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Breaking the Rules - Library Building Codes Most Commonly Broken

OKAY! It's time to get serious. In fact, I'm guessing to some of you, this may even be painfully boring. But sometimes boring is a must. That having been said, since I'm in good company with brilliant knowledge seekers such as yourselves, I imagine some of this information might be intriguing to you at the very least. I'm talking BUILDING CODES!! New buildings, if designed by a professional, are going to meet the

necessary building code requirements. BUT! If you're in an older building, that may not always be the case. No need to panic though. These buildings have been what we refer to as "grandfathered in" meaning that unless you begin to make significant changes to your building, you most often don't have to make any costly changes to your Library. However, if you're considering a fresh start involving any new construction or you're just curious to know more, then read on and see what rules you may be breaking in your own Library.


Accessibility codes are broken ALLLLL the time! Being a Commercial Interior Designer, I am so often amazed at how frequently I see violations of this nature. I'm going to give you a few here, but know that in the near future, I plan to write a complete blog post as well as cover at least a week's worth of social media content on the Americans with Disabilities Act to educate my readers further on creating high-functioning spaces for your Disabled patrons. And if you're not already following me on INSTAGRAM or FACEBOOK, join me now so you don't miss any current posts.

So let's start with some of the more prominent ADA issues. Check your service counters, circulation desks, work surfaces and sinks and make sure they meet the following Accessibility requirements:

1) Accessibility surfaces MUST NOT exceed 34" A.F.F. (above finished floor), and must have a 27" high clear knee space.

2) Exposed hot water pipes MUST be insulated to prevent burns to Patrons in wheelchairs

3) Service counters over 8'-0" in length MUST have an accessible height service counter space at a minimum of 36" in length

4) The reflective surface edge of your restroom mirrors should be at 40" A.F.F.


The path to your Exits as well as the actual Exit itself is known in the design world as Egress. Well I'm sure it's known that way in lots of worlds, but in my wild little world it's all I know, so I like to think of it as a design term. Let me have this. The following Egress codes that are questionable in most grandfathered buildings get in trouble with their clearances and access. Like these:

1) Common path of egress should not exceed 100'-0". In other words, it's gotta be easy to get out quickly should the need arise.

2) You need 2 exit doors whenever your occupancy load exceeds 49 people. I personally think you need 2 or more exit doors anyway, not to mention I imagine there aren't too many libraries that only allow an occupancy of 49 or less. Not saying there aren't any, just not many.

3) Objects protruding in the corridor must not ever reduce the minimum clearance width of an accessible route. What is that magic number you're asking yourself right about now?? Well since you're reeling with curiosity, follow me on into the next segment where we talk about Corridors!


Corridors are a popular topic of discussion in Libraries. Mostly because we need to know just how far out we can maximize our stacks before breaking into the walking spaces. If in doubt, find your answers here:

1) Your magic number for a corridor is 44" MINIMUM. I stress MINIMUM because it should be just that. Your absolute smallest number. Code requires it, but we almost ALWAYS shoot for more space. Like 48" as your starting minimum and work up to 6'-0" or more where space allows it.

2) Dead end corridors (meaning there's nowhere else to go) cannot exceed 20'-0". Otherwise you need a way out.

3) Doors that extrude into corridors MUST NOT exceed 7" into that corridor when opened. And these are just to name a very few.


Here are a few fire safety codes that are often broken or neglected. Be mindful of these as your local Fire Marshal (whom I'm guessing you're all on a first-named-basis with by now) will be all to happy to educate you on them as well.

1) You MUST have 1 fire extinguisher for every 3,000 square feet of space in your Library.

2) Those fire extinguishers must not be any further than 75'-0" from the furthest occupant at all times.

3) And my favorite (because NO ONE doesn't break this rule) . . . You CANNOT block fire exits. Even if they are tucked away in a room where all of your old furniture or program supplies are currently being stored. Insert smiley face.


I know these rules just barely skim the surface, but I promise to create more information on these individually as I continue on. There's no excuse for not knowing the basics on Library building codes when you have access to the knowledge first hand - or via my hand. But in the meantime, these should give you more than enough to start thinking about. Heck, schedule a quick Library tour for you and your favorite staff members to see how many if any (I'm sure your Library is pristine of course) you might be in violation of. Who knows?! You might even enjoy yourselves!!

Looking for ways to improve your Library on little to NO Budget?! Follow me here to learn my TOP 10 WAYS TO IMPROVE YOUR LIBRARY ON LITTLE TO NO BUDGET


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