Checklist of Library Building Design Considerations, Sixth Edition

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The needs and functions of library buildings have certainly changed over the last decade, but the necessity for planning intelligently and thoroughly hasn't. In fact, tighter budgets and the complex demands of both library users and staff call for careful preparation now more than ever. Whether you're building from the ground up or simply remodeling, the success of your project hinges on planning, coordination, and communication. This new update of Sannwald's classic guide will help you stay prepared and organized for every phase of your undertaking from conception through the dedication ceremony. Using a popular checklist format that ensures no detail is overlooked, this planner covers crucial considerations like

  • Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) factors, structured to match the federal code;
  • sustainable design features, including sensors that save energy and water;
  • designing makerspaces, digital media labs, or leased library enterprises;
  • disaster and recovery planning;
  • creating quiet spaces;
  • collaborative collections and materials-handling efficiency; and
  • important virtual presence aspects to bear in mind during physical space decisions.

Library managers, administrators, and facilities staff will find this book a matchless tool for any construction project regardless of size or complexity.


1.    Building Planning and Architecture


A.    Indicators of Dissatisfaction with Existing Facilities
B.    Institutional Planning Team
C.    Determining Space Needs
D.    Joint Use Considerations
E.    Selecting a Library Building Consultant
F.    Choosing an Architect
G.    Choosing a Contractor
H.    Architectural Design

2.    Building Construction Alternatives



A.    New Construction Considerations
B.    Building Addition Considerations
C.    Rehabilitation/Renovation of Existing Buildings to Library Use Considerations
D.    Preserving Existing Library Buildings
E.    Virtual Library Considerations
F.    Alternatives to Library Spaces

3.    Library Site Selection



A.    General Conditions
B.    Community Planning Issues
C.    Location
D.    Accessibility
E.    Size
F.    Environmental Issues

4.    Sustainable Design



A.    LEED Certification (New)
B.    Sustainable Sites
C.    Water Efficiency
D.    Energy and Atmosphere
E.    Materials
F.    Indoor Environmental Air Quality
G.    Lighting and Day Lighting
H.    Roofs
I.    Heating, Ventilating, and Air Conditioning (HVAC)

5.    General Exterior Considerations



A.    Landscaping
B.    Parking
C.    Building Exterior
D.    Roof
E.    Bicycle Racks
F.    Flagpole
G.    Exterior Signage
H.    Loading Docks and Delivery
I.    Outdoor Trash Enclosures
J.    Outdoor Book and Media Returns

6.    Interior Organization of Library Buildings



A.    Entrance
B.    Circulation Desk Facilities
C.    Reference Facilities
D.    Information Commons
E.    Multimedia Facilities
F.    Media Production and Presentation Labs
G.    Special Collections/Rare Books/Archives
H.    Reserve Book Room
I.    Faculty/Graduate Carrels and Study Rooms
J.    Group, Quiet and Silent Study Spaces
K.    Literacy Center
L.    Young Adult Facilities
M.    Children's Facilities
N.    Meeting and Seminar Rooms
O.    Convenience Facilities
P.    Displays
Q.    Public Art
R.    Interior Signage
S.    Workroom/Offices
T.    Staff Lounge
U.    Friends of the Library
V.    Library Store
W.    Interior Storage

7.    Compliance with ADA Accessibility Guidelines



A.    Guidelines
B.    Transportation, Parking Lots, Parking Signage, and Accessible Routes
C.    Ground and Floor Surfaces
D.    Curb Cuts
E.    Ramps
F.    Stairs
G.    Lifts and Elevators
H.    Doors
I.    Entrances
J.    Accessible Routes within the Building
K.    Drinking Fountains
L.    Toilet Rooms
M.    Toilet Stalls
N.    Water Closets
O.    Urinals
P.    Lavatories
Q.    Handrails and Grab Bars
R.    Controls and Operating Mechanisms
S.    Alarms
T.    Signage
U.    Telephones
V.    Fixed or Built-in Seating and Tables
W.    Assembly Areas
X.    Building Assistance Facilities
Y.    Service Animals

8.    Telecommunications, Electrical, and Miscellaneous Equipment



A.    General Considerations
B.    Entrance Facility
C.    Equipment Room
D.    Telecommunications Room
E.    Horizontal Pathways
F.    Cabling and Outlets
G.    Wireless
H.    Workstation Connections
I.    Workstation Equipment
J.    Telephone System
K.    Miscellaneous Electrical Equipment
L.    Electrical Power

9.    Interior Design and Finishes



A.    Service Desks
B.    Plus-Friendly Spaces
C.    Seating
D.    Tables
E.    Lighting
F.    Windows
G.    Flooring
H.    Walls
I.    Color
J.    Equipment List
K.    Behavioral Aspects of Space

10.    Entrepreneurial and Collaborative Spaces



A.    Makerspaces
B.    Co-working in the Library
C.    Technology Lending Library
D.    Musical Instrument Lending Library
E.    Tool Lending Library
F.    Seed Lending Library

11.    Materials Handling and Storage: Book Stacks and Shelving



A.    Conventional Stationary Stacks and Shelving
B.    Movable-Aisle Compact Shelving
C.    Automatic Storage and Retrieval Systems (ASRS)
D.    Materials Handling Systems
E.    Remote Storage

12.    Building Systems



A.    Acoustics
B.    HVAC (Heating, Ventilation, and Air Conditioning Systems)
C.    Electrical Systems
D.    Lighting
E.    Plumbing and Rest Rooms
F.    Elevators and Escalators
G.    Internet of Things to Monitor and Control Building Systems

13.    Safety and Security



A.    General
B.    External Security
C.    Internal Security
D.    Fire Safety
E.    Disaster Planning

14.    Maintenance of Library Buildings and Property



A.    Regular Routine Maintenance Considerations
B.    Building Materials
C.    Graffiti and Security
D.    Building Systems Preventive Maintenance
E.    Building Cleaning
F.    Custodial Facilities
G.    Groundskeeper Facilities
H.    Trash Enclosures
I.    Betterments and Improvements

15.    Building Occupancy and Post-Occupancy Evaluation



A.    Building Acceptance
B.    Certificate of Occupancy
C.    Getting Ready for Occupancy
D.    Moving
E.    Post-Occupancy Evaluation

16.    Groundbreaking and Dedication Ceremonies



A.    Planning
B.    Event Checklist



William W. Sannwald

William W. Sannwald is a full-time faculty member in the Fowler College of Business at San Diego State University and works as a library building and administrative consultant. He was an assistant to San Diego’s city manager and was the city’s manager of library design and development from 1997 to 2004. Prior to that, he was city librarian of the San Diego Public Library. He has worked in public libraries in Illinois, Minnesota, Michigan, and California. Sannwald received his bachelor’s degree in economics from Beloit College in Wisconsin, an MBA degree from Loyola University in Chicago, and an MALS degree from Dominican University in Illinois. He has presented papers at national and international conferences and is the author of a number of books and articles on library architecture and management. The San Diego chapter of the American Institute of Architects presented him with their highest award, the Irving Gill Award, for his contributions to library architecture, and he received the San Diego design community’s Ruocco Award for his contributions to urban architecture. During his career, Sannwald has been involved in the construction of more than fifty library buildings as either a consultant or owner’s representative in the United States, Great Britain, Angola, Greece, and the United Arab Emirates. He was elected to the International Federation of Library Systems’ Standing Committee for Library Buildings and Equipment for 2007–2011. 

Sannwald teaches a variety of upper division undergraduate and MBA courses in the management department at San Diego State University’s Fowler School of Business. He was selected as the most influential management professor and received the Outstanding Faculty Award in the Business School. In 2017 he received the Teaching Excellence Award from his peers. In 2022, he was selected as the first Glazer Outstanding Lecturer Fellow, which includes a generous stipend funded through private gifts.

”An essential resource. Utilization of the checklist will eliminate any element of doubt that planning bodies might endure during the library planning process of the new or refurbished space."
— Journal of Hospital Librarianship