My A's to Your Q's - What I Hear Most
I get lots of great questions about Library design from clients and even non-clients who are just curious about making their space more current and functional - and usually on a budget. This week I thought it might be helpful to run through a quick list of some of my most commonly asked questions and give you my best answers to them. I hope these will not only give you some answers you may have questions about, but also generate new questions that you can ask me. I would LOVE to answer any question I can, so if you're interested, click on the DIY Library Design Facebook group box below and join me to learn more. No question is too small or simple or even detailed and difficult! Use me as a resource any time you find yourself in need of an answer. In the meantime, check out a few that some of your colleagues are asking.
WHAT ARE THE MOST POPULAR SPACES IN LIBRARIES RIGHT NOW?
I'm getting a lot of requests for children's spaces, teen spaces and outdoor spaces. With all the unique and creative ways Librarians are having to rework their Libraries and programs in light of our current circumstances, questions about how to make the most of these spaces is a common theme. Children and teen areas remain popular for obvious reasons - kids love books and fun programs, while parents love the vast resources to encourage their littles to read. As for outdoor spaces, people seem to feel most comfortable outside of buildings right now, so it's not unexpected that Libraries want to spruce up their outdoor spaces to give patrons more elbow room and peace of mind.
HOW DO I IMPROVE MY CHILDREN'S AREA WHEN I CAN'T INCREASE MY BUILDING FOOTPRINT?
This one is all about getting the best use of your current space. Make sure you have individual locations for multiple tasks. For example, have an area designated to just computer and device use, another for cozy reading time, another for arts and crafts activities and then of course your stacks. If you don't have a ton of space for these, keep it simple and just designate one piece of furniture for each. You can have one good craft table with a few chairs and a couple of computer tables. They don't have to be huge, just separate. You can also add an accent wall of a fresh coat of paint in an intentional location to add life to your space. My favorite area is right behind the reference/info desk if you have one in your children's area. If not, choose a wall that is visible to patrons as they enter so they know without a doubt that this area belongs to children.
If these Q&A's are starting to get your creative juices flowing and you're interested to learn my Top 10 Ways to Improve Your Library on Little to NO Budget, get that free download here and learn ways to make changes on the cheap!
WHAT FURNIUTRE IS POPULAR FOR TEENS RIGHT NOW?
Oh the fun I'm having with teen space design these days! We used to be so limited to table and chair groupings and maybe a booth or two. But now there are smart tables, individual systems carrels, improved booth design with power options, one-and-a-half-spot chairs with tablet arms and so much more. I wrote a blog post on this a few weeks back that covers this in far more detail called Tricks of the Trade - Reinvent Your Youth Spaces. There are links to some of these pieces as well if this is the question on your mind.
WHAT ARE YOUR CURRENT FAVORITE COLOR COMBINATIONS FOR LIBRARIES?
Neutrals are always best for the base of your color palette. I often go with a warm gray to build on so that it can be warmed up or cooled down depending on your accent colors. One of my all time favorites is Greyhound by PPG because it is so versatile and will NOT look blue or purple under any light changes. I actually brown this up with taupe and chocolate tones and it looks amazing! But you can use accent colors like soft greens and yellows as well as pale blues. And if you're totally over gray, try Tony Taupe and Moth Wing by Sherwin Williams. I would combine this with a rich Blue Spruce by Benjamin Moore and a spicy tone like Copper Mountain by Sherwin Williams. And make sure you don't overdo it with the bold primary colors in your youth areas. Too much can overwhelm them. Add bold colors in pops and small doses. Or choose bold colors but in muted tones to soften up your Library. That's my favorite design tip where color is concerned.
WHAT ARE SOME POPULAR USES FOR OUTDOOR SPACES?
Outdoor maker spaces are really popular these days. You can use them to plan garden areas and combine that with a special program for your youth so they can feel like they're apart of their local Library improvements. You can also use them for crafts you would otherwise prefer to NOT do indoors. Another good idea is using them to talk to patrons about wild life, bugs, beehives, etc. I've got a blog post on this topic too if you're curious and want more information. You can find that here Take It Outside! - Benefits of Outdoor Library Spaces.
HOW CAN I PURCHASE QUALITY FURNITURE FOR LESS?
If you don't have a favorite Interior Designer, then find one or find a furniture dealer that you trust. Please please PLEASE don't buy cheap office furniture from someone just because they tell you they can get you a good deal. In fact, if you don't have someone you trust, email me or reach out to me in my DIY Library Design group (delightful green box in the above text) and I'll get you connected to someone worth your time and money. Library furniture takes a real beating. And that local guy that can cut you a great deal? That's furniture that will get widdled down to bare bones in the specifications and will fall apart on you in a couple of years at best.
But don't let this intimidate you! There are SO many furniture lines out there that are less expensive but still give you good quality. You just need a connected designer or furniture dealer that has the knowledge, experience and humility to be up front and honest with you about what you're getting and what you can afford. They will work with your budget and guide you to exactly what you're looking for. My go-to's in Atlanta are Office Creations and Impact Office Interiors. They both have such great integrity, they're easy to work with, and their install teams are amazing. Another way to keep costs down is to purchase on state contract if you have the option to do so. Bidding wars can bring prices down, but the substitutions can be tricky so keep an eye out and make sure you're actually comparing apples to apples. I could write an entire blog on this apparently. I think I just might do so in the future! In the meantime, please don't hesitate to ask any questions you may have. I'm here to help!
HOW MUCH DOES IT COST TO HIRE A PROFESSIONAL DESIGNER?
This is my favorite question. How much does it cost?? The problem of course is that there is no one single answer. On average, you can get anything from $1.50 per square foot to $2.00 per square foot and higher. And these numbers will vary based on the size of the firm you use and the city you're working in. What I tell people is that if it's in the budget, to make sure they are getting someone qualified to work in Library design and always hire someone you feel compatible with. The reason for that is because you are going to be spending bookoodles of time with this person/people and there will be highs and lows throughout the project. Many of them. So make sure this is a company you really feel good about working with. It will make all the difference in the world.
CAN I DO IT MYSLEF?
The short answer? OF COURSE YOU CAN!! You just have to have the right direction from the right program. I'm getting ready to release an online design program for Library superheroes in the coming weeks that will take you step-by-step through my proven process of designing a Library. It will include all of the downloads you need to work through this course at your own pace. Some of the downloads include my personal library of color boards to choose from, spreadsheets with exact finish materials for your contractor or architect, furniture spreadsheets with all of the selected finishes to match your color board and so much more. With these video courses, you will be able to follow along and apply all of my years of knowledge, techniques and experience to your own Library to create a space you will certainly be pleased with! For more information on this, read last week's blog topic The Courage to Design and get signed up to find out more about the free webinar I will be releasing soon. I hope you'll take a chance and launch out. You'll be so proud of you, I promise!
These are just some of the questions I get asked on a regular basis. There are plenty more and I have plenty of answers to go with them. If you want to ask me any of your own design questions, I would be more than happy to assist. Just visit my DIY Library Design Facebook group and ask away. It's totally free to join of course and you'll find a like-minded community there that might be encouraged to find others that have the same questions you do.