Much more than mere shelves

5th May 1995 at 01:00
PLANNING AND DESIGNING LIBRARIES FOR CHILDREN AND YOUNG PEOPLE. By Michael Dewe. Library Association Publishing Pounds 35. 1 85604 100 X. Pearl Valentine finds an invaluable guide for anyone designing a library.

Not since Godfrey Thompson's seminal Planning and Design of Library Buildings has there been such a practical, useful and accessible guide to turning the concept of a new or refurbished library into the reality of a completed project.

Michael Dewe draws together practical guidance from a wide range of sources and filters it through his own extensive experience as a library planning consultant to provide a unique and valuable source book for any librarian faced with the challenge of ensuring that a new school or children's library reflects the needs of children.

Assuming no prior experience on the part of its readers, this work takes the librarian through the planning essential to a successful project. It emphasises the importance of consulting with staff and users (yes - children) at all stages; explains basic design concepts and the interpretation of architects' drawings and impresses on the reader the need to rethink the policy and philosophy of the library before considering the arrangement of space.

The needs of school libraries and resource centres have been much more extensively documented than those of public libraries for children and young people and this emphasis is reflected in the more detailed guidance provided here on the design of the school library. The building requirements of teenage users and the special features of mobile library services for children have received less attention from the profession as a whole. Nevertheless, the author draws on examples such as the Yoker Youth Library, Bradford Exchange and Cynon Valley's family bookbus to show how these specialised needs have been interpreted in current practice.

Numerous plans and photographs illustrate the many examples of successful and interestingly designed libraries for young people. Six more detailed case studies of recently completed school and children's libraries, at Croydon, Havant, Waterlooville, Airdrie and Birmingham, suggest possible visits during planning.

Dewe examines considerations such as the optimum location for the children's or school library, the range of accommodation which needs to be provided and the availability of standards and guidelines to inform the planning. The differing policies which dictate the shape, layout and use of a library (such as whether it is to be given a high profile, whether collections are to be centralised or dispersed, whether stock is to be categorised or traditionally arranged) are examined, while the purposes and effects of differing approaches to library layout are considered in detail, together with furniture and equipment needs and suppliers.

Dewe makes it clear that planning is not just about creating new library areas, but about the whole business of space management for library purposes. He outlines the distinctive roles of the planning team and the design team to ensure that the finished library is not designed in a vacuum. The value to the librarian in charge of standard project management techniques such as critical path analysis is described, while published standards and guidelines are comprehensively reviewed and evaluated. Key issues such as disabled access or the library's role in reprographics and audiovisual production are debated.

Although the author emphasises the importance of policy issues and of constant review and evaluation during planning, his practical experience also ensures that details are not overlooked: the need for locks which can be operated from both sides in children's toilets, for instance, or the variety of seating required for different ages of children.

The work provides a convenient synthesis of current knowledge of planning and designing libraries for children and young people, comprehensively outlining the published information and advice available and referring readers to the originals.

The book should take its place on every librarian's shelf as the standard work on planning and designing libraries for young people.

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