Features and considerations: Technology

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. This will outline the types of services to be provided and will influence the level of technology usage in the completed building.

Integrating technology in public libraries

The debate on whether further technological advances will increase or decrease space requirements in public libraries will continue over the years, but it is evident already that the demand for access and training on computer, Internet and audiovisual facilities is creating a service requirement within libraries. Furthermore, the operations and mode of library services and use has changed significantly tending towards a collaborative and creative philosophy of learning.

Online information services are at the core of a library’s information and reference services and to cater adequately for future demand, a library needs appropriate space. The rapid changes and developments we have seen in the information technology industry will, no doubt, continue and the design of public libraries will need to be flexible and adaptable enough to accommodate the changes and to respond to the service demands. 

Technology considerations to inform design

The rate of technological change means that more people will require access to up-to-date technology. It cannot be assumed everyone will have the equipment at home or that they will be in a position to afford it, or have the time/expertise to locate and package the information in a meaningful way.

Libraries are increasingly playing a pivotal role in navigating digital information and training the community. Libraries provide rooms suitable for IT training, as well as IT enabled collaborative spaces and digital media suites.

Digital information is unlikely to replace hard copy entirely and in the foreseeable future there will be dual systems, possibly requiring more, not less space.

As the Internet continues to provide people with easy access to international information, the technology base in the library can provide (and create) valuable localised information specifically focused on the community, local arts and culture and local heritage.

The focus on digitising and working with the community to archive and create local content requires space. Libraries may provide equipment to allow this content to be recorded and stored. Cameras, video cameras, sound recording equipment, scanners, copiers, digital media software and audiovisual facilities will require storage and access space.  Information that is accessed digitally may at times need to be reproduced in hard copy format. Equipment and space will be required.

More and more people are working from home and working in smaller business environments. Libraries can provide space for personal interaction, meetings and seminars as well as assisting with technology.

Smart technology can also create smart buildings. It can inform and educate users on how they dwell in buildings and their environmental footprint. ‘Informatics’, the study of the intersection of place, people and technology, can inform the community about their behaviour and its impact in real time.

Technology changes since the COVID-19 pandemic

The 2020 COVID-19 pandemic forced libraries to rethink the delivery of services and the use of library spaces. This informs library technology planning.

Online programs

When access to library buildings was restricted during the pandemic many library activities were transferred online. This also happened for workplaces, education and social activities. As a result, many people became more comfortable in the online environment. Libraries reported large increases in the number of attendees at online events compared with those previously held within the library space. Online platforms allow for those who have issues with location, transport or mobility to easily access library programs and may have introduced new attendees at library programs. Hybrid services, combining online and onsite access to programs and events gives libraries the opportunity to engage more broadly with the community.

Technology and meeting rooms

Meeting rooms equipped with video conferencing equipment should be available in public libraries. This technology is potentially needed in every room within the library space. Libraries providing access to larger screens for online meetings and education may be appealing to customers. Some libraries have video studios with green screen, sound proofing and video production facilities for those who need to prepare high quality videos for presentations, job applications and study.


Self-check kiosks and RFID return chutes or shelves allow customers to borrow and return library material without interacting with library staff. In times such as the COVID-19 pandemic this equipment requires regular cleaning. Touchless self-check through customers’ own mobile phones removes the need for interaction with library equipment. It also means customers can borrow library material anywhere within the library, without waiting in line, enabling social distancing.

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