say, no, we're not going to do that.

Andrea Bunker :

Can we talk a little bit about bathrooms? Because you touched on the opioid epidemic. We talk a lot about gender neutral bathroom facilities, and we do talk about onesies or unisex bathrooms in libraries having that other option for anyone, but those two things can be at odds. So you have a unisex bathroom, but if someone overdoses in that bathroom, the doors according to code swing in, so how do you get into that bathroom? The airport style bathrooms that are open, if you've witnessed libraries where the noise from those bathrooms just overpowers the lobby area that they are located off of. And then I think in some of our reading about bathrooms, because we do read those articles that come out from time to time, they're talking more and more about having a unisex bathroom, but having the sink and the toilets separated by a stall, so it is one person using it, but there's a little bit more space.

Lauren Stara :

They can't lock the door lock themselves. Right.

Andrea Bunker :

Right. But you can lock the... I guess the same thing applies though, when you're looking at the stall, can you, you know, that's a little bit higher up off the ground. And now when you think about the pandemic, and they're saying, well, floor to ceiling stalls would be better in order to contain... Bathrooms are just a nightmare. I know. So it's like, what do you do? Is there any way to address all three of these concerns and do it well, so when you're thinking about your bathrooms, it's a lot tougher contemplate, and I don't think anyone has a solution yet.

Lauren Stara :

There is no one size fits all. And that's why it's so hard. We are constantly asked for standards, for size of library, for size of collection, for how should this be, and we are working on a, shortly to be issued is going to be a best practices document, a resource document for library design from our office. But it is absolutely dependent on your community, your library service needs, and your community needs, your demographics, your use patterns, the location of your library, everything works together in the design process. Another thing I wanted to bring up when we talk about safety and security is you know, not just the opioid epidemic, the other issue that has become front and center in librarians minds. is the active shooter scenario, the assailant with bad intent that comes into the building and threatens people, you know, in every active shooter training, they talk about being able to go into a closed space and lock the door and barricade, you know, need to have places to hide. And that flies in the face of what we say every day about open sight lines, being able to monitor every corner of the building. What we're starting to say now is there could be something like a storage room or a staff room, some place that's easy to get to an close off that is not visible to the rest of the library. And that can serve as that safe place in such a situation. There are three things that they recommend. The first one is to get out. The second one is to hide and the third one is to fight, and you want to avoid that third one at all costs. So when you're designing your library, think sbout the positioning of exits, make sure there's always two ways to get out of any place. And it's an unfortunate reality that we have to think about these things now.

Andrea Bunker :

And I think it's important to remember that the safety and security building code is in response to usually terrible events. It's always the bare minimum. So just building to code doesn't necessarily mean that you're getting a safer, more secure building. It just means that you're at that basic level based on what has already happened. So if you can anticipate and really think about safety and security, you know, you might be going above and beyond code, but it would be worthwhile in the end.

Lauren Stara :

That's a really good point that codes are in response to tragedy. And that has to do with all kinds of codes. It has to do with ADA requirements also that the bare minimum is 36 inches between stacks, but we really recommend 42. I mean, going beyond the minimum is preferable.

Andrea Bunker :

We have talked a bit about shelving in terms of flexibility using mobile shelving where you think you would want to reconfigure space. You also talked about sightlines with shelving and orienting your shelving in a manner that you can see down the stacks into any what could be hidden areas if they were oriented differently. But I also think something we often talk about with shelving, is the fact that we're moving away from item-specific shelving. So shelving for periodicals. I think we've all experienced at this point, a magazine going out of print, we are seeing streaming services take over media in certain locations, that does not mean that every area is seeing a drop in usage of media in their library, but depending on whether or not you have broadband in your community or people who just don't have internet access. So we talk often with our librarians about getting shelving that can be repurposed in the future using things like acrylic boxes for your periodicals so that you can have regular shelves.

Lauren Stara :

And the other thing that that I think everybody is aware of is the trend toward reducing the height of shelving rather than, you know, seven high, eight high shelving units. We're going to a prefererred height, maximum height of five high shelves and also shelving units are starting to be designed where the bottom shelf is raised up off of the floor. Everybody, you know, either doesn't use the bottom shelf or if they have to staff and volunteers complain about it and patrons complain about it too. There is actually scientific research that proves that the items that go off the shelves most often are the ones at eye level. So not making people crane their necks to the top shelf or stoop down to the bottom shelf is something that we really advocate for. Now, obviously, that increases the square footage, keep the same number of collection items. So it's a balancing act, but I call it endless acres of seven-high shelving, it's a thing of the past. And we really are trying to get away from that old standard arrangement of library collections. So space for staff is something that often is given short shrift in libraries unfortunately, and while our mission is to serve the public, I personally feel that it's important to make the staff spaces comfortable for the staff as well as making the public spaces comfortable for the public. Think about how many hours a day your staff spends in their offices, work rooms and behind desks. And compare that to the hour or two that most patrons spend in the library. And I cannot tell you how many staff break rooms I have seen in a dank basement with no windows and you know this institutional linoleum and it's just no place that anybody wants to spend their time but the designer says "There is the break room. You have one." You know, so nobody ever used work rooms. Likewise, there's a library that is really beautiful recently renovated, and the work surfaces that were provided for the staff are too narrow for a computer, I mean, who was thinking in that situation, and it's a huge part of making a library functional is making the workspaces functional. One of the quotes from Alice is "There is no room for the librarian, but she can enter the staff room close the door and squeeze into a small corner. provided with a shelf where she can stand up and do the mending." I mean, really?

Andrea Bunker :

And I think too, we go into a lot of staff work rooms where there is an awful lot of built in millwork. And it's not able to be reconfigured. So as your staffing levels change, or as duties change, you're not able to really manipulate that space to work well for you if you can't move things around, or, or change the configuration. So more and more we're saying don't put in those built in countertops to put a row of computers and staff desks at. Instead, think about mobile furniture so that you can reconfigure as you need to and there are a lot more modular systems that are available now that can have filing cabinets that double as seats. I also wanted to say that there are two different philosophies for staff workspaces. So there's one where you're all kind of integrated into one area of the library, which does in fact, promote some collegiality. It promotes cross training. It promotes communication between departments. And then on the flip side, there are workspaces that are put into every single department or area within the library. So kind of a decentralized staffing module where you have your reference office behind your reference desk or your circulation office behind your circulation desk. I think it's interesting to think about our current circumstances. I heard from a librarian yesterday, who was sending me a final financial audit for her project. And she said, it's so wonderful to have all of these staff offices so that we can socially distance so everyone has an office, everyone has, in that library, everyone has their own bathroom, in terms of staff, which is kind of amazing, because it's a new library. I can't imagine that What it would have been like for them have they been in their former library alone, so we have been happy circumstance for them, given this terrible pandemic that we're in, but they're able to operate in a completely different way than they would have otherwise. So having that decentralized staffing has allowed them to socially distance within the library and perform their duties. But when we're thinking about a centralized staffing organization for workspace, you then need to think about distancing, maybe taking desks out, moving them to other areas in the library.

Lauren Stara :

That can work too. I mean, I think a centralized model has a lot of advantages. And when you're in a situation like this, when the public isn't in the building, you can obviously repurpose some of those spaces for staff.

Andrea Bunker :

Absolutely. I also like when Alice Chandler talks about thinking about efficiency of those workspaces and efficiency in terms of workspaces combined with public spaces. In one of her quotes, she says, "In front of the basement is a comfortable Hall reached by a broad, easy staircase, also a lavoratory on the side next to the basement of the stack, but it has no connection with that room. And when the librarian wants to wash her paste brush, she can go out into the entry down the other stairs and through the hall." So thinking about how staff functions and going from their workspace to the public spaces is a really important consideration and when you're dealing with a historic building that can become more challenging, but it's definitely worth contemplating and doing well from the beginning.

Lauren Stara :

And always have a sink in your staff work room.

Andrea Bunker :

And I do love when she says, "Don't forget that it is for the public interest to have a library comfortable and convenient for the librarian." I did find it interesting that you know, back in 1915 they had stakeholders who are saying, why do you want all that extra space? We constantly hear that libraries are too big, their planned too big, too big for our community, and one of the first things to go when they want to cut down the size is the storage within the building for different activity areas and service areas. So I think it's interesting that throughout time, they've always thought that we're asking for something that's too large, when in actuality, once it opens, they realize, Oh, we might not have planned appropriately for future growth.

Lauren Stara :

Yeah, especially on the topic of storage. I mean, as you say, Andrea, it's always the first thing to go and, you know, my philosophy is if you're building a new building or renovating, you know, you're spending millions of dollars on a project, why not do it right and make it actually work. Another thing that the pandemic situation is pointing up now, and I don't think this is the last time we're going to be contending with this, is that during times of social distancing, you're going to have to move half or more of your furniture out. Preferably, you're going to move all of your soft seating out, because you can't disinfect that upholstery. And the question is, where are you going to put all this stuff all these tables and chairs that are extraneous to, you know, the 40% occupancy rate and in fact encourages activities that are unhealthy at this point. So I think rather than skimping on storage, we need to really focus on it and make sure that we provide extra storage. And not just extra storage because if you have a big room in the basement for storage, that's fine. But if you're carrying a giant, you know, armchair or desk or something? How are you going to get that furniture to that storage room? So storage on every floor and easy pathways via elevator or what have you to move stuff in and out of the storage space is as important as having the space itself. I understand it all comes down to money, every square foot in a new building costs somewhere in the region of $600 to $800, so I understand that people want to be responsible about spending public dollars and tax money and they want to make it efficient, but at the same time, we have to really think about what is actually needed for a space to be functional. And if skimping now, it's going to cost way more to add more space on later than it is to provide an appropriately sized library now.

Andrea Bunker :

I also think that not a lot of thought is given to storage for outdoor maintenance and access to that storage. You know, it's really wonderful when we see a plan that has storage that's within the building that has an exterior access point for your snowblower, for your salt, for your lawnmower, whatever it might be that you can actually keep it within the building, keep it safe and secure. You don't have to find another spot for a shed on the property. It's really great when that's taken into consideration, too.

Lauren Stara :

Yeah and even if all the exterior work is taken care of by your DPW or you know some other some entity outside of the library, you don't know whether that relationship is going to remain, so having that configuration available, again helps with flexibility down the road. Aand also the DPW will love you if you have a room where they can store some of that equipment and they don't have to drag it all around.

Andrea Bunker :

So I was laughing when Alice Chandler mentioned flooring. She said "A cork matting will be cheaper, quieter and warmer than the beautiful marble or the nubbly red tiles you were thinking of handing down to posterity." And this is something I think about often. I worked in a library that had a lobby area where the circulation desk was that had ceramic tile with widely spaced grout lines. And when you were helping a patron and a colleague would walk by with a book cart, you had to stop your conversation until they finished rolling the cart to either behind the desk where there was a lovely rubber floor or into the elevator or into one of the carpeted areas on the first floor in order to resume your conversation. It was cavernous, and it was a double height space. So not only did it reverberate through that circulation area, it also would make its way up the stairwell and you could hear it in the reference area as well. So just the acoustics of it, and then also slippery when wet. So, when you're thinking about your flooring, it's really, really important to think about walking on it, sound, safety. Also maintenance, I think, is key. And the amount of times we go into bathrooms and they've spec'd white grout and it's black on the floor and then you see it come up on the corner on the edge of the wall and it's white there. And you're like, "oh, when was this cleaned? When was the last time this was cleaned?" They may be cleaning it all the time, but you just can't keep up with it when it's white grout.

Lauren Stara :

I agree that flooring and also other finishes. It has such an impact on everything. Especially acoustics, and acoustics is one of my big hobbyhorses when designing libraries because in 1915 when Alice was speaking, she said cheaper, quieter, and warmer. So she did say quieter. But in 1915, people still saw public libraries as a place to be quiet. We were shushing people as librarians, there wasn't a lot of activity going on other than reading itself. But now public libraries are active, active spaces. There's a lot going on. And there's a lot of noise. And I always recommend an acoustical analysis of a building when it's being designed because I am not an acoustician. There is a lot of specialized training and a lot of factors that go into what affects every single decision you make, from the shape of the room, to all the finishes, to you know, what kind of equipment and HVAC system you have. Everything contributes to this audible background noise. And as Andrea was saying, the book cart rattling across the tiles which can be very distracting.

Andrea Bunker :

It's like nails on a chalkboard. Every single time.

Lauren Stara :

There's a lot to think about when you choose finishes, there's the acoustical fact there's also cost. There's also maintenance. There's also the visual. You know, what does it feel like? What does it look like? Picking out carpet versus tile versus linoleum versus whatever, there's a lot of decision making that goes into picking those those finishes. And it's not an easy task. And it shouldn't be just left up to the architect, it should not. The library staff has to have input on those decisions.

Andrea Bunker :

And I think also given that we're in COVID-19 times right now, you have to think about not only the maintenance of it, but the disinfecting of it. So how do you clean those surfaces and have something that is as safe as you can possibly get it knowing that no matter what you do, you are not 100% completely safe.

Lauren Stara :

You don't know what's coming down the road. It's always something.

Andrea Bunker :

I know in terms of flooring, we visited libraries where they had this beautiful flooring in the children's activity room. But then one cleaning company came in and used a cleaning product that stripped the floor. So it was ruined.

Lauren Stara :

Those are also things you have to think about what kind of products you have to use, you know, who's going to be doing the cleaning, are you sure that they understand and also, you know, if your community is a green community and has made a pact to discontinue the use of toxic chemicals in cleaning, you have to think about those kinds of things, also. I mean, there's, there's so much that goes into it.

Andrea Bunker :

And if you're going for LEED status, that's one of the points. So definitely something to consider. And there are green cleaning policies out there and maintenance manuals. So you can find that from your colleagues for sure.

Lauren Stara :

I mean, safety is the number one consideration and, you know, slip resistant materials for floors are critical. We're in Massachusetts and you have snow in the winter and rain all the rest of the year. And you have to think about slip resistant mats or, you know, walk off mats in the lobby, something that's going to prevent all that moisture from coming into the building and causing a fall.

Andrea Bunker :

Which sometimes don't get put into your project budget. So you have to think about that and ask is this part of the overall project to get these finishes and...

Lauren Stara :

Right. Or something like that can get cut during value engineering, our favorite term and then a burden of that gets shifted from the capital budget on to the operating budget and it becomes an ongoing operating expense to rent those, those anti slip mats that get changed every month or or if you purchase them, whatever. It's not an actual savings. It's just shifting the cost from one pot of money to another pot of money.

Andrea Bunker :

One of the major issues in library buildings is lighting because obviously we are trying to have areas in the library for reading computer use all sorts of activities, as well as having a library that is energy efficient and uses daylighting as much as it possibly can. And fixtures that emit light but use a lower amount of energy, just to make sure that the lifecycle cost is not as expensive for the libraries themselves when they're thinking about their operating budgets. But lighting was just as big of a deal during Alice Chandler's time in 1915. And she talks about windows and how they aesthetically look on the outside of the building but not thinking about what the result is within those buildings, and "one library with high buildings and trees on every side has stained glass and all the windows, which the librarian would be most delighted to have exchanged for a less decorative style. In another the fault is in the opposite direction and the room in the second story is lighted by a large skylight close overhead, with almost no chance for ventilation. The results in hot weather suggest the infernal regions and to make the punishment fit the crime the designer should be interned there during the month of July every year for the rest of his life. Unquestionably, the skylight is often a necessary evil, but should be avoided as much as possible in the low room and generous ventilation provided." And she also mentioned that "don't forget that daylight is more pleasant to read by than any other light and that there should be plenty of it." So at that time, daylighting was just as important as we know it to be today.

Lauren Stara :

It's really interesting. If you read about the history of libraries, you know, in the very early days, they had as many windows is possible because there was no no lighting other than natural lighting. So in order to read, you have to have access to sunlight. Then as gaslighting came in, there was a huge need for ventilation because of all of the toxic fumes that came from that. And then electricity came in. And that's, I think, where Alice is in time, during the advent of electricity. And from that period, up through sort of the middle of the last century, there was a tendency towards fewer and fewer windows because electricity was seen as the lighting of choice. Now we're understanding again how important sunlight is. It is better light to read by than any other light. It's also better for physical and mental emotional health for human beings. Bringing daylight into a building as much as possible is something that many architects strive for today, however, when that translates into things like skylights and other penetrations of the roof, it can become a real problem. And I can count on one hand the number of libraries with skylights that have not leaked in their history. Skylights were a huge feature of many Carnegie libraries and Carnegie era libraries. And almost all of them leak. Most of them have been blocked off. They're not, they're not transparent anymore. They've been roofed over. And now in the last 50 years, architects still love skylights and they still leak. And it's not just the fact of a skylight. It's the window assembly. It's also the installation. It's also the maintenance. I mean all of those things have to be taken care of perfectly. Even newer skylights tend to leak. You know, they keep saying oh, here's this new product. It's It's perfect. It's not gonna leak, but if it's not installed properly, it's gonna leak. Regardless of how good the product itself is. If you have a big space under a roof and you need to bring interior light into the center of the space, we would recommend a monitor which is a sort of a raised portion of the roof with windows that go vertically, rather than a skylight that has angled or horizontal glass.

Andrea Bunker :

It's important to think about what the function is below that daylight that's coming in because you cannot control it as well as you can control a lighting system. And you really need to think about shades, and if it's very far up automatic shades and that's a cost. So really

Lauren Stara :

also cleaning those windows. Right? how are you going to keep them clean? They get filthy.

Andrea Bunker :

and we talked about that with lighting too. You might have this double height room and then you have these fixtures that are all the way up on the ceiling are dangling a little bit down and I think we constantly ask our directors, do you have a genie lift? Do you have some sort of way where your maintenance or facilities people can access those lights? And I know with LED now, we're on kind of the cusp of our libraries changing over to LED, I think almost all of our new ones are spec'd with LED lights. But that wasn't always the case. They're supposed to have a longer lifespan. But we've been in libraries where that's simply not true. And we'll see some lights out. And we were at one library visiting and they said, "Well, we wait for a number of lights to be out at one time so that they can bring in a lift and replace." And I think Alice Chandler did speak about that too, in terms of making sure that whatever you put up near the ceiling, you can reach it to maintain it, and that's a big concern as well. And then thinking about the function underneath, as we said. We've had Library's where they've put a skylight above a computer bank. And anyone who's tried to use a monitor or even your cell phone outside in direct sunlight knows that that's almost an impossible task. And when you have so much light streaming and you think about when you're say at the beach and reading a book in direct sunlight, it can be very hard on the eyes.

Lauren Stara :

A skylight over let's say, a historical rooms or rare books room where your unique materials are that sunlight can be very damaging. And any leakage can really destroy some unique one of a kind materials.

Andrea Bunker :

If you do need natural light in those areas, then there are UV films that you can purchase to put on top of those window panes, so that you are mitigating the risk of damage to those materials and objects

Lauren Stara :

Or better than films are windows with UV sandwiched into the glass. The films can bubble up and not be as effective but if you get the actual UV glass way better. It's also of course, more expensive. The other thing I wanted to bring up is that one of the things that Alice talks about is the marble and the opulence of many public spaces in libraries of the day. It's still the case. And the reason that came to mind for me at this moment is because I was library director where we built a new library that opened in 2008. And I wasn't thinking about this, but the architect, bless their hearts spec'd these incredibly expensive Italian light fixtures for the children's room where it was impossible to get replacement bulbs number one, and number two, one of the fixtures arrived broken and it took us three months to get a replacement. So when you're thinking about any kind of fixtures, and this includes anything from nowhere to light bulbs, think about replacement, think about maintenance. Think about where you know, what do you have to go through to keep this thing running over the long haul because you're building a building for 50 to 100 years. And regardless of the quality of the LED lighting that you purchase, that bulb is going to have to be replaced someday. There's also something that we like to talk about with lighting. In terms of lighting in library stack areas, it's important to, when you have the option, and, you know, in an existing space this isn't always possible, but if you have the opportunity to orient your light fixtures perpendicular to your shelving units, that means that you can move the shelving around if you need to without blocking the light from the vertical surface of the shelving units.

Andrea Bunker :

And there's built in lighting that you can get for your shelving units, too. I think we've also seen a fair amount of lighting that goes in both directions. So that if you want a flexible space and you have saymobile shelving and you want to reconfigure that often, then you can reconfigure it in any way that you want and still have proper lighting for seeing the signs of those materials. So this is one of my favorite topics, because my father was a pipefitter, and then an estimator for an HVAC firm. So I think I've been hearing about this my entire life.

Lauren Stara :

I don't understand why it is that it seems impossible for an HVAC system to actually work in any building, not just library buildings. It seems like so much design and engineering and installation and cost and balancing and permissioning goes into a system and I just don't know of many systems that actually work.

Andrea Bunker :

And that they accurately predict what your cost is going to be in the long run for operation either. And we've had some librarians tell us, you know, the architect spec'd, a certain HVAC system and then when it came down to installation, the crew installing it said I never would have spec'd this system for this building. It's the wrong size. It won't function properly to heat and cool all of your spaces and take out the humidity. So there's also that piece too that gets overlooked when you're thinking about an HVAC system. We have one library where dehumidifying the air was overlooked and they said in the summertime on a human day you have a coating of moisture on the floor. So why isn't that working properly? And that's a new building, and it's a LEED building.

Lauren Stara :

And the fact that the Divi minification and humidification system or the ventilation system needs to be divorced from the heating and cooling because we have one new building where in order to ventilate the building they have to have either the heat or the cooling running. They can't just have neutral ventilation.

Andrea Bunker :

Which in COVID times is something we really need to think long and hard about and you know filtering of air and making sure that we're killing as much bacteria or virus as we possibly can, given the type of filter or HEPA filter. But I think overall, when you get your new building, you can expect that all of your HVAC issues are going to go away; they might even multiply, because as you have these complex building management systems that are difficult to program, even if you have commissioning, so even if you have a commissioning agent come in, balance the system, make sure that it's working in the spring, summer or fall winter, you're still going to have issues and it's something to just anticipate if any of you out there have one that works perfectly and has never had issues.

Lauren Stara :

I would love to hear from you.

Andrea Bunker :

Yes, please, email us!

Lauren Stara :

Those computerized building management systems, the other complication with them is that many, many times, those computers are controlled by somebody who isn't even part of the library staff or maintenance. It's some municipal office, DPW, or somebody like that. And so, the library director and staff has no access to adjusting the temperature of your own space, and it's a huge problem. You can fight for local access and fight for somebody. The other problem is not just having the access, it's have somebody who has the knowledge and training to work the system. And to be honest with you, as a library director, that's the last thing I want to be spending my time doing. So if you are lucky enough to have a staff custodian or building facilities manager, that is the ideal situation.

Andrea Bunker :

Also, when you're thinking about HVAC systems, you need to think about the building envelope. And we've covered this in some of our sustainability podcasts, where if you really create a tight envelope, the needs of that HVAC system are reduced. So you're not having as heavy of a load that it has to bear. You are not having a wide range and temperature fluctuation because of exterior elements. So having an enclosure that really is tight and solid can make a difference and make it a more simple system for you.

Lauren Stara :

It can, but once again now in the days of COVID, we're understanding that outdoor air and ventilation is a crucial piece of that. So the concept behind a tight building envelope is that you don't have external air coming coming in to mess with your internal ecosystem. So I have to say the whole HVAC industry is in an uproar right now. And I think that we're going to see some changes in the way that works down the road.

Andrea Bunker :

I think they're trying to figure out a way where you can increase your capacity for fresh air intake, and filter that through and some of them have said, you know, you need to completely blow out your system every night and then bring in a whole new load of fresh air for the next day. But they still don't know, they don't know how it's transmitted exactly. And you know, what the implications are for these buildings.

Lauren Stara :

Another aspect is incorporation of UV sterilization into HVAC systems. That's a technology that exists now. And there's a newer development that is still in the experimental stage called far UV. The problem with UV sterilization is that you can't have human beings in the space because it'll cause cancer, basically. But far UV is a much more narrow band of UV light that is not harmful to human beings. So there's a lot of research going on in that area and talk about incorporating far UV light as a default in all public spaces. So that could be coming down the road, also. Another thing I wanted to mention, because I thought of it, when we were talking about the BMS systems is in the olden days, when you built a new building, you had a thermostat on the wall and you could adjust the temperature yourself. Now that's all computerized just by building code. You cannot have a thermostat on the wall in a public building anymore. The other thing that you pretty much can't have is a light switch. You have these very complicated lighting control systems. and having input of staff into the design of those systems and training on how to use them is really critical.

Andrea Bunker :

And making sure that you're not putting motion sensored lighting where it should not be.

Lauren Stara :

Shall I tell my favorite story?

Andrea Bunker :

Yes.

Lauren Stara :

This is a situation. It was kind of in the early days of the implementation of LEED, the leadership in environmental and energy design, is that what LEED stands for? And it was in a library in western Massachusetts, which I will not name, but in their bathrooms, their public restrooms, they had toilets that were automatic flush toilets, that were powered through little solar cells on the top of the toilets. That was a LEED point. So they wanted to have that. Then in the same bathrooms they had lighting that was controlled by motion sensors. That's another LEED point, that's great. But the problem was that unless there was a person in the bathroom moving around and keeping the light on, and the toilets never got charged, so the toilets would never flush. After, I think it was about six months of dealing with this and replacing the solar cells at a pretty hefty price tag, they ended up just taking those toilets out and putting manual flush toilets in.

Andrea Bunker :

And I'm going to tell them my favorite story. So when we were building my library, we were in a lighting and electrical meeting. And I learned that the outlet spec'd for my office the director's office was a motion sensor electrical outlet. I didn't even know those existed. So, I said "Do I have to flail every five minutes to keep my computer on?" So, the things that are out there that exists for energy saving. It's just fascinating. So, and that's something to think about when you're in your office too. So do you want motion sensored lighting for your office where you might be sitting and working at your computer? I mean, I guess it's one way to time yourself to make sure that you're getting up for your own health. But other than that, it just seems like it could be extremely frustrating.

Lauren Stara :

I have that, too, in my last director job and I would be sitting at my computer really concentrating on a budget or something like that, and all the lights would go out and I had to, you know, flail my arms around and turn the lights back on.

Andrea Bunker :

And were they saying Lauren's having a tantrum again?

Lauren Stara :

Probably.

Andrea Bunker :

I mean, it's really wonderful that we're thinking about sustainability and energy efficiency and thinking about building envelopes and trying to be good citizens of the earth, but at the same time, there has to be some sort of happy medium. And I think we discussed that with some of the experts that we talked about sustainability with on earlier podcasts in terms of what is the overall comfort of the building. And now we really need to think about safety.

Lauren Stara :

Well, and I think it's really, I mean, I would prefer to have a light switch on the wall myself, but I'm old.

Andrea Bunker :

like a good light switch, too.

Lauren Stara :

I think the most important point that I want to make is that library staff who have never worked in a new building don't understand how different the systems are and how locked down things like heating, cooling and lighting are. And you have to be aware of the training and process that goes into making those decisions for lighting and cooling and heating and who has the power to change those things. Who has the control.

Andrea Bunker :

We've covered several topics in this podcast today. And we didn't even scratch the surface of many of the common comments that we make in our design review documents and when we're talking with architects and library directors to ensure that we are getting the best possible library for each community that partakes in our program and also that is doing it on their own. So thank you for joining us today. I hope you got some useful information from this podcast. I know that we covered topics all over the place, but look for topic specific podcasts in the future. Our next podcast is going to be a discussion with architects about COVID-19 responses in the design world for libraries specifically. So we hope you can join us for that. If you'd like to listen to Alice Chandler's speech from 1915, up next, our colleague, Liz Babbitt, will be reading it, and hopefully you will find it as entertaining as we did. Thank you for joining us. Until next time!

Liz Babbitt :

Mr. President, and Members of the Massachusetts Library Club: I was asked to talk to you about the “Home-like atmosphere in libraries,” but there are several other points in library planning which I am anxious to bring before you, and permission was kindly granted me to depart from strict adherence to the given text and to add the sub-title, “or, the country library versus the donor and the architect.” It has been my good fortune to visit much among the smaller towns of this Commonwealth, and to see most of the library buildings constructed within the last few years. Almost invariably one enters a lofty hall, occupying the whole height of the building, with reading rooms on either hand. The latter may be partly separated by low partitions and handsome columns, sometimes of real marble with carved capitals, on which, with the beautifully decorated ceiling, much money has been expended. Everything is most elaborately finished, and to put up a list of books without a Florentine frame or stretch wire for a row of pictures would seem a desecration. Now, as none of us country folk live in marble halls, and never even dream that we do, would it not be more in keeping with the character of a New England village to have these apartments of the height and general style of a comfortable private sitting-room? Every one cannot be provided with a Morris chair, though doubtless an occasional one would be hailed with joy by elderly gentlemen, while something similar, but suited to people of shorter stature, would be very acceptable to the ladies, who are never supposed to be “elderly.” There was a period when the proper thing for a parlor was a high sofa and six uncomfortable chairs covered with haircloth, but the private house has passed that stage long ago, and we look around in a friend’s home and choose, out of a variety, the chair best suited to our mental and physical idiosyncrasies. Undoubtedly the old-fashioned Windsor chair in such universal use is an excellent selection for public libraries, but the lack of variety gives an institutional effect which does not suggest ease and comfort. The room does not say, “Come, sit down and read in me.” The tables, as is quite the fashion now, should be small, with a changing supply of periodicals and books laid upon them in an alluring way. The walls should be lined with low bookcases, and, if most of these must be filled with reference books, save a few conspicuous shelves for general reading, old and new. “Temptation” should be our motto, and it is entirely moral to tempt people in that way. One strong objection to the lofty ceiling is the difficulty and cost of heating, greatly increasing the expense of running the library. In cold weather very likely the floor never is warm, while the upper part is probably 80° or 90°. Questioning a librarian on this point she shivered, although it was then midsummer, saying, “Oh, my, how cold it is!” It may be called a long look ahead, but by and by repairs will be needed for this high ceiling, which will be very costly, requiring expense for staging, and probably causing disuse of the library for the time. Whatever the plan of the building the heating apparatus in the country library, if installed by truly scientific methods, will probably have to be made over several times before it is satisfactory. The scientific rules seem to be prepared for city conditions, where buildings are close together, and shield each other from the wind, and the thermometer does not go as low as “where Wachusett’s wintry blasts the mountain larches stir.” When the architect and his co-conspirator, the city steam fitter, have made their calculations, just double their figures, and you will be comfortable. It will be much cheaper than adding it a few years later, after the librarian has had pneumonia or acquired the rheumatic habit. But now in come the donor and the architect, and it is difficult to tell which of them is the more responsible or reprehensible. The building is to be inscribed “In memory of Samuel Smith,” or “Mary Jones,” and the idea of having this legend less than twenty feet up in the air is desecration too great to be borne. Besides, the architect wants a construction to which he can “point with pride,” and send similar clients to admire and imitate. Now I will not quarrel with that. Make it twenty feet high, but inside divide it into two stories, and give some useful rooms in the second one. “That will cost more,” some one says. I doubt it, if the lofty pillars and capitals and the decorated ceilings are omitted, and a less expensive finish adopted. A cork matting will be cheaper, quieter and warmer than the beautiful marble or the nubbly red tiles you were thinking of handing down to posterity. There will also be a great saving in the coal bills, for the upper rooms need not be heated unless in use. “There I have you,” says the donor. “Why do you want all that extra space? They have been for fifty years in a room 12 by 15 feet; if I give them floor space four times that they ought to go down on their knees to me, and I can lie peacefully on my deathbed and think of that lovely painted ceiling, and wonder if Paradise can hold anything more beautiful. Also, I doubt if you are giving height enough for my full-length portrait.” Yes, my dear donor, for a little while they will be as happy as heart can desire, and then some one will say: “I was at West Boylston the other day, and they have such a nice little hall over their library rooms. It is so much better than the big town hall when a few people want to come together. If the Literary Club meets there they can have any books needed immediately, and we could subscribe to the Library Art Club, and hang the pictures there, and have talks about them. Then there is a little room where a committee could hold a session.” And the next thing some one will go to one of the many towns where the library has a room full of local antiquities, and will come home to look around with a pained expression, and “wonder why we could not have had a room for such things. There are lots of old-fashioned articles in town which might be preserved if there was any place to put them. There is plenty of room here, but it is all air.” As for the portrait, kind lady, these skirts will look dreadfully out of fashion in a few years, and you had much better be painted sitting at your library table, and have it conceal as much of you as it can. A few weeks ago I visited one of the most ornate buildings of this description, costing $50,000 about fifteen years ago. The librarian deplored some of its defects, and said, “I was at Westford the other day. Now that is my idea of a library.” The latter has probably no more cubic feet than the former, cost less, and is infinitely more comfortable and useful. One of the cosiest libraries is at Tyngsborough, – a low, one-story building, with half partitions made of bookcases, where partitions are desirable, an open fireplace at each end of the room, and many corners where the reader can be comfortably stowed. The library at Greenfield and that at Medford are examples of the plan suggested for two stories, both owing their charm to the fact that they are reconstructed dwelling houses. Heating the library concerns only part of the year, but lighting is for all the twelve months. Perhaps fewer architects sin in this than in other respects, hut there is still a lingering tendency to think, firstly, how the windows look on the outside of the building, and secondly, what is the result within. One library, with high buildings and trees on every side, has stained glass in all the windows, which the librarian would be most delighted to have exchanged for a less decorative style. In another, the fault is in the opposite direction, and the room, in the second story, is lighted by a large skylight close overhead, with almost no chance for ventilation. The result in hot weather suggests the infernal regions, and “to make the punishment fit the crime” the designer should be “interned” there during the month of July every year for the rest of his life. The librarian of a fine new library lately erected writes that no pictures need be sent in July and August as the skylight makes the room where they are shown unendurable. Unquestionably the skylight is often a necessary evil, but should be avoided as much as possible in a low room, and generous ventilation provided. Where walls are thick, two windows side by side, mullioned, will throw more light into the room than if placed separately with the depth of the wall all around them. Many small libraries are now arranged with only one room, shelves around the walls and tables and chairs in the middle, – a plan which, with one exception, can hardly be improved. I shall put in a plea for a bit of a “cubby hole” in one corner where the librarian can hang his or her hat and coat, deposit “goloshes,” wash hands, and put a few of the odds and ends which accumulate in a library and do not look well in the open. The most serious failures in these new buildings must be laid to the architect. When the Panama Canal was opened if it had been found too narrow for any large vessel to sail through there would have been some remarks passed on the subject, to express it mildly. But an architect will erect a library with a stack room too small to hold the books already on hand, attend the dedication, receive compliments, and depart, as far as I have ever heard, with perfect satisfaction. Not that he leaves satisfaction behind him, but the donor must be considered, and there is a very trying proverb which says, “You must not look a gift horse in the mouth.” All the books have been where the architect could measure them, he knew their number .would continually increase, and yet he deliberately designed a stack without any reference to these facts. I do not know a single new library in the smaller towns which has sufficient room for expansion for a reasonable number of years. In some cases the librarian has protested, but it produced no effect. “A stack room with a capacity of 39,000 volumes” one pronunciamento read, and the stack is practically full with 10,000. This is a very serious matter. The building is given to a community which could not afford to provide one with public funds, and is to be put to an increased expense for maintenance, and yet in a few years there will be a pressing necessity for enlargement. What is to be done? It is a question which has been asked a good many times in the last ten years. The architect may say there is room for a second story in the stack, but did he provide stacks strong enough for another tier, and plan for stairways, or must it all be torn out and begun over again? This was exemplified at Medford, where a fireproof stack, with room for two stories, was erected in the rear of the beautiful dwelling house just mentioned. When the time arrived for the upper story to be added it was suddenly appreciated that the old stack would not support it; the books had to be stored and half the stack room entirely made over, the process to be repeated when the other half is needed. “A library should be built for four times the number of books it owns,” said the librarian in a town of 1,400 inhabitants. This library was dedicated in 1910, but they are already buying revolving bookcases and planning various makeshifts. The slight raising of the roof above the stack, the provision of a dry basement below, or both, will, at a small increase of cost, double and treble the capacity, and the time of building is the time to do this economically and conveniently. Nor is it too much to ask that the plan shall consider the inevitable addition to come in future years. This particular sin is rendered still more heinous by the love of panelling. Somehow it seems as if the first thing any one would think of in a library would be books and bookshelves, but with the architect or the donor they become a secondary matter. Having skimped on the stack room, that might be temporarily concealed by putting shelves in every other available place. But no. The reading room may be the only place for reference work, but it must be furnished with handsome panels; likewise the children’s room, and in one new library even the librarian was refused any shelves in his private sanctum, though he has a fine fireplace. In this case it was the donor who objected to the shelves, so for once the architect may be absolved. In one crowded library they have constructed a double shelf around the room over the panels. I said, “Why in the world don’t you build some shelves right in front of the panels?” “Oh, Mrs. B. [the donor] would never agree to that!” I was amused on visiting for the second time a library dedicated last year to find some shelves just built, notwithstanding the panels, in the children’s room. “Next time I come I expect to find them all around the room,” I said. “Wish you would come next week,” was the reply. Another odd peculiarity of the donor is a desire for secrecy in regard to the plans. I visited a little town where the walls of a library were beginning to rise, and told the librarian I was going to stop at the place as I went home. “I don’t know if they will let you,” she said, “they seem to want to keep it all a secret. I have hardly seen the plans myself, and have heard that they turned people away.” I did go, however, and the foreman received me politely and showed me the plans, but the attitude of the giver seemed very unwise. He was a farmer and could hardly be an expert on libraries, and his architect should have consulted the librarian in regard to local conditions, and invited her to study the building as it progressed, that improvements might be made where possible. “Naming no names, no offence shall be took,” and I will mention faults noticed in several of the new buildings visited this summer. They were all handsome libraries, erected at considerable expense, with many virtues, and these lapses seem inexcusable. The first was a particularly satisfactory building, with abundant room except in the stack, which was already full. Below it is a basement room in which will be put the shelving from the old library, serving for expansion, but it is reached by a very steep iron staircase. The treads are quite narrow, and there is a rudimentary riser an inch high to stub the toe. The hand rail might have been on the side by the wall and commenced at the top, but the architect (I don’t think the donor could have had a hand in this!) elected to put it on the other side, beginning under the thick floor, so that you have to go half way down before you can take hold of it. A number of years ago the village carpenter at Lancaster was given free hand in planning and building a farm house on a large estate. When the farmer’s wife moved in she expressed her opinion of many things with no uncertain tongue, winding up with, “And if my back stairs was a ladder, I should know what to depend upon!” The same might be said of this staircase. There is no room for the librarian, but she can enter the stack room, close the door, and squeeze into a small corner provided with a shelf, where she can stand up and do the mending. In the front of the basement is a comfortable hall, reached by a broad, easy staircase, also a lavatory on the side next to the basement of the stack, but it has no connection with that room, and when the librarian wants to wash her pastebrush she can go out into the entry, down the other stairs, and through the hall. It is rumored that this library cost $60,000. Another library dedicated within a year has expansion for about three years, and there is space for a second story in the stack, but the first is not strong enough to support it. The large basement, well lighted, has no partitions except the coal bin, and a room for historical materials is now under construction. The first heavy rain that came after the building was nearly finished showed a defect in the drainage, which filled the boiler pit and covered the floor six inches deep with water. Already the roof has needed repairs. A very attractive little library of native stone, built in 1899, is in the village of Shelburne. There is still room for expansion for several years, and when the librarian said she wished they had made it larger, I told her she was very lucky, as some new libraries nowadays did not begin with enough book room. The elderly lady drew herself up, and said with much scorn, “I do not believe in constructing such buildings as that!” A library has been mentioned, planned with an “estimated” capacity for 39,000 volumes, which was filled with 10,000. It is an elegant building, finished in mahogany, with handsome fittings. But here there was a prejudice against shelves outside of the stack. There is no reference room, but the reading room might have had shelves all around it, instead of only at one end. These are not movable, and will not hold encyclopaedias, except the shelf next the floor and the upper one, the latter too high to reach with comfort, so the others are given up to new books. Even the children’s room has no shelves, and they must swarm into the stack, where their books are placed next the door. Their chairs and tables are the same size and weight as those of the adults, but they have a very charming and appropriate decoration on the ceiling. It was a Saturday afternoon but there were no children to be seen. This building has an excellent basement, where the workroom is placed, but the librarian said, “Be careful of the stairs, they are rather steep.” So they were, solid, cement stairs, yet there must be a good deal of travel over them; $30,000 for a building, – but “be careful of the stairs!” The mahogany charging desk must have been very expensive, but the architect did not consult the librarian, and it must be altered to suit their charging system. A $50,000 marble palace in a town of less than 1,000 inhabitants has an imposing ornamental hall with an alcove, it might be called, at each end to be used for reading, one for adults and the other for children. Each has one table and six chairs, those for the children being the same size as those for the adults. The librarian was asked if that was not rather a small provision for readers, but she said they never used to have many. Naturally they did not, for the old quarters were very uncomfortable, but with a pleasant room they may be expected to increase, especially as the town has a large summer hotel. It is good to relate that there is abundant shelving around these alcoves. The reference room, so called, is still more limited, being about 5 by 8 feet, to match that of the librarian on the other side of the entrance. But the window in each is so high and narrow that they suggest dungeon cells. There is little room for expansion in the stack, and as the cases are of wood they will not hold a second story. Another beautiful new library has no divisions in its hall, which is of baronial proportions and superbly decorated, but somehow the tables and chairs look very lonesome, and I should take refuge in the cozy reference room tucked in at one end of the stack. Needless to say, the latter is insufficient. These are examples found at random in this State, all having been built within the last two years. You may call some of the faults trivial, but when encountered day after day and week after week they become important, and exasperate because they were avoidable. The lack of expansion for books is very serious, and in most cases there seems no way out. The donor naturally considers his or her business done, and can hardly be asked to enlarge before the building is two years old. It would also be rather trying to ask Mr. Robinson to contribute $10,000 to remedy the defects left by Mr. Smith, especially while the latter’s name is on the façade, and his would have to be subscribed on the rear. Fault finders are always met with the retort, “What would you do about it?” But a remedy is not easily found. Architectural schools might be requested to introduce a course on library buildings, laying special stress on the fact that their primary purpose is to hold books, in an ever-increasing ratio. But there is no school for donors! Also, there is State supervision by the Commission. I understand that hospital plans must be approved by the Board of Health, and some mysterious officials are always appearing and ordering alterations in public buildings. A fireproof library must have an iron fire escape; all doors must open outwards, even if we can jump out of the windows; every cow must have an individual drinking cup: and after we are dead our tombstone must be approved. Why not add one more to the list, and put one more burden on our overburdened Library Commission, – the approval of library plans! Lastly. – DON’T put a Greek temple or the Pennsylvania railroad station in a New England village for a library. DON’T have a reading room look like an institution, but like a home. DON’T forget that winters are long and cold, and if your building will need fifty tons of coal to heat it, provide funds to pay for this. DON’T forget that daylight is more pleasant to read by than any other light, and that there should be plenty of it. DON’T forget that a library is a building for books, and that they will continually increase. DON’T forget that nothing furnishes a room as handsomely as books, and a panelled wainscot is not as useful nor ornamental as a bookcase. DON’T forget that it is for the public interest to have a library comfortable and convenient for the librarian. DON’T forget to consult the librarian frequently as to the plans, and heed the opinions given. REMEMBER to show your plans to the Free Public Library Commission for criticism and improvement. Think on these things, dearest donor and dear architect, and may your days be long in the land! Transcribed by https://otter.ai