New York Library Association. - The eBulletin

Facility Planning: A Dream Becoming a Reality

      Robert Hubsher

By Karen Watson & Robert Hubsher


"The greatest thing a human soul ever does in this world is to see something, and tell what it saw in a plain way." - Ruskin, 1856.

Start with a Vision, end with a Building.  In-between the idea and the finished project lay the difficult and necessary processes that lead to a library that is a vibrant locus of community activity; one that meets your community's needs and that you are proud to call 'your library'.

Do you need to build a new library building?

                     Karen Watson

This series of articles focuses on how you, as the 'librarian-in-charge', can successfully make the case for your building project.   We believe that the most successful library buildings are the result of a librarian maintaining a leadership role and working in close partnership with a design professional (architect) throughout the building project. 

Architects are highly skilled at listening to clients' requirements and helping to fulfill them.  They develop your vision into buildings that support your facility's strategic purpose.  Librarians are best suited to describe the functional requirements of the library building that will meet their community’s needs.

Each profession has its own language and way of looking at the world and our place in it.  Understanding the language of the design process will help you to communicate clearly with the architect.  The intent of this series is to help educate librarians about the architectural design process and provide you with an understanding of the groundwork required to support the successful outcome of your a new library building.   

Your involvement in the detailed data gathering and the planning of your library will help you to better understand the functional requirements of your building and support your interaction with the architect.   More importantly this process will provide you the information you require to convince your community that a new or expanded library facility is necessary.

Gathering and analyzing data, determining your building needs and identifying the best course of action will help you to assume the leadership of the project.  This work will assist you as you select the appropriate architect and provide her/him the preliminary data they require to understand your community’s needs and the library building's specific requirements.  

Do not presume anything; to do so will limit your possibilities.  Whether or not a building project is necessary, the outcome will be the result of a decision-making process based on the analysis of the data gathered within the context of the library's strategic plan. The resultant decision may include reconfiguration of the existing space; a combination of reconfiguration and an addition to the existing space; or a new building.  It is essential that you understand and convey to others that the outcome, whatever it may be, is focused on meeting your particular library's future (strategic) needs.


The process begins years before the library building project starts.  You have access to all the tools to form the idea, shape it into a real possibility, talk intelligently about it and deliver a well designed, truly usable library.

The work involved in making a case for a library building project, which will withstand public scrutiny and professional review, is detailed and extensive. There is no easy way to plan a renovation or construction project.  If you skip steps, take shortcuts and ignore details, the project will not be a success.

Next installment: We address the strategic plan and its essential place in your library project's success.

PLAN22 Archibrarians are librarian-coaches; confidence re-enforcers; sustainable design professionals and intellectual freedom advocates.

Karen Watson, an architect with 32 years experience in all aspects of the field of architecture, from hands on construction, specification writing, design and design documents, site inspection project management and site safety instruction in residential, institutional and commercial buildings.  Most recently library design and architectural programming has been a fulfilling focus.

Robert Hubsher has been a public librarian since 1985.  He is currently Executive Director of the Ramapo Catskills Library System, in Middletown, New York, serving 47 member libraries.  Speaking up about libraries, working for libraries, championing intellectual freedom, the freedom to read and the necessity of having an educated citizenry is Robert’s strength and passion.  He is an active member of the New York Public Library Association and Chair of the Freedom of Information Committee.


Together they authored "Making the Case for Your Library Building Project - Library Development Guide #5, written for the Southern Ontario Library Service (SOLS), March 2010; SOLS Publications Order Form

PLAN22 also authored and conducts on line training with SOLS Advancing Public Library Leadership (APLL) Institute's two year program in Term 4: Building a New Library: Taking the Lead:  providing an overview of a library building project, including the establishment of a building committee, the work of developing a library building program, hiring and working with an architect, working with contractors, and the roles and responsibilities of everyone involved.
Library Development - APLL - Online courses


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