Building Literacy: Public Library Construction

The Library Building Program

September 16, 2021 Massachusetts Board of Library Commissioners Construction Team Season 5 Episode 3
Building Literacy: Public Library Construction
The Library Building Program
Show Notes Transcript

Essentially a letter to the architect, the Library Building Program is a document that is the basis of design for any library building project at any scale. It provides context, includes community input, and details the areas and adjacencies that need to be incorporated in any design work, all with a focus on function. Learn the components that comprise this document, and hear from not only the MBLC's library building specialists but also from library directors who have been through the process as they share how they have used their Library Building Programs throughout their building projects. 

Resources:

Library Building Program Lib Guide
https://guides.mblc.state.ma.us/c.php?g=43537&p=276303

Library Space: A Planning Resource for Librarians
https://mblc.state.ma.us/programs-and-support/construction/libraryspace.php

Building Blocks for Planning Functional Library Space
https://rowman.com/ISBN/9780810841369/Building-Blocks-for-Planning-Functional-Library-Space

The Practical Handbook of Library Architecture
https://www.alastore.ala.org/content/practical-handbook-library-architecture-creating-building-spaces-work


SUMMARY KEYWORDS

library, building, community, people, architect, program, space, document, project, thinking, planning, librarians, meeting, director, staff, design, pandemic, public library, trustees, services

SPEAKERS

Kathleen O'Doherty, Mark Makuc, Lauren Stara, Andrea Bunker, Pat Basler, Barbara Friedman, Mark Contois

 

Andrea Bunker  00:00

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  00:15

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  00:34

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's 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  01:01

or me at [email protected]

 

Andrea Bunker  01:06

On this episode, we tackle the topic of the library building program. It can be a daunting process, but very rewarding and very practical. Patience Jackson, who ran our program for several years, and who some of you may have encountered, either in real life or on one of our previous episodes of this podcast, likes to compare the creation of a library building program to climbing a mountain. It is definitely a monumental task. It is more fun and much easier if others join you for the journey. But I also think just the same as climbing a mountain, where you see the micro before you see the macro, you have to look at those trees on the way up, look at those rocks that you have to step on to climb. And then eventually you will get to the top, and a beautiful vista usually awaits, and that usually puts everything into perspective. So you have to look at the parts before you can see the hole. So with that being said, let's delve right in.  So in our library space document, there is a really good distillation of a library building program that Lauren crafted. Lauren, I know that you wanted to share that definition and its entirety.

 

Lauren Stara  02:28

I'll just read this and you can see it yourself in the library space document.  https://mblc.state.ma.us/programs-and-support/construction/libraryspace.php  A crucial early step in planning a new or renovated facility is the library building program. This is a document that serves as a guidebook or set of instructions from the library and municipality or other governing body to the architect. The building program is also an excellent tool that can serve as the foundation for a PR and marketing campaign for your building project. The building program articulates the library's vision of its future and serves as a set of instructions to the architect. The architect confirms program requirements through independent investigation, and then uses that material to begin conceptualizing a building that answers the needs expressed. Throughout the project, the building program serves as a yardstick. And I think that's an important point is that you don't give the program to the architect and then say, "Okay, we're done with this." This is a document that helps keep the project on course from the beginning to the end. So it serves as a yardstick to determine how true the design remains to the original vision. Here's a quote from Patience Jackson, "Done by a librarian in consultation with the library staff and the trustees. The library building program is a powerful planning document. It is the distillation of all that has been learned through community surveys, the library's planning process, the experience of the staff throughout their careers and the insights of the trustees. It defines the developing vision of what the library ought to be or might become, both in terms of public services and as a public facility. At the MBLC, we ask you to imagine that your library has been flattened by a tornado and you have to start over from scratch. What library services are needed and wanted by your community, and what facilities are required to provide these services. Sometimes for some projects, a library consultant with expertise in library design and space planning can be used to help the local professionals with gathering community input and other data and writing the final document." So one other thing that I want to mention at this point is that sometimes the world of the librarian and the world of the architect collide a little bit and that the word program is one of those times. So that word means something very different to a librarian and to an architect. So we all know that for librarians a program is something like a storytime or a lecture series or a STEM program, something like that. But in the world of an architect, the word program means a very different thing. It means a document like we've just described, outlining the parameters that form the basis for a design project.

 

Andrea Bunker  05:47

So in some ways, it's more akin when you think about, say, an event program, it's laying out exactly what you should be expecting to see. Sometimes they even have time limits in there of each speaker, or what's going to be discussed. So,

 

Lauren Stara  06:05

That's a good an analogy. Yeah.

 

Andrea Bunker  06:07

It's more akin to laying it all out for what should be happening. So our library building programs that we see at the MBLC are usually in conjunction with one of our grant rounds. And they are written prior to an architect being retained for their services, because it really is coming from the library. We have had librarians ask us, you know, "Can an architect write our library building program?" And, you know, we'll talk about who should write the library building program in a moment. Really, it is the first document that you're starting with for your building project. The question about when to write that is an interesting one. Because for our grant program, we do say, don't write it too early, because it will change and evolve over time. We know that services change, technology rapidly advances, so there are different requirements for your library and needs of your community five years down the road. So you don't want to write it too early. So, Lauren, I know you do a lot of outside consulting work with different communities and regions, not in Massachusetts. So they are not necessarily dealing with a grant program that they can access. So what are your thoughts on when a library should endeavor to write a library building program?

 

Lauren Stara  07:36

Yeah, I agree that the exact timing of writing this document is a little bit tricky, because you don't want to do it too early, but you do want to do it before the actual planning for the building begins. And it depends a little bit on the scope of your project. If you're doing a building program for a major capital project, like the ones that we usually fund here at the MBLC, that's a major undertaking. You need to plan enough time to do all the work, and we're going to talk about the things that have to be included in the library building program, or that should be included rather. And yet, you want to get it done early enough that it doesn't start to encroach on the actual planning of the building. So in our past grant rounds, we have said that it takes about a year from beginning to end from the community input through to completion of the document for a major library building program. So that's I would say a year before you plan to start thinking about hiring an architect is when you would want to start this process.

 

Andrea Bunker  08:50

However, we have discussed in the past, too, that if you're doing a strategic plan, that that may also be a good time to gather feedback on your physical building, and the needs and wants of the community at that time. The strategic planning process, a lot of the information that you're gathering from that process informs the beginning of your library building program. So it is the foundation on which you start to build because in that building program, which is a letter to your architect, you are introducing them to the community and introducing them to how your library operates within that community. And those are parts of the library building program that we'll get into in a moment. So if you are doing your strategic planning, it might not be a bad idea, if you're looking at doing some sort of renovation or expansion or even small project, to fold in some of that information that you want to gather from your community during that process. But oftentimes the strategic plan is done before the building program is done. So you have that information just to pull for your library building program. So there are different steps, but not always do they align that way. So it's important to think about what the needs of your library are, in terms of your overall planning for... we say a library building program should be a 20 year horizon, so that you're making sure that you can serve your community for that amount of time.

 

Lauren Stara  10:31

The building program is not something that's done in a vacuum out of context of everything else that you do. Usually, when we're working with a town that is, or library that's, looking to do a building project usually, for many years building issues, building related topics have been coming up as goals and objectives in their strategic plans. And we expect to see that. In order for a town to justify a major building project, there needs to be sort of a history of "This building isn't meeting our needs, and this is why. We want to do these things, and we can't because our building doesn't allow us to do them." So depending on the timing of your strategic planning, you know, if you do a strategic plan one year, and then start the library building program the next year, then you will be able to take some of those sections of the strategic plan and use them as the starting point for your building program. "We need to do a building because we can't do this X, Y and Z." And depending on the timing, if you are doing them both at the same time, which I have seen in the past, it's kind of an unfortunate coincidence, but it has happened that a library director is doing both a strategic plan and a building program at the same time, you can get some synergies in your community input process, that way, you can be asking questions about the library's strategic goals, and also about how the building can or should further those goals. So there can be some efficiencies. But I have to say, I, as a former library director, I wouldn't want to be trying to do both those things at the same time.

 

Andrea Bunker  12:21

I agree. However, I do wonder, you know, you have the community actively engaged already for the strategic plan. So it can be easier to pull focus groups or run activities. And we'll talk about some of those activities that you can do later on. But to elicit that feedback from them, they're already thinking about their library in many different ways during the strategic planning process, and this is just another way that they can be contemplating, you know, the future of their library for their community. So now that we've talked a little bit about the when, let's talk about the who. Who should be writing the library building program?

 

Barbara Friedman  13:00

I'm Barbara Friedman of the Erving Public Library. Because I had in some way done this before, I knew what I needed to put together. But it was still painstaking. I actually took myself out of the library for an entire week and just wrote the program. And then some people did read it. Some people are fortunate to have committees that are active at this stage, and they can put together a lot of ideas and then somebody just edits it. But in a small library, I think it usually ends up being the library director that does this alone. But in the end, it's putting down what you need and why you need it. And I think we did a fairly good job.

 

Pat Basler  13:46

My name is Pat Basler, and I'm the library director at the Stoughton Public Library. So the building program was created with, as I said before, a library director from Middleborough, who did this on the side as a building program consultant, but she had been a children's librarian in Stoughton in her earlier years. And I found that very valuable, because she really understood the town. She had been here for a few years, and she understood the families and the demographics and the needs of the town. And I think that that really helped. I mean, there's sort of a formula for a building program that you have to follow, but she really was able to steer us in the right directions. We developed a committee that would work with the building program that entailed some of the professional staff, actually any of the staff members that were part time or full time that wanted to participate. We had some people from the community, we had some people from town hall. I think we had selectmen. And she was very good at getting people to really talk about how they imagined the future.

 

Andrea Bunker  14:51

This is a question that comes up a lot: who should compile or write the library building program? Depending on the capacity of your library and your staff at your library, it can be kind of daunting to put together this document, so you may need more help. And you may not be in a situation where the library director even works a full time work week. So they might be there part time, 18 hours per week. And the library building program does take some time to put together. We talk about library directors as being someone who can write it, a trustee as being someone who can write it, and a building consultant as someone who can write it. And I'm wondering if we can talk about, you know, the pros and cons of those approaches for each one, and how it's unique for each community, depending on their circumstances.

 

Lauren Stara  15:46

Yeah, I want to start this section by saying that if you are working with an architect, if you're talking to one for, you know, just getting information about library planning, for example. Architects do their version of programming as a matter of course, it's part of their job. But the kind of programming that we're talking about is not exactly what they do. So when they say, "Oh, we can write your building program for you", we would say for a library, that's not a good idea. And in fact, if you are planning to apply for one of our grants, we require you to finish your building program before you even hire an architect. So the architect will tell you they can do it, but we say no. Here's the reason. Architects know buildings. And even architects who have designed dozens of libraries and are library building specialists, they have never worked in a library. They don't know what it's like to take a book from acquisitions through to putting it on the shelf, they don't know what it's like to deal with patrons on a daily basis and the kind of issues that come up, they don't know what your community's needs are. And for that reason, as Andrea said, we think that the library director is the best person to write the building program unless they are brand new in that community, you know, because library buildings are so specific to their communities, and the library director and the library staff are the ones who know what the community needs. And this document is about defining those needs for your community. Now, having said that, for the community input piece, it's not always best for the library staff to conduct those community meetings, those focus groups, those kinds of things. Because we know from years of doing this, that if an outside consultant runs those meetings and runs those focus groups, you get cleaner data that way, when a library director stands in front of a group of people and says, What do you think of the library, what people are gonna say is "We love the library, everything's perfect about the library." And we know that's not true. But people just tend to want to appreciate the library staff and the director and talk about what's good about it, rather than digging into what could be improved. So when you have a neutral party, an outside person who has some expertise with facilitating groups conduct those meetings, you get a much richer conversation and a lot more good information about what the library needs that it doesn't fulfill currently. That's another point that I want to make. Maybe this will come up later under another question, but I want to make sure that everyone understands that the library building program needs to be written not about the existing building. There is a section about the existing building and its deficiencies, but the library needs should be formulated independent of what you have now. It should be, like I said earlier, the building's been flattened by a tornado, you're completely starting over. What would you want? What would you need? 

 

Andrea Bunker  19:25

And I also think, to go back to that point about a neutral party, as a former library director, too, you want to think that you can be impartial and conduct a meeting impartially, but if people are talking about deficiencies of the library, you know, space equal service, and it can be difficult to hear some of these things even though you may think them yourself, but you may not notice your body language or the tone or tenor of your questions, your follow-up questions, whatever it may be, and how that could affect a conversation with you and your community. So, you know, even a trustee, if a trustee was to do it, because oftentimes we say if the library director does not have the capacity to undertake writing the building program, a trustee is the second best, with help from the library director. Because we know library directors wear a lot of hats, they have a lot of responsibilities every day. You know, oftentimes your day is just putting out fires and trying to get that time to be able to write it is really difficult. Patience Jackson always says that if you are a library director writing a building program, you should be writing it somewhere other than the library that you work in. You should be going to another library, holing yourself up in maybe one of the study rooms, and preferably a new library, because then you get to be in a space that has been thought about and may not work completely well for that community but mostly, and it allows you that time and that moment for you to experience what it's like to be in something different. It's not hampering your view of what your library could be, because you're not looking at a wall that has peeling paint and cracks, you're looking at something that is shiny and new and feels different. And it allows you to open up your mind and think about where your library could also go in the future and what it could be in the future.

 

Lauren Stara  21:42

Yeah, that's another pro. You know, there are pros and cons for using consultants to write the building program. One of the pros is that there are some very good library building consultants out there who have a lot of expertise in writing programs like this. And they know what's going on in the library world. They have seen new libraries, they know what the trends are, they can help you with that. There are some not so good ones, too. And you know, you have to be careful. And when you're looking to hire a consultant, make sure you talk to other librarians who have worked with them in the past. We, as State employees, cannot recommend any particular people, but we can give you references, other projects that certain consultants have worked on, and you can do your own reference checks that way. But I wanted to go back to the community meetings and focus groups for a second because I wanted to re-emphasize that, in my opinion, not only should the library director not facilitate the meetings, they shouldn't even be there, because as Andrea said, you can hear some stuff that you really would rather not hear. And it's better to hear that stuff from a recording when you're not in public and you're not potentially influencing what other people are gonna say. And even if you're not running the meeting, just your presence there, people are gonna want to please you and make you happy, and maybe not tell the complete truth. So stay home that day and listen to a recording later.

 

Andrea Bunker  23:23

Or maybe that's when you're compiling the information for the beginning of your building program somewhere else.

 

Lauren Stara  23:30

And that reminds me of something else that I wanted to say. And that we've said a couple of times that sometimes it's hard for the library director to carve out the time to do a project like a library building program. But we say delegate, this is a time where you have to understand that you are not going to have the time to do all of your regular duties. This is a special case, most librarians only do this once in their career. And you need to delegate if you have an assistant director or, you know, senior staff members, you need to have a meeting with them and say I'm going to ask you to step up and take on some of the things that I normally do, because I need to focus my energies on this other project. And this is a temporary thing. And, you know, maybe hire some extra clerks, if you need to do that. You just need to offload some of your regular duties in order to give this the attention that it really needs. 

 

Andrea Bunker  24:34

Right. And we do understand that some libraries don't have the opportunity to be able to structure it in that way, which is why we bring up, you know, a trustee or a building consultant because we do know there are some libraries where the directors are working 18 hours per week, and they may have one part time assistant who's there for 10. And there's no wiggle room in their budget. So it's really finding the best situation to get the best outcome for you. And I just want to say one more thing about architects and building programs is that oftentimes, we always say that throughout our design reviews, architects really care about how the building looks. And the building program is not about how the building looks. The building program is about what the building is, and the spaces that comprise it. But it is not about aesthetics, there may be a section where you say, you know, there are certain things that you're looking for that you want to match, say, the historic character of the downtown, if it's in the town center, or whatever it may be. But it's not about aesthetics, it's about function.

 

Lauren Stara  25:45

Just to elaborate on that a little bit. I think Andrea knows, and I think some of the people listening know that I am a registered architect, I was an architect first. And I went through the rigorous training and experience. Architects are trained to think visually and spatially. So it's not all about aesthetics, but it is all about space. And some architects are better at imagining functionality and workflow than others. But the reality is, the brains of architects are rigorously trained to think visually and spatially. And so that's always going to be a primary concern. And I'm not saying that being concerned about how a building looks is a bad thing. It's just that I know way too many librarians who trust their architects a little bit too much, and end up with a building that looks beautiful and doesn't work. So that's why we say that the library director has to be involved in the planning, not just in the library building program, but the design work also. And, on our projects, we try to help the librarian with that and keep our eyes on the project also. But it's not a bad thing that architects are focused on aesthetics and, looks.

 

Andrea Bunker  27:12

Right.

 

Lauren Stara  27:13

It's just, that's just the way that profession works. And our job as librarians is to remind them constantly that if something isn't gonna work, we have to say to them, "I realize you're thinking about how this is going to look, but it's not going to work. And you can't do that, you have to do this instead." And be very clear and have a strong voice about what's going to work and what isn't. 

 

Andrea Bunker  27:40

And I think what is amazing is in our grant program, for instance, 50% of the libraries will start off with one architect at one phase in the grant round, which is usually they have an architect create a schematic design for the application. And then once they're awarded the grant, and have to pick up the design work from where it left off, 50% will change their architect. But they're using the same building program. When you use two different architects with that same building program, it is astonishing how different they can envision that space, that library while still meeting the same program requirements from your library building program. So it really is the basis for the design. And then when you're working with an architect, obviously, there are architects that have certain styles and certain different innovative things, so that's all part of that process of choosing an architect. But it's fascinating how that one document can be manifested in so many different ways. So let's talk a little bit next about what the necessary components of a library building program are to get to those spaces that are imagined by the architect. So there are a lot of different components to a library building program. And there is a LibGuide that Lauren put together with Roe. Was Roe part of putting that together, that LibGuide, too?

 

Lauren Stara  29:14

She was it was written primarily by me and to piggyback on what you said earlier is that this LibGuide that was written in 2013 was actually based on Patienc's workbook and all that information was incorporated and updated at that time. So this LibGuide is currently not public, but it is still available and if anybody wants to look at it, we can give you the link for it. https://guides.mblc.state.ma.us/c.php?g=43537&p=276303 But this was the information that we use for the last planning and design grant round in 2013. And under essential elements, we included: a concise History of the library and community; a community analysis with demographics and 20 year projections; the library's mission, values, and service roles; previous and current facility and organizational planning efforts, if applicable; a description of the existing building; analysis of current collections and services; pertinent trends and statistics including staffing and public use; special circumstances for your library and/or your community; a needs assessment; area descriptions and adjacencies; site and exterior considerations; requirements for, here's another list, requirements for sustainability, accessibility, security, acoustics, data and telecommunications, lighting and electrical, furniture, fixtures, and equipment, ergonomics, and signage; and, lastly, photographs with descriptive captions of the site, the building exterior, and the building interior of the existing facility as well as potential new locations, if applicable. And one other thing that Andrea and I were talking about a moment ago offline was to include in this list of elements, the need for future expansion, so planning for any future developments.

 

Andrea Bunker  31:35

So you're planning for 20 years out. Now we know that you're not going to get a new building every 20 years. But you may need to, depending on what's happening in your community, you know, and this may be a place where you get together with your, you know, planning board or your city or town planner and talk about, you know, what is the future with the master plan of the community or a Regional Planning Council. What are you looking at for the future? Because you may have a population boom, you may have a change in the demographics that you serve, there may be things that will be built that will entice different people to come to your community and live there and work there. And in 20 years, you want to make sure that you can serve them well. So if you need to add on, that's a possibility. Recently, we were part of a community meeting for a library, and they were talking about how they could not expand upwards because their foundation was not built to support another story. So even if you wanted to put in that you would like to be able to expand up or expand out based on how the site is. That's why it's important to think about those things, because if you think about your current building now, if you had that ability to go up, or to go back, or to go to the side, or add on in a certain way, would that suffice? Would that solve some of your needs now.

 

Lauren Stara  33:09

This is a little bit tangential. But one of the things that Rosemary and Patience used to say all the time was if adjacent land, land next to or behind your library, ever becomes available, grab it, because those opportunities don't come up very often. And the opportunity to expand either building space or parking or other outdoor activities. We've seen over the last couple of years that outdoor space is crucial when you're in a situation where you have to be careful how close you get to other people, so outdoor programming has been a real focus for a lot of libraries. So if you don't have any outdoor space, you can't do those things. So that's a little tangential. But I thought it was worth saying.

 

Andrea Bunker  34:00

I don't think it's tangential, because when you're doing these components, we need to be thinking about pandemics and COVID and how space is used now. We may not be in this situation forever, but we may be in a situation again. So how do you plan for that within your library building program? So when you're looking at those necessary components, libraries have been thrust into a time period where they've had to operate differently and how do you incorporate that into your library building program? So you're thinking about, you know, hybrid programming, you're thinking about programming outdoors, providing services outdoors, curbside pickup. What do you need to do for your building to serve your population throughout any circumstance? And you know, when we are also talking about the sustainability piece, you know, we're moving to net-zero and carbon neutral in our state in Massachusetts, that's what our roadmap for our climate act is saying that our destination is. So, you know, when you're looking at sustainability, it's how do you make that tight envelope? How do you make sure that your building is running off of all electric? There are considerations based on things that are happening now, for you to plan for the future. And that's also why it's only a 20 year planning horizon, because we don't know necessarily post 20 years. You know, the climate act is out to 2050, but, you know, what's going to be available then, we don't know. So putting in the infrastructure, to support whatever could be coming down the pipeline, making it as flexible as possible, so that you can accommodate whatever needs there are in the community at that time based on what's happening in the larger macrocosm can really be useful. So not thinking about what has been done before. And this is the other reason why we say, you know, when should you write a library building program? You want it to be as current as possible. So you don't want to write something and have it sit there for five years and just say, "Oh, well, maybe we'll update it now." Because that's not truly the best way to move forward with your building.

 

Lauren Stara  36:24

Yeah, and I will say that Andrea spoke the word: flexibility. And all of the requirements that we talked about, for the elements in the library building program, I would say the overarching requirement is flexibility. So think about maximum flexibility among everything that you talk about, because, as she said, we're looking at at least 20 years for a building, and think about what your library was, like 20 years ago, and you know, that was the infancy of the internet, things are so different now. And we just don't know what's going to be happening 20 years from now. So we have to build as flexibly as possible so that our buildings can adapt to whatever's coming.

 

Andrea Bunker  37:12

And it's important for architects to know what we're thinking about in those regards, because this is new to them, too. They're having to pivot their designs, their thoughts on buildings right now, as well. So it's everyone is pivoting right now. Telling the architect what you're thinking about, is crucial in that regard. But at the same time, these other components that make up the beginning of the library building program, let them know where you're coming from. So you really want to give them the full picture of where you're coming from and where you want to get to.

 

Lauren Stara  37:49

One of the things that people are thinking about in the wake, or in the midst of the pandemic now is returning to the idea of drive up windows. That's a major building out application. You know, they were big in, I'm gonna say the late 70s, maybe there were some libraries that had them. I mean, the libraries that have drive up windows, they did a booming business over the last year and a half. And a lot of libraries are looking at putting those in now. So that's a planning consideration. And we're going to talk about the library space planning guide in a little bit. And we address a lot of these issues in that guide. And that document can help you with some of these ideas

 

Andrea Bunker  38:37

And thinking about serving your community in a way that you allow for maybe some automation, because you may not be able to be in the building. So those drive up windows, but also when you're thinking about what you need in certain spaces. So for instance, I'm just going to talk about, say a component, which would be looking at one area in your library. So say you're looking at your circulation desk, right? And you want to put in an automated sorting machine. And that sorting machine, if people are depositing materials on the outside of your building, you need to think about having a fire rated room. So that that room if there's a fire and this has happened where people have thrown some sort of material that's on fire into a book drop into a room like this, you need 

 

Lauren Stara  39:31

true incendiary devices have been placed in library book drops. 

 

Andrea Bunker  39:35

Yes. So it happens. So any external backdrop has to have a fire rated room, and that is to protect the rest of the building. So you have that consideration, but you also have the consideration of the adjacency. So you have your auto sort, but you want your circulation staff to be able to access that quite easily and not have to cart all of those materials all over the place, right? You want to make sure that you have enough room for your book carts, so that you can actually take those materials out of the bins, whether it is an automated sort, or just a book drop, you want to be able to make sure you have a place for those materials to go onto and enough room to do that ergonomically, and the storage capacity of that. So when you're thinking about each room, and what you need, thinking about that function, thinking about safety and security, thinking about efficiency of workflow, all of that goes into every single space. And that's why when we say who should write the library building program, the library director, most often, has worked in many areas of the library, but also you're getting input from your staff, and from your trustees, and from your patrons and from your community and from your non-library users, why they may not come to the library and use it. You're getting information from all of those people in order to inform how each of these spaces should function and should work. You know, through that gathering process, you may find from someone who doesn't use the library that they find it too daunting to enter the library at a certain level and have to go so far to get to an elevator or they have to use a ramp in the back of the building that's really long and  arduous. Or you may find that because you don't have enough parking, or you don't have handicap parking adjacent to the library, that some people just can't use the building. So there are different things that come out of that process. But that's why having so many voices, helping you understand each of these components, and what needs to go into every area is really important.

 

Lauren Stara  41:54

I want to just share one more quote at this point. And this is from a book called Planning Library Buildings and Facilities from Concept to Completion by Raymond Holt. "The building program must concentrate on telling the architect what must be done, not how it should be done. The major contribution made by the architect to the project is skill in design. Therefore, the program should deal in concepts, information, and data. No attempt should be made to draw floor plans or use other devices to force a particular solution on the design professionals." So the building program is about what you need, what services you want to provide. It's about what functionality you need. It's not about how you envision the space will look to solve that need, because that's why you hire an architect, it's because they have skill in that.

 

Andrea Bunker  42:57

So I know that we mentioned a lot of different components that go into the library building program, and you as a listener may not have had the chance to write them all down. So we will provide a link in the transcript to that material so that you can see the LibGuide and all of those components that go into the building program. The components of a building program are comprised of information gathered from different sources. Background info can come from strategic plans for the library and the municipality, census data, the town's master plan, statistics reported to the state, etc. And info about the needs and wants regarding spaces and services come from staff input, Trustee input and community engagement, as we've mentioned several times already. So let's start off by hearing from a few directors about the community engagement process for their building program starting with Mark Contois, the former Director of the Framingham Public Library.

 

Mark Contois  43:57

Our building committee worked on it, our staff worked on it, and we had a program consultant.

 

Andrea Bunker  44:03

And what did that process entail?

 

Mark Contois  44:05

Lots of meeting with the community. We took the show on the road and went all around the city and met with different organizations, different groups, attended meetings, and set up shop in the corner and invited people to discuss what they'd like to see in a new branch library.

 

Andrea Bunker  44:24

Do you think that involvement of the community in the process helped with your overall building project success?

 

Mark Contois  44:32

Oh, absolutely. We heard things that we might otherwise have not considered that a young adult room in that branch librar, a significant one, was really, really important to the community. Having more space for young people to do homework. We heard things of that nature. And then again, we also heard what people didn't like so much about the project that was attempted 10 years earlier. So we didn't want to repeat those mistakes. But we needed to hear from people so that we wouldn't repeat those mistakes.

 

Mark Makuc  45:06

I'm Kathleen O'Doherty. I'm the former director of the Woburn Public Library. Initially, the library building program was a result of the planning and design grant that we received back in 1997 or 95. That building program wasn't as valuable as it could have been. There was input from the staff. The program itself wasn't valuable, I think, the building program, so we ended up having to revise it a few years later,

 

Andrea Bunker  45:34

Was that because there was no community involvement at all in the process?

 

Kathleen O'Doherty  45:37

That was part of it. But also because it was dated, just about the time it was finished, because that was a period of time when things were really changing in the library world. And so we eventually decided that we needed to write a new program. And we did hire a consultant to help us with that. It got the whole staff involved, we had community involvement.

 

Andrea Bunker  46:00

So that one was really valuable, because it had all of the input of the staff and the community, and stakeholders.

 

Kathleen O'Doherty  46:09

It became the blueprint for what we ended up doing. And I think it was very good, because the staff heard things about, you know, what they do and what their spaces should be that maybe they've never thought about before, mostly because they never had any space. And I think it was almost impossible for them to understand how it could work.

 

Andrea Bunker  46:27

So we've talked a lot about actively engaging the community. And the reason why we want to do that. And I think we've talked about this or touched upon it a little bit already. But the community has a different perspective. And there are communities within our communities that we may not even be reaching. So in order to really understand the perspective of the patron, because sometimes as library staff, we see things in a different light, you know, until we go to another library and try to check a book out, or get some computer assistance, or attend a program. It may be a completely different experience for us on the patron end than it is as a staff member. So the community has a lot of valuable insight into what they need and what they want. And not only are they providing you with all of this information for what will be your library building program, but also having that community engagement, that starts the conversation. And it helps you with advocacy efforts as you move forward. And it helps you in defending what your library needs to have within it. Because if it's coming from the community, it is not you as a librarian saying "I think we should have this." There's a lot of support, and then there's documentation of the community asking for this. And none of us work in silos, so we know that there are other people who control the money portion of this, and to be able to support it and show "we did our due diligence, we talked to the community, the community has invested in this, the community is telling us this is what we are doing inadequately now, and this is what they want to see in the future to be able to serve their needs well." So it's twofold. It's helping you formulate what you need, and then it's helping you defend what you need.

 

Lauren Stara  48:30

Yeah, there's a lot to unpack under the topic of community engagement. I mean, the first thing is making people aware that you need their input. And there are so many ways to make people aware. And I'm a big proponent of not just preaching to the choir, so you don't just advertise that you're looking for input about the library in the library, because then you just get the same cast of characters every single time. You know, there are lots of ways to get the word out about the fact that you're looking at doing a building project. If there's a local newspaper, offer to write an article. There's a demographic that reads the newspaper. There is a demographic that only gets information from social media, so make sure that you can get on to not just the library, social media, but the town social media. If there are neighborhood groups that have social media accounts, see if you can get people who are members of those groups to put out the word. I mean, there's all kinds of ways. Put a flier up in the local supermarket or the transfer station or wherever it is that people gather in your town and even in the next town. If there's a supermarket in the next town that people go to and there's not one in your town then put the flyer up there because your people go to that supermarket. Getting the word out is the first piece of this, and how you actually engage them is another piece to it. There are both active methods and passive methods for getting input from community members. 

 

Andrea Bunker  50:12

The exercises help the community envision the elements that they may have never encountered before and assist them and thinking beyond what they've already experienced in the library that they currently have. Just like we said that the library director shouldn't write the building program within the building, it's getting the community to see something from the outside looking in and trying to envision what they could have. So I think it is beneficial to talk about some of these exercises, because I know Lauren, you do a lot with design, thinking, and user experience. And all of these are really informative ways for both the library staff and for the patrons in the community to think about the library, because they may not have been asked to think about the physical space in this way before.

 

Lauren Stara  51:04

I think that rather than talking about the various exercises in detail, what I'll do is I'll put the exercises on the lib guide, so there'll be right there for you. https://guides.mblc.state.ma.us/c.php?g=43537&p=276303 We wrote them up recently for our small library pilot project librarians because they're in the throes of writing building programs right now. And so we have them in a nice packaged format for that. But I would say that beyond engaging as much of your community as you can, the other really important thing to do is to get out and see other libraries, especially other libraries that have been recently built or renovated. Talk to the staff in those libraries, ask them the two crucial questions. The first question is "what do you love about your new building?" And the second thing is "what would you have done differently if you were starting over?" And you get so much information that way, and it's practical information. I think it's so important that you not try to write this building program in a single context. And we need to get out and see what other libraries are doing. If it's a pandemic, and travel is difficult, then try to talk with other librarians, look at a lot of pictures. We have a Pinterest board at the MBLC with hundreds of photographs of things that are happening in other libraries. So there are all kinds of things that you can do to expose yourself to trends and ideas for new buildings. 

 

Andrea Bunker  52:43

You know, whenever I vacation anywhere, and I know that vacation seems like a faraway, distant dream right now for many of us. But whenever I vacation, I go to the libraries in that destination. I like to see what people are doing in different areas of the country and internationally. And I've gotten some really great ideas from that and ones that I incorporated into my own building project, because I saw how well used it was and also how much sense it made. And different places think about things a little bit differently. You know, we all have our own regionalization. And not just libraries that are in your area, because we will say look at libraries that are in your population grouping, if you're going for renovation expansion, look at libraries that have been renovated and expanded. But it's nice to get outside of that and looking beyond to see what's happening in other areas, other regions.

 

Lauren Stara  53:40

And going out to visit other libraries, I think is really the best way for both library staff, trustees, stakeholders, and other community members to understand what you're talking about. Most people are not very good at imagining or envisioning space. It's just not a part of our brains that we use all that much. So going and seeing other places,  and it doesn't even have to just be libraries. I mean, there are a lot of user experience principles that libraries can borrow from other institutions, like the Apple store or other public spaces that you've been to that have either do something particularly well or particularly poorly. Take those experiences and incorporate them into what you're thinking about. I always like to say, this is for library staff in particular, but anybody can do this, think about a new library the way you would think about if you're going to remodel your kitchen or build a new house. What do you do? You look at a lot of pictures and you cut things out and make a scrapbook of what your dream house or your dream kitchen would look like. Start doing that, collect pictures from anywhere you can find them, and put them all into one place. And all of those images and ideas can inform your design in the long run.

 

Andrea Bunker  55:12

And one of the exercises that we talk about is exactly doing that and have the community vote on what they like best from those pictures. But, you know, trying to focus on the functionality of that and not necessarily the aesthetics with the pictures. You know, people may say, I like that one, because of the way it looks, but I think it's a little bit more difficult to get them to think about it in terms of the way that it functions.

 

Lauren Stara  55:37

Well, those aesthetic ideas, save those for down the road, when you're doing your interiors selection work, then you can pull all those pretty pictures and I like blue and I don't like yellow or whatever it is, you know.

 

Andrea Bunker  55:52

Exactly. 

 

Lauren Stara  55:53

It's not don't collect them is that those are not relevant to this part of the process, they come into play later on.

 

Andrea Bunker  56:02

And I think we've found, too, that engaging the community, you know, I met with a librarian last night and she told me that the statistics for programming pre-pandemic were about 8,000 attendees during the pandemic. When it was over zoom 15,000. So I think what we found is that the community, especially for this type of activity, or this type of information gathering, online during a pandemic, or during a time when we can't be together, is a really useful way of getting everyone to be engaged. Think about when you have an evening community meeting, and you may have parents who have to do bedtime, or people are commuting home from work, and they need to have dinner or I mean, I think we're getting back to a point where people are commuting home from work, but the zoom platform or online platform, go to webinar or whatever it may be. So any online platform that you use, that can really allow for more community participation, even if you wanted to do it in a hybrid way, which is completely possible too. You know, you can do your focus groups, you can do your community visioning exercises, you can do these things online. It takes a little bit of creativity with some of the exercises, but it's possible. And I think people are thinking about spaces right now, in particular, and thinking about how they want those spaces to be and function when they're around other people, because we've had to be so conscious of that for so long now. And I don't think even when we're out of the pandemic, that that consideration for how to do this community engagement should go away. Because I do think it's an issue of accessibility. And you can allow access into the conversation and inclusivity, right? so you can include a lot more people in the conversation when you allow it to not just be in person.

 

Lauren Stara  58:10

Yeah, I agree. 100%. And I think that the hybrid meeting model is going to persist probably forever. I think that we're finding ways that make it work. I've been in a couple of meetings recently. And I've seen some methods work better than others. And I would say, if you're looking to do a hybrid format for a meeting, just make sure you test your audio visual thoroughly ahead of time. Make sure that the people that are in the room can hear the people on the screen, and vice versa. And sometimes the person who's sitting next to the computer will have to repeat the questions or the comments that people in the room make because the people who are online can't hear what they're saying. So just make sure you are aware of those issues. But I think that it's just way too convenient for people who have trouble, either, I mean, I'm starting to experience the fact that I don't like to drive at night, especially in bad weather, because I'm getting older and my eyes just don't work as well after dark. And there are a lot of people who don't like to drive after dark. There are a lot of people, like Andrea said, the people with small children who literally can't leave their house unless they can bring their kids with them, and after a certain hour the kids are in bed. So it's just there are a lot of advantages to being able to gather input in multiple formats. Let's say you don't want to do a hybrid, that's okay, but do it twice- do it once in person and once online, so you know, you capture both of those audiences. And the other thing is to gather information In a lot of different ways, not just community meetings. There are people who love speaking in public and airing their views. There are other people who are shy and don't want to talk about what they really think in front of a bunch of other people. So make it possible to gather input individually, do either interviews or email, you know, a suggestion box, some kind of either online or in person way to get information from individuals as well as groups. Small groups, focus groups are really, especially guided and facilitated focus groups, are really good to get at particular issues, like having a focus group for young parents, having a focus group for seniors, having a focus group for commuters, if you're in that demographic, targeted focus groups. And then how the passive ways of gathering information like the dot boards, and like the, you know, just have a big bulletin board with "what do you want in a new library?" and a whole bunch of post it notes and markers, and people can just throw ideas at the wall, and you gather all those post it notes every night and compile them. It's really, really valuable.

 

Andrea Bunker  1:01:16

As well as the observation exercises. I think those are really valuable too, and finding out where the pain points are. And all staff can be involved in those observation exercises at various times during the day. Just thinking about the experience from the other side and watching someone go through it is really an interesting, eye-opening experience, I think. And going back to the online platforms, you know how we've talked about, if you're a library director writing the building program, and you don't necessarily have a building consultant working with you, online community forums or focus groups, it may be easier to get another librarian who's been through the process to run those for you, if they don't have to travel as far, right? So you don't have to think about just your immediate area. You can think beyond those borders, and see who would be good in doing this type of work, you know, who could we collaborate with? You know, I feel like the opportunities are endless with that. And even in that process of online, thinking about those breakout rooms, and maybe, you know, you have a trustee in each breakout room or whoever it may be. And then when you think about the ability to record and then view that meeting and have that as documentation for writing the building program but also as documentation to show this really is what people are asking for.

 

Lauren Stara  1:02:49

Just one caveat, though, if you are doing a community meeting or something like that, and if your trustees attend a meeting like that, remember that you have to follow Open Meeting Law when there's a forum of your trustees or any governing body. So that's just one thing to remember. 

 

Andrea Bunker  1:03:09

Absolutely. We have brought up our library space document a few times, and it's a great tool for introducing some of the elements and ideas involved in a library building project to the community, to stakeholders, to municipal officials. Let's talk a little bit more about how that document can be used during this process, with a little bit of background about what it is. And we'll put a link to the library space document in our transcript as well. https://mblc.state.ma.us/programs-and-support/construction/libraryspace.php

 

Lauren Stara  1:03:42

The document is called Library Space: A Planning Resource for Librarians. It's been under development for three to four years. The concept came up earlier than that, but we actively worked on this first with Rosemary Waltos and me and then Rosemary retired and Andrea came on and Andrea began work on it also. We collaborated with an international planning and design firm called Sasaki- SASAKI- for this document, and they not only took our ideas and assembled them in a really beautiful and easy to understand way, but they produce beautiful graphics. So it's presented really nicely and easy to understand. Did you want to say anything else about the planning of the document before I launch into what it actually is? 

 

Andrea Bunker  1:04:40

Well, I think one of the interesting parts about the planning process for the document is that we chose case study libraries, and we visited them, and we picked the best attributes from them to highlight within the space document. So the field trips for the architect was really a huge piece, so, as we talk about the field trips for a library building program to help understand what elements are really important for your community, the same process was followed for Library Space.

 

Lauren Stara  1:05:15

Yeah, and at the beginning, we talked about why we decided to do this, what we say is that "This resource will be useful to all those who have an interest in the space planning of public libraries of any size or location. This resource will empower libraries to improve their services, spaces, and facilities to: kickstart their own planning projects by considering some of the program and space issues and considerations that play in the design of public libraries; identify and articulate needs and make a case for a project to municipalities and other potential funders; and address small scale space challenges on their own without the need for outside assistance from a designer, furniture vendor, or contractor. And that actually brings up something that we've been talking about, but we haven't addressed specifically, and that's that a library building program doesn't have to be for a giant project. You can do a very quick and dirty library building program for a small reconfiguration of a single room, if that's what you're looking to do, or a section of your library. So this process can be scaled up or down as needed. So we started this process, because we found that there just isn't any good standard for library building design. I cannot count for you, the number of times I have been asked the question, "My town has a population of 6,432. How big should my library be?" And I want to make clear to you that there is no metric like that. There is no per capita square footage ballpark figure for a public library. And the reason for that is that libraries are very specific to their communities and the needs of those communities. And that's why you have to go through this exercise of writing a library building program, because you have to know what functions you need, what services you want to accommodate, and what kind of spaces you will need to provide those services in order to come up with a size figure. So in the absence of any good standard, we decided to develop our own set of best practices. And that's what this is. It's a set of best practices. It is not a standard. It's not a formula. But it is a roadmap to developing what your library needs to provide.

 

Andrea Bunker  1:07:48

In the Library Space document, there's also a metric section, and it shows you what exists in libraries in Massachusetts currently, which essentially is what the Wisconsin standards are for Wisconsin, right? So it's showing what exists within libraries in Wisconsin, ours is showing what exists within libraries and Massachusetts. And the thread that runs throughout as population grouping. But then we look at towns of, you know, 10,000, and under what is their overall square footage? What is their number of seats?What is their number of computers? Looking at the range, and then using our case studies to show from our building program, where those libraries fall within that graph and chart, and it kind of gives a guideline for maybe where your community needs to be. But that unique portion, you know, demographics are different in every community. So you may have a community that is aging, does not have as many small families, so do you need a large children's storytime program room? You may not. But in 20 years, if you talk to your planning department, or if you go ahead and do the investigative work through, is it the Donahue Center here in Massachusetts that helps you figure out kind of your population forecasting for the next 20 years? And also looking at census, and Where has your community come from and where is it now, and then thinking about that growth or lack of growth over the next 20 years. So there are different resources that you can use. But when you're looking at this document, you know, you'll see the diversity in terms of the libraries and their sizes. And I think that is the most difficult part of the building program is figuring out your square footage for service areas and spaces, and what goes into that determination. Because you're not working with an architect, at this point. You are figuring that out. There are some resources that you can use to see how many square feet you need for a reading seat, how many square feet you need for a table that fits two people. There are things that exists like that. And then once you add all of your spaces together, you have to add on about 30% for spaces such as hallways and corridors, and those parts of buildings that we need, but that are not part of public, you know, service operations, that 30% of unassigned area are unassigned space. If you're in Massachusetts, you may say, "Okay, I'm going to look at libraries in my population grouping and see what they have." If they have similar demographics, you know, what have they included. But don't let that be the end all be all based on what's here and now because you want to go talk to those libraries. What works, what doesn't work. And then you also want to think about what's happening in our world now, what do you need to consider, and talk to those people who will help you forecast what your community is going to be in 20 years.

 

Lauren Stara  1:11:16

Yeah, so the organization of the booklet is we start out with what we call key considerations, which are things like flexibility; site; do you want to renovate or build a new building; what kind of sustainability features do you want; you know, the acoustic issues; various big topics like that, the things that you need to think about when you're planning a library. And then we move into the components, which are basically the building blocks of a library, things like shelving, things like seating, things like program spaces, things like the Legos that go into making up the building. And then you move into the zones, which are where you start taking those components and putting them together into, say, a children's area, or a meeting room suite, or an adult services area. And then we give you a series of prototypes to give you four different examples of ways that those zones can be put together to create a library. And it's important to remember that these prototypes are not floor plans. They are, what we call in architecture, they're adjacency diagrams, so they take those zones and put them together with the correct adjacencies. In other words, what things need to be next to other things, what things need to be separated from other things. Like you don't want the children's area and the quiet room next to one another. That doesn't make a lot of sense. But you do want the meeting room and the bathrooms to be next to one another. That's a necessity. So from there, we move into the case studies that Andrea mentioned. And we do try to highlight the good parts of the case studies and to give you an insight into what they did well. And we go into the metrics. And then we have information like what we're giving you today: how to do a building program; what's the kind of the elements in the sequence of a construction project; that kind of stuff? And then there are some resources. Is there anything else you wanted to say about that?

 

Andrea Bunker  1:13:31

I think, you know, in our Small Public Library Pilot Project, this was the first document that we handed the municipal officials and the library building project stakeholders to get them thinking about library buildings in a different way, it can be a really useful visual tool, especially if not everybody can join you on field trips. Just seeing you know, the graphs or the adjacency diagrams, or whatever it may be, it can be really helpful in starting those conversations. And it can be utilized in those community meetings. You know, you can put up something and say, "We are a medium sized library, and let's just look at what the span is, in terms of square footage for libraries of our population size," or whatever it may be. So you can use it in different ways to jumpstart the process, to highlight different areas, and to also talk to some of those case study libraries and plan field trips to them. Or, you know, just call them up and say, "what's working, what's not working with your library? What do you wish you had done differently? What should we really consider as we move forward with our own?" And I find that library directors who have been through building projects love to talk about what works and what doesn't work. And even if you weren't part of the building project per se, because oftentimes library directors leave when the building project is completed, whether it's retirement or they've moved on to another position. But the staff that works there currently can definitely tell you those things, what works, what doesn't work. And, you know, we oftentimes will visit libraries that were done 10, 15 years ago, and wanting to see how things have held up, you know, where they would have changed things, what they wish they had now, just so we're always gathering that information. So it's a worthwhile exercise.

 

Lauren Stara  1:15:26

Yeah, I agree. I think the thing that the Library's Space guide does especially well, is it leads you through all the things that you have to think about, because a library design project, there's a lot to it. And if you've never been through it before, there are things that you would never think about. I remember Rosemary used to say, when you look at the first ideas that library staff and directors have about their new library, it always is an exaggeration of what they don't have in their current library. So if you had a really terrible staff space in your existing library, you'll have this palatial staff room in your new library. And it's up to the architect and to us, frankly, to help you right size those things and say it doesn't have to be quite that big, but it has to be bigger than what you have now. But you can always tell what really didn't work in their previous building. When you see a new building.

 

Andrea Bunker  1:16:30

When you say, palatial just so that everyone's aware that your community, you may hear people calling your library building project, whatever that schematic design ends up being, as being palatial. And when you have the library building program document to fall back on, it's really very useful. But Library Space does a great job of showing why these things have to be considered and incorporated. 

 

Lauren Stara  1:16:59

Yeah, I don't think I've ever worked or assisted on a library building project where nobody in the community said, "This is going to be a Taj Mahal!". Every single project Taj Mahal, just expected it. But I think that the Library Space document is a really good tool, but you have to get out and look at other libraries also. You know, when you say, "How do you figure out how big a space should be?" I agree, Andrea, there are tools out there, like the Building Blocks book. https://rowman.com/ISBN/9780810841369/Building-Blocks-for-Planning-Functional-Library-Space   And there are some other architectural reference materials that tell you, okay, if you want this many linear feet of shelving, this is how many square feet we need for that. But it's very abstract in that way. And even I as a trained architect, when I think about a floor plan and figure out how things go together, the experience of that is completely different from going to the space and being in the space once it's done. So if you're trying to figure out "How big does my office need to be?" or "How big does our meeting room need to be?", I highly, highly recommend visiting libraries with meeting rooms of different sizes. So you can get a feel for the amount of space and model you're planning on what those actual spaces are like.

 

Andrea Bunker  1:18:22

And I think it's important to also note, if we're just going to talk about meeting rooms for a second, that oftentimes we find our libraries saying they wish their meeting rooms were bigger. And we also hear them say a lot that they wish that they had more quiet study space, or study space, that is available in their buildings. I think those are the two areas where right sizing means getting a little bit extra.

 

Lauren Stara  1:18:51

But that actually brings up one of my favorite things to say, which is that in the old days, in public libraries, you used to have to find a place to make noise. But now you have to find a place to be quiet. Libraries are active, vibrant, in some cases, very loud places. And yet, there is a significant number of people who want quiet so that they can focus and study, or work, or whatever it is they want to do. So it's really, really essential that you provide a separate space with true acoustic separation, where people can be quiet and get away from all that hubbub of the circulation desk and the children's room and all those places.

 

Andrea Bunker  1:19:38

Yes. When you're working on your library building program, I'm just going to go right into this question because we've talked a little bit about it already. We've mentioned before that the hardest part of it really is finding out your square footages or your service areas and spaces. It's the most daunting task I think because of the fact that it is not what we do day to day in our library jobs. It's just not what we've ever been trained to do. You know, and we can count linear feet of shelving, you know, and you always want to think about your fill rate, if you want it at like 70%, you know, how much shelving do you actually need. There are tools out there to help you figure out your square footages, but Lauren, from your architecture background, do you have any tips and tricks for our listeners to employ as they go through this part of the process,

 

Lauren Stara  1:20:30

I would say, always estimate generously, because if you, you know, plan to the millimeter, the minimum that you need, then you're going to end up with spaces that feel tight. So I would be generous in your estimates for space. Again, you know, prototyping is a really great way to figure out how much space you need. If you're thinking about a room that has 14 chairs and you know, a table and a lectern, or whatever it is, tape off the space in your meeting room that's the size that you think and put those 14 chairs and that lectern and, you know, a cardboard box representing the furniture, and see how it feels, because you may find that those 14 chairs just don't fit in that space that you're thinking about. So I'm a big proponent of full size prototyping for something like this, because you just don't get an accurate idea of things when you're just working on a, you know, tiny little floor plan. It's not the same. 

 

Andrea Bunker  1:21:41

So you could also utilize your outside space for that, too- your parking lot, or your, if you have any land, if you have something that's larger than what the size of your building is currently or allows you to experience indoors.

 

Lauren Stara  1:21:57

The other thing you can do is specifically for those area description pages, that's the place where you can really utilize the expertise of a library building consultant. Or if you have an architect on your trustees or in your community who's willing to lend their expertise, they can help you with those for footage estimates also.

 

Andrea Bunker  1:22:20

So the square footages can be tricky, but they are doable. And also I would say, you know, in a small town, you might have a meeting space that already exists. Does that work? Does it not work? So you can base it off of things that already exist in your community and their functions that are aligned with what, you know, the service might be for the library, and, specifically, probably programming space is the one that translates the best.

 

Lauren Stara  1:22:47

And even things like, you know, the children's area or the staff area. If it's too small now, think about "Okay, if we take this size and add 20% Is that enough? Do we need to add 50%?" Just as Andrea says, take an existing space and use that as your baseline to what you think you're going to need. And then you can confirm that using those reference materials that we talked about saying that, you know, 14 chairs are going to fit or they're not going to fit.

 

Andrea Bunker  1:23:19

And you'll see all the resources listed in the transcript and also in the description of the podcast episode. So you can click on them more, go research them to get a copy. Because Building Blocks, there are digital copies available. You can request it from our collection, if you're in Massachusetts, or you know, I'm sure other libraries have it as well. https://rowman.com/ISBN/9780810841369/Building-Blocks-for-Planning-Functional-Library-Space

 

Lauren Stara  1:23:40

The title is Building Blocks for Planning Functional Library Space.

 

Andrea Bunker  1:23:46

Now that we've discussed how to craft the library building program, let's delve into how it can be useful throughout the duration of your library building project.

 

Pat Basler  1:23:54

It's a process that gives you something on paper to work with. And I didn't really understand it until we went through the preliminary design, and it was during the recession. When CBT showed us how they take the document, which is the building program, and they color code it onto a huge board that shows you the percentage of space in the entire building used for a specific color coded service- so children's service might have been pink and teen might have been yellow- for people who aren't aware of how that all works, it really gave some visual perspective to the whole process. And I think that having that and then having to go back and like determine where you have to make cuts or where you have to change things because of technology advances, it was a concrete document that you can look at and talk about and people could understand. Until you see how you're using every square foot of your space, you really can't understand the construction design process when you are in the thick of it. So I think it was very helpful to everybody who was involved. The other thing I think that was useful is that it gives you a sense as librarians of how architects think, and how the design process goes. And if you don't have that exposure to it, you're just not speaking the same language when you get into the thick of things.

 

Mark Makuc  1:25:23

So my name is Mark Makuc. I'm the library director in Monterey, Massachusetts. If we hadn't done that building program, I think it could have gotten away from us very quickly. It wasn't just at the beginning of the project. Throughout the project, whenever we came to, there were certain points in it, where we would just be throwing up our hands and going, what are we going to do? And, you know, this seems, you know, like, it's such an issue, I would tell my trustees, let's go back and read the building program, because that's what we're trying to accomplish. It doesn't matter what color or what kind of chair we're talking about. What are we trying to do? We're trying to provide this many seats for this many people so that they can come in and do their library business. And so I know they got sick of it. But it was multiple times that I said, let's go back, read the building program. This is where we were, this is where we need to be. And along the way, there sure were bumps in the road. But when I look back at the building program, now, I think we accomplished what we set out to accomplish.

 

Andrea Bunker  1:26:33

We really want to emphasize how this is a living document, not in that it will continue to be changed, but that it will continue to be useful to you over the course of your building project throughout all phases, whether it be design development, construction documents, and actual construction. I found in my building project that I could continuously go back to the building program, double check any changes that were made through what is our least favorite term, which is Value Engineering- when they tried to find ways to cut back the project, in order to save money is essentially what Value Engineering is- or propose alternates or alternatives that will save money overall. The building program, again, going back to what the community stated what they need, what they want, it's a very powerful tool. And it can really help safeguard a lot of the elements that you need in your library. Because, unfortunately, sometimes the powers that be don't always see the importance of certain aspects to your building.

 

Lauren Stara  1:27:53

Yeah, I think that a library building program is kind of analogous in my mind to a strategic plan in that if you do a strategic plan, and then put it on the shelf and never look at it again, what is the point of doing all that work? For me, when I was a library director, my strategic plan was a guiding document that I used on a daily basis to help me make decisions about how the library should work. And the library building program is similar in that it is your Northstar. It's your guiding document throughout the process, and your architect needs to understand that and to understand that you're going to continue to refer to that document to make sure that the design that gets produced fulfills the promise of the building program. And you know, as Andrea said, Value Engineering that happens throughout a building project, because inevitably, it costs more than they think it should. And our primary goal is to make sure that you come out of this process at the other end with a building that works. And if you have no storage space, because they took it all away from mechanicals, that does not work. So if you have a roof that's built of cheap material so that it leaks a year later, that doesn't work. So we want to make sure that you come out of the process with a building that works. And that's why we say the building program persists throughout.

 

Andrea Bunker  1:29:29

And you can also put those standards into the building program. Say your roofing materials, what you're really looking for, or should not be less than this material or quality of material. So when you're thinking about creating your building program, think about how it can be used in those design and construction phases because this is your opportunity to build in safeguards for you to get a building that is a quality building and resilient building.

 

Lauren Stara  1:30:06

I just want to piggyback on what you just said about building materials. And I would say it's good to put in standards. But don't get too specific. Like saying we want to use this particular wall assembly or this particular material, because that's your architect's job. You want to talk about the performance requirements, not specifically what's going to be used.

 

Andrea Bunker  1:30:30

Right. And then that can also bring up procurement issues, too, if you bring up what specific materials you want to use. But you can say, you know, you want your ability to be this, there are ways to try to safeguard Yes, easily cleaned, celaning and access to...

 

Lauren Stara  1:30:48

Oh, can we just talk for a second about grout colors?

 

Andrea Bunker  1:30:52

Yes, because this is my new mission in life to make sure that no public restrooms have white grout on the floor. That is my mission. White or light grout. I'm sorry, I don't understand why it's done over and over again, because it's an cleaning nightmare. And there are dark grouts available that totally conceal that. But the amount of times that you go into a bathroom and you're like oh, this is dark grout and then you look at the little you know, the part that goes up the wall and it turns into lighter as it goes up the wall and then you realize that's not dark grout that's just dirty. So gross. So gross. Did you want to say anything else about grout, Lauren? Or did I cover it in that little diatribe?

 

Lauren Stara  1:31:35

You covered it perfectly. 

 

Andrea Bunker  1:31:36

Just in the library I went into yesterday, it was evident. So this is what I want to end with with our building program episode. And this comes from the Practical Handbook of Library Architecture: Creating Spaces that Work by Fred Schlipf and John A. Moorman. It was published by ALA in 2018. This is something that Patience also brought to our attention, but we love this particular book. If you haven't seen it, it goes through the nitty gritty of everything. I think the only chapter that has not kept pace is the one on lighting because LEDs are everywhere now. So you know, there are some things that you have to take with a grain of salt when it comes to technology and what's available. But this is a great quote that will really frame why your library building program is such an important document. "The problem with library buildings is that bad decisions can last a century. Poorly selected books can be dumped into the next book sale, and uncomfortable furniture wears out or can be transferred to the library staff lunch room, but buildings last for generations. If we get only one chance to do it right, we need to make sure that we really do get it right the very first time we do it, but often we get it wrong. Thank you for tuning in. Join us next time as we explore another important topic for library building projects. Until then, be well!