The Great Re-Opening: How Will YOUR Library Look?
To say we're witnessing a time in history like never before seen is a serious understatement. For the past year we have all worked hard to not only maintain our sanity but also our businesses as we navigate through the chaos that has become our lives since the realization of Covid-19 and the monumental effect it has had on our world. It does seem that more and more areas (particularly in the US since naturally I can't speak for other nations) are beginning to see the proverbial light at the end of the tunnel however. With that being the current reality, businesses and more specifically Libraries are facing big questions and decisions about not only whether or not to re-open, but how to do it smoothly and safely. So I've put together a few things from my own perspective, an Interior Designer's perspective, to give you some insight to your Library from a different angle. And hopefully they won't leave you with more brain-numbing questions than answers.
TALK TO ME GOOSE - AND OTHER FORMS OF COMMUNICATION
I think the key issue on everyone's minds will of course be how we will all communicate once we can all actually see each other's adorable faces again. Assuming we haven't forgotten how by now, talking to your patrons is inevitable. And I know they've missed you just as much as you've missed them. But people are naturally going to be more cautious than before. I believe it's fair to say that MOST Libraries are still going to be masked. I'm aware that some states are tossing out the mask mandates, so THAT will leave you all with some decisions to make for your own Library if your hand isn't forced in those locations by the local governments. But I imagine that all depends on where your funding comes from. Either way, you can definitely bring in reinforcements on the level of design by using plexi-glass shields for your info desks to maintain a safe distance as you move through your day. Granted I'm sure this is nothing new to you. I've seen them suspended on small chains from the ceiling, propped up on the desktop using little footed holders and even a more permanent solution of actually affixing them to the surface with screws and glue. I don't recommend the last one.
WHERE DO I SIT?!
The other big question is how you plan to lay out your space so that it's fully functional but also socially distanced. This leads you to your furniture layouts. (Enter shameless plug to teach you more about my favorite ways to update your space on a serious budget) Download my Top 10 Ways to Improve Your Library on Little to NO Budget HERE to learn more tips including how to make your space pop with furniture shifts and other cool tips. Seriously, this download is super helpful in our present Covid atmosphere. In the meantime check out some of these ridiculously cool furniture pieces I'm seeing from some of my favorite furniture companies. Even if they aren't currently in the budget, they definitely help to generate some ideas as to what you might be able to do with some of your own pieces or what to shoot for in the near future:
These pieces run the gamut from dividers between computer seating to some very fascinating individual booth units that not only work as people dividers but also sound control. I would specify these under normal circumstances without hesitation. The image at the beginning of this blog post is called the Lean To from OFS. I've put the link above for your viewing pleasure. It can be arranged in several different ways but it would be SUCH a fantastic addition to a Library floor plan! Here's another one featured in the Agati link above where they discuss the capabilities of "segmenting space". I think I like that term and in this current atmosphere; it makes sense. Here's one of their grouping options:
PLANNING FOR THE FUTURE
I know we all keep hearing about the "new normal" where Covid is concerned. And I do think there will be a lot of areas that hold on to these changes for a while. But this too shall pass like everything else in history has done before and we'll move on to the next crisis. What we have to consider in the meantime is the ability to plan for our re-openings using good old common sense and respect for other people's concerns about their health all while not creating a financial nightmare for the post-apocalyptical days to come. By this I mean, create socially responsible furniture groupings. Purchase a few pieces here and there that can help with segmenting your spaces better. But don't invest your entire furniture budget on pieces that can't be changed or reused later. And if you're in the middle of a new construction project that allows you to purchase all new FF&E, then by all means purchase for the future and store what you don't use now. It will be much harder to gain access to new funds later if you only purchase half of what would typically fill your Library just to make room for the present. Trust me on this one.
Naturally not everyone is going to open up in the near future. And I realize that curbside services may be here to stay for a while. Which by the way, kudos to all of you who are making this happen and rolling with the punches as they come. I do have to say that I've witnessed my Library clients just go all in and get things done when it counted. It's not easy. Rearranging and readjusting how you run your Library and communicating those changes to your patrons is no small feat. But you're doing it! And you're doing it with grace and perseverance. That having been said, I know you'll continue to make the necessary changes as they need to be made and keep on keepin' on. I hope some of these links and furniture planning recommendations are helpful. If you have any questions at all, please stop by my DIY Library Design group on Facebook and ask me ANYTHING! I can direct you to products, advise you on how to rearrange your current space or anything else you might want to know. We will all get to the other side of this. No doubt in my mind.