Jul 242 min read

How to Design Libraries: Everything you need to know!

written by

Aishwarya Bomble

Library design focuses on creating functional, aesthetically pleasing, and user-friendly spaces for housing collections of books and other resources. Architects have to deal with user experience, accessibility, lighting, acoustics & circulation together to make it experiential and workable. Here's a step-by-step description of how to design a library.

The basic principles when planning for the library are:

  • Location to insure maximum accessibility 

  • The simplicity of the design concept 

  • Ease of supervision by library staff 

  • Provision for future expansion 

Typical functioning & zoning

Efficient space planning is crucial to ensure that the library can accommodate the required collections, reading areas, study spaces, administrative offices, and other necessary facilities.

Zoning.pngCredits - Aishwarya Bomble

Stacking Area

Space requirement for bookshelves depends on the form of organization, accessibility for users, type of shelves (fixed or mobile}, systematic subject categorization with corresponding display, format separation, and construction grid.

Stacking Area.pngCredits - Aishwarya Bomble

Reading Area

With a good orientation system (signposting of routes, functions, and shelves with easily read signs), the reading area with reading and working places should (if possible) be spread over as few floors as possible, also for ease of book transport. The entrance and reading room areas are separated by access control with a book security system. If possible, only one entrance and exit. The access control should ideally be situated near the lending counter/ central information.

Reading Area.pngCredits - Aishwarya Bomble


Libraries should be accessible to all users, including those with disabilities. This involves providing ramps, elevators, and other features to ensure equal access to all areas.

Accessibility.pngCredits - Aishwarya Bomble


Libraries should make the most of natural light. Large windows and skylights can be strategically placed to bring in ample daylight without glare for readers, reducing the need for artificial lighting during the daytime. Natural light creates a pleasant atmosphere and can positively affect the mood and productivity of library users.

Stack area lighting.png

Credits - Aishwarya Bomble

Task lighting is essential in the areas where users engage in specific tasks such as reading, and finding books on shelves with focused illumination without disturbing others.

Reading Area Lighting.pngCredits - Aishwarya Bomble

Area Standards

Here are the minimum area requirements for different spaces according to IS 1553:1989

Area Standards for library.pngCredits - Aishwarya Bomble

Prominent Examples

Here are some prominent examples of workable libraries designed around the world

Stuttgart Library

Location - Stuttgart, Germany

Architect - Yi Architects

stuttgart library.jpg

The Vennesla Library

Location - Vennesla, Austria

Architect - Helen & Hard

the vennesela library.jpgCredits - Emile Ashley

The New Library of Birmingham

Location - Birmingham, England

Architect - Mecanoo

birmingham library.jpg

Seattle Public Library

Location - Seattle, Washington

Architect - OMA + LMN

seattle library.jpgCredits - Philippe Ruault

Calgary Central Library

Location - Calgary, Canada

Architect - Snøhetta

calgary library.jpgCredits - Snøhetta

Aishwarya Bomble

Aishwarya Bomble

An architect who is always on the go to share stories of her countless journeys.