Realign Your Library Program: Space Planning in an Era of Social Distancing

More than ever, libraries need a new pragmatic approach to service planning; one that focuses on the user experience. We can provide frictionless services with the integration of data, technology and space planning. We need new standards for library space and services; ones that focus on social distancing, safety and security.

Our team has researched library as place for the last four decades. We have programmed more than 1,000 libraries – see Aaron Cohen Associates, LTD – Here are a few quick guidelines from our updated research allowing for social distancing recommendations:




1.  Group study and collaboration: 50 seat collaborative/learning commons = 3,000 sq. ft

2.  Individual study space = 36 sq. ft. per person

3.  Staff service point = 200 sq. ft. per desk

4.  Learning Commons = 900 sq. ft. minimum size for open learning environment

5.  Curated Bookshelves = 150 books per double faced book stack (DF) – 5 shelves high for browsing


In his book Factfulness, Hans Rosling describes instincts people rely on when there is a challenge. Librarians risk relying on the “single perspective” instinct, but we can’t go on with business as usual. Our libraries need adaptive strategies, and new rules will apply.

It’s tempting to say that library should be exclusively digital. But the library has great potential to provide both digital services and physical spaces. Rosling states, “we find simple ideas very attractive. We enjoy that moment of insight, we enjoy feeling we really understand or know something. It saves a lot of time to think like this.” But he points out that most problems can’t just solve themselves with simple ideas.

The development of the next-generation library is not a simple task. Your library will thrive when you invite multiple perspectives into the conversation. It requires your patience, dedication and investment to improve.


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