How to Choose the Right Shelving for Your Library

Your ultimate goal in library design is to create a beneficial and inviting experience for visitors. Every detail matters, all the way down to the shelving you choose. It’s a constant balancing act between aesthetics and function, between maximizing the space and making it easy for users to find what they’re looking for. Let’s look at some key factors to consider when choosing shelving for your library.

Available Space

Obviously, one of the most important considerations you face is the amount of available space your library has (and most libraries always feel there’s not enough of it!). You naturally want to make use of every nook and cranny, but people also need to be able to walk around comfortably and have enough room to browse, sit, and study. In small spaces, for example, you might be tempted to install high shelves to cram in as many materials as possible. But this might not be the best solution because tall shelves in tight spaces can appear intimidating for users, not to mention make it more difficult to see the titles they’re looking for.

If you’re tight on floor space, consider installing row shelving that extends just a little higher than the sight line, but not by much, so users can see the books easily without feeling swallowed up by them. Wall-mounted shelves can also be a great option because they create more open space and make it easier to reach items that are stored up high. (You can also extend the height of these shelves more easily without making people feel claustrophobic.) End caps with front-facing books can add more storage while showcasing titles you want to feature. And of course, if you have an abundance of space, your shelving can go a bit higher because you can space the shelves out and users won’t feel so enclosed.

Design and Decor

Your shelving should also complement the overall design and decor of your library. If you have a modern space with clean lines, for example, then traditional wood shelving might look out of place. In this case, shelves made from steel might be a better fit. If, on the other hand, you want to add some warmth to a sterile environment, then wooden shelves can do the trick.

Think, too, about the color of your shelving. If you want to make a bold statement, then go for a bright pop of color. But if you want your shelving to blend in and not be a focal point, then choosing a neutral hue is probably best.

Flexibility and Functionality

Your shelving should also be both flexible and functional, which means taking into account how you want to use the space and what kinds of materials you’ll be storing. For example, if you plan to use the shelves for book displays or to show off special collections, then you’ll want shelving that’s easy to adjust. Likewise, if you’re dealing with limited space that you want to reconfigure for various events and functions, then shelving on casters can make things much easier to move around.

If you’re storing a lot of heavy materials, such as reference books, then you’ll want to make sure your shelving is sturdy enough to handle the weight. And if you’re dealing with delicate items, such as rare books or manuscripts, then you might want to invest in custom shelving that’s specifically designed for this type of storage.

User Experience

While the previous considerations are primarily about logistics and function, the counterbalance to these considerations is the question: How does the shelving affect user experience? After all, people come to libraries to find materials, so the shelving needs to be both practical and user-friendly–both functional and inviting. 

One of the most important things to consider is how easy it is for users to find what they’re looking for. If your shelves are crammed full of materials and there’s no clear organization, then it can be very difficult for people to locate the items they need, and you’re courting frustration. On the other hand, when your shelving strikes a balance between storage and visibility, then users can browse easily and comfortably and are more likely to find something they like. Additionally, whenever possible, you want to choose shelves that not only fit your library decor but are themselves aesthetically pleasing. When choosing, designing, and configuring your shelves, always ask yourself the question: “If I were coming here to study or find books, would want to stay here a while?”

At Creative Library Concepts, we offer a full range of shelving options to ensure that you can find and install the perfect shelves for your library’s needs. To learn more, reach out to us today.

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