The design of a space can have a large influence on the way people interact in and on the functionality of the space. For libraries this is especially true since the functionality of the building design can affect what services can be offered and how those services are used. For example, a library that offers a meeting room space provides a place for various patron groups to meet and it offers a space for the library to provide special programming. Without the meeting room space the library could not offer a place for group meetings or offer programs that cannot occur in the normal library space such as a film series. Patron and librarian interaction can also be affected by the design of a space. If a reference desk looks foreboding a patron may be less apt to approach the desk. If the reference desk is not centrally located the patron may have difficulty finding the desk and may give up on continuing their information query. For this assignment I will be evaluating the functionality of the Bothell Public Library’s design, including the building in general and interior layout. I will also discuss how the design elements may affect patrons and the services provided by the library.
Let me start with a little background information on the library. The Bothell Public Library is a medium sized branch library within the King County Library District. The Bothell Library holds about 254,000 items making it larger than the Sammamish branch but considerably smaller than the main Bellevue branch. Upon entering the library patrons are immediately welcomed by the self check-out stands and circulation to the right, shelves of staff picks and books of interest to the left and the information desk occupied by two staff members in front. The Bothell library utilizes an online catalog that was recently changed during a remodel to a new system by Evergreen, an open source catalog software developer. All 254,000 items within the library including videos, cds, audio books and magazines are contained within the online catalog.
The Bothell Library appears to be a very functional library. On the day I went in to examine the library it happened to be a rare sunny Seattle afternoon, yet the library was bustling. The computer area was full and people instantly approached the easily spotted and centrally located reference desk. After reading Schlipf’s article on the potentially disastrous elements of library building design, it appears that Bothell did not go to the “dark side” since it avoided most of those elements. Bothell is a one story building so there are no fancy staircases, no skylights, and only one main entrance. Although it does not contain any skylights, the roof of library is slanted at an angle which allows for the north facing side to have a large window area that provides a ton of light. This sort of design while similar in function to a skylight does not cause the same problems such as the noise of falling rain and unwanted glare. The windows are not only large enough to provide large amounts of natural light they also give the library a more open feeling. Patrons like their space and the slanted roof creates a sense of space and comfort. The more comfortable a patron is in a space the more likely they are to return.
The layout of the library makes it an easily navigated space. As you walk into the library it is easy to see where all items and services are located. Immediately in front you will find the reference area. Directly behind the reference desk is the computer area. The layout of this area is very functional as it places probably the two most utilized services, reference assistance and internet access, in direct view of patrons as they first walk in. The children’s area is to the left as you enter and is designed in a way that makes it more of a separated space. I like this design because it makes it easier to provide programs such as story time in an area designed for children. Many thankful parents may also appreciate the corralling aspect of the area since it makes it somewhat difficult for “little Billy” to wander off. Other items or services provided by the Bothell Library include community classes, a large meeting space, private study areas and access to online resources through its website.
According to the Niegaard article, “A library has to be tailored to the people who use it,” and I believe the Bothell library has done a good job of tailoring itself for the community it serves. At the Bothell Library suggestions for change are welcomed and patrons are provided outlets for providing feedback. The Bothell branch was recently remodeled structurally and its online catalog revamped, evidence that the library is willing to offer its users a better and continually improving library. Bothell Library also provides what Schlipf describes as the simple design rules of a library; good lighting, comfort, security and safety, and flexibility.
Niegaard, H.(2011). Library Space and Digital Challenges. Library Trends 60(1), 174-189. The Johns Hopkins University Press. Retrieved May 10, 2012, from Project MUSE database.
Schlipf, F.(2011). The Dark Side of Library Architecture: The Persistence of Dysfunctional Designs. Library Trends 60(1), 227-255. The Johns Hopkins University Press. Retrieved May 10, 2012, from Project MUSE database.