I was a consultant on library space planning. My consulting practice wasrooted in a research, publication, and public speaking program conducted since I retired from Yale University in 2001. I am the author of Libraries Designed for Learning (2003) and an ongoing series of highly regarded essays on library space planning published since 2005.

My role was to help insure the success of projects by asking what may be called “first questions.”

  • These are not questions about how many readers, or computers, or books you want to accommodate.
  • They are, rather, questions about the quality of the learning and other reader experiences you want to achieve and the way that experience enacts the library’s mission.
  • Fundamentally, these are questions about why rather than about what.
  • Starting with these why questions, we can sharpen the statement of your needs and your priorities.   My goal is that you get all the value possible from your investment in library space.

Some of the first questions I asked are:

  • What concept of learning informs your project? What specific learning behaviors do you want to foster?
  • What impact does the library have on readers? How do you measure that impact? Is there a significant difference between the actual and desired impact on readers?
  • How does one design for learning, beyond sequencing levels of quiet and noise?
  • For what reasons and with what frequency do readers come to the library building? How does the library address those who rarely or never make use of the library building?
  • What message, beyond that of welcome, should the library entrance declare? How might that declaration be made?
  • What relationship between readers and librarians does the reference desk create? What relationship do you want?
  • What collaborations with other campus agencies do you want to strengthen? What are your programmatic goals for such collaboration? What, other than space, constrains collaboration? How would successful collaboration express itself?
  • Where do librarians work? Where should librarians work?
  • How will you mange future collection growth to prevent the displacement of readers by books?
  • Beyond the classroom and the library, where are the most successful campus learning spaces? What makes them successful?
  • How will you manage food/noise in the library? What programmatic goals do you have in setting policy for food?