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Features and considerations

Key design factors for public libraries

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. Thus, the design for acoustic quality needs to set the appropriate balance of activities and building zones that are acoustically connected but separate.

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

A library should be expressive of its community. It must relate to the people it serves in an inviting, non-institutional and welcoming way.


Lighting design is as much about the quality of light (and dark) as it is about the appropriate level of light. The lighting design in a library has a huge impact not only on the functionality of the space but also on the ambience in the library.


Signage is important in libraries, especially larger ones because many people will not be used to extensive library layouts and may be confused by the wide range of books and other materials on the library shelves.


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.

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 bookstores and other retailers – providing user friendly collections and engaging browsing environments, including using the right shelving arrangement and/or displays.

Flexible and multifunctional buildings

It is not possible to predict all future needs but an approach to the design that allows flexibility and adaptability will allow for easier modifications to the function of the library space.

Order and orientation

A simply laid out library where the relationship and access between spaces is clear and logical will be easier to use resulting in a better experience for both clients and staff.

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.


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