Features and considerations

While the functional areas of many public libraries are similar, no two libraries are the same.

They are influenced by their social, economic and physical context, by climate, demographics and local culture, as well as changes in library services and digital technology. A range of key design issues have been identified which should be discussed and analysed during the building design process, expanding the building brief to ensure that these issues are adequately addressed before the building is complete. The building planning team will bring their expertise to the process but the library team may want to undertake further research in areas of interest to inform the planning process.

In this section

Accessibility and approach

A library must be open and accessible to the whole community. This means designing a building that promotes equity for people who are young and old, people with prams and people with disabilities.


Libraries are vibrant community gathering spaces, with an expanding range of uses. The design for acoustic quality needs to set the appropriate balance of activities and building zones that are acoustically connected but separate.

Asset management

A library building is a significant asset for council. Actively managing a building asset is essential for the efficient and sustainable operation of an organisation.

Collection layout

Many libraries are adopting techniques used by bookshops and other retailers to provide user-friendly collections and engaging browsing environments.

Flexible and multifunctional buildings

Layout and service requirements change so rapidly that flexibility must be designed and built into a new library building.

Furniture and fittings

Furniture selection is instrumental in creating an appropriate library environment. Furniture and fittings should be attractive, durable and comfortable, and should be selected with the characteristics of the library architecture and customers in mind.

Identity and brand

Libraries are a focal point for the community, a place where groups and individuals meet, discuss, listen and learn. It is important that the community can relate to the library space and feel welcome.


The lighting design in a library has a huge impact on the functionality of the space as well as the ambience. Lighting design is as much about the quality of light (and dark) as it is about the appropriate level of light.

Order and orientation

Clear relationships between spaces within the library and its exterior promotes a pleasant and practical experience.

Personal security

An appropriate level of security is required in all public libraries to ensure the safety of staff, users, the building and the collection.


Library signage needs to be included in the planning process.


Environmentally sustainable design (ESD) is about creating efficient buildings with a low environmental impact.


Information technology has a major impact on the shape and form of public libraries and in the ways we use them. The way technology is integrated into the building should be developed as part of a Technology Plan.