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Gone are the days of old-school libraries where the environment was a dull, quiet space with a librarian who would shush you if you made too much noise. 

Now, many libraries are adapting to today’s digital world by offering more digital solutions like ebooks and audio. In fact, ebooks now account for more than a third of all library collections (35%) while books have declined from 91% in 2003 to 39% in 2019 

With this shift, 21st-century public libraries have a tremendous opportunity to reinvent their once-full space of books into an environment that caters to current and future generations. Let’s take a closer at how your library can transform its space by following these public library design trends. 

1. Community gathering spaces  

Libraries are now so much more than the physical collections they hold. They’re now a place where people stay. With the shift to digital, many libraries have redesigned their spaces into flexible, multipurpose spaces where people of all ages can gather, interact and learn new things. Libraries are many things – hangout spots where kids can get homework done after school, sensory spaces for people of all age levels to go and relax, and areas where parents can utilize parent carrels and get work done while their children play. Whatever the community’s needs are, public libraries all over are changing the way they operate to meet those needs. 

Many public libraries are also meeting community needs by implementing programs. In 2019, there were a total of 5.925 million programs run at public libraries. (That’s a 128% increase since 2004!) There are thousands of different types of programs too depending on what library you go to. For example, there are several libraries throughout the country that are now loaning out baking supplies and materials for visitors to check out. Other fun programs include crafts for kids, tutoring, parent support groups, STEM activity and kits and so much more! 

2. Flexible and mobile furniture solutions  

A few stationary bookcases and seating areas were all libraries needed years ago in terms of furniture. Now with more of a focus on creating community gathering spaces, flexible and mobile furniture solutions are a big part of public library design. With the variety of community program offerings, libraries have switched to mobile furniture so they can reconfigure spaces as visitors’ needs change.  

For example, take a look at the Princeton Public Library – a public library design project we worked on back in 2020. Located in Princeton, WI, this cozy library holds more than 15,000 volumes and circulates about 54,000 items a year. The library also holds a variety of activities and events! Because of this, the library needed durable furniture that could withstand this level of usage. As a result, the town came together and raised the funds needed to transform the space into the ultimate community gathering place. The library now features some of our flexible furniture solutions including our Mobile Double-Sided Curved Bookcases and Mobile Double-Sided Open Bookcases. These mobile solutions allow library staff to easily reconfigure the library to meet the needs of library programs and events. It’s no doubt that mobility and flexibility are the keys to a successful community hub! 

3. Technology integration

The digital world we live in isn’t going away anytime soon. With the rise of digital, libraries need to address the widening technology gap in communities through free access to computers and the internet. In a national survey of Americans ages 16 and older, 77% say free access to computers and the internet is “very important” for libraries to offer. Fortunately, many libraries have already been stepping up to the plate. From 2009 to 2018, the number of computers at libraries grew by 332.60% until it stalled out and experienced its first decline from 2018 to 2019 (which may be due to the 30.40% decline in computer users). However, WiFi sessions increased by 234.54% to nearly 500 million users in that same time period.  

example of public library design projectMany libraries are meeting other technology gaps by creating makerspaces (3D printing), e-sports spaces, audio and video design studios, and much more. As part of a recent project, we created a multi-purpose environment for a high school that wanted an e-sports gaming area, a 3D printer, a recording studio, an animation center, and laser engraving machines for students to learn how to make t-shirts and sell them as a school revenue stream. Our design team created exactly what they were looking for, while also keeping all the different types of technology in mind to ensure easy integration.   


4. Greenery

green wall in public spaceFrom walls full of luscious greens to outdoor spaces and green roofs, greenery has increased in popularity when it comes to public library design. While these plants may elevate a space to look more aesthetically pleasing, there are many other benefits and reasons why public libraries are incorporating plants throughout their buildings. 

One of the biggest benefits of plants is their air-cleaning abilities. According to a NASA experiment in 1989, indoor plants can scrub the air of cancer-causing volatile organic compounds like formaldehyde and benzene. Greenery can also help people’s overall well-being and state of mind. Adding plants throughout your library can help reduce stress and anxiety, improve learning and productivity, and have a positive impact on physical health. Discover how this library incorporated greenery in its space to create a calm, relaxing environment for visitors to enjoy.  


Let’s Elevate Your Public Library 

Ready to transform your library into a cutting-edge community hub? Whatever your vision is, our team has the experience and design capabilities to make it happen. If you don’t see the solution you’re looking for in our catalog, don’t worry. We can create and customize anything to make it a reality! All you need to do is reach out to get started and let our design experts do the rest.