How to Redesign Libraries for Covid and Beyond

Masthead CLC

Richard Munday and Michelle Newman joined Michael Tribe and Jamie Lynn Slenker for a panel discussion on library design as part of at Connecticut Library Consortium's Online Expo. They shared tips and tricks on how to use furniture, color, and space planning to maintain flexible, socially distanced spaces. A few staples of a covid-friendly space include mobile furniture, easily cleanable fabrics, outdoor furniture to expand seating with limited indoor capacity, and colored carpet tiles to establish social distancing and zones.

Using color on the walls or in flooring identifies different sections. Use lines or identifying markers on the floor to identify passageways to these new sections. Using carpet tiling is a cheap and flexible option for flooring, as you can replace just a few tiles with different colored carpet to create new zones or identify social distanced seating. Paired with applied signage, these changes will create easily navigable spaces where users feel safe and distanced.

A tip that requires no extra money is to switch you cleaning schedule to times when people are using the library. Normally done after hours, cleaning protocols are now being enacted during the day so that users can see areas are being properly disinfected. Witnessing disinfecting of public spaces helps library-goers feel safe about venturing to the library during covid. Also, give people a time limit on how long they can maintain in certain areas, which limits the spread of covid.

Mobile furniture can make a huge difference in the ability to easily transition spaces to meet social distancing requirements and ever-changing protocols. Library staff can adjust furniture positioning to create a space plan that meets current requirements. Additionally, during covid times or not, flexible furniture gives users the opportunity to personalize their surroundings to adapt to multiple functions and activities. Make sure to purchase furniture that is easily cleaned with alcohol-based solutions and will not be damaged by harsh cleaning products.

One of the easiest and safest ways to increase capacity in a time where indoor capacity is limited is to invest in outdoor furniture. Outdoor seating is not only enjoyable for users, but can significantly eliminate the spread of the virus.

Lastly, libraries are beginning to utilize self-service and hands free technology. What was beginning to trend before covid is now becoming common practice. Technology you may want to consider in your library are self-checkout machines, sanitizing stations, material handling systems, motion sensing automatic doors, hands free elevators and motion sensing doors, and automatic bathroom fixtures.