The Library of today is undergoing a transformation. Libraries are no longer simply storehouses of printed material for perusal and borrowing. The proliferation of computer use – desktops and laptops, tablets and e-books – has required libraries to embrace the digital age and adapt. Many will continue to maintain extensive printed collections; however, they are also becoming multi-media centers and the public has grown to expect a wide range of services. These media centers often have computing areas available for community use, for everything from retrieving email to improving employment skills on the Internet. The traditional reference area now allows users to search worldwide for information on a given topic through online resources not housed in the library. Many libraries are also expanding their role in the community by providing meeting space to encourage use of library resources by outside groups and organizations.

Identifying your library’s needs

To respond to these new program elements, the physical space must be evaluated and in many instances renovated or expanded to address spatial needs. When renovations or additions are contemplated, there are many considerations to address.

  • How much space is available?
  • How much space is needed?
  • Is the building accessible to the physically impaired?
  • How will the space be re-organized?
  • When will construction take place and how will it impact on going usage?
  • How will it be funded?


Discovering the answers to these questions will result in a plan to move forward, and an experienced design professional can help guide the process.

Developing the plan

An architect, experienced in renovation work and adept at listening, will help identify the needs of the project. To start, accurate drawings of the existing space should be developed (if not already available) followed by a thorough evaluation of the existing building components and systems – from roof, walls, doors and windows to heating, cooling and electrical systems. A state building and energy code analysis should be performed along with a review of the Americans with Disabilities Act to ensure compliance. If the library is housed in a historic building then the Secretary of the Interior’s Standards for Rehabilitation may need to be evaluated and incorporated into the plan. As operating costs continue to rise, the energy efficiency of the building should also be examined to identify strategies for reducing energy use and related operating costs. In order to determine functional and spatial needs, a review of the library’s daily operations and services must be completed to identify areas in need of improvement. This information is obtained through programming interviews with key stakeholders and staff. It is recommended that a facility committee be established which may include members of the community, the board and the staff. A diverse facility committee will help synthesize the day to day operational requirements of the staff with the long term vision of the board. Working closely with the design professional will develop a clear understanding of the goals and objectives of the project and establish a budget to achieve these goals.

Putting the plan in action

As the requirements of the library are being developed, a strategy for the implementation of the plan must be considered. How can the renovation occur while disrupting on-going operations as little as possible? Often the construction can be phased to allow a building addition to be completed first, and then used as swing space for the renovation of the existing space. If an addition is not planned, then the existing program may have to be scaled back during the construction to free up some swing space within the building for critical functions of the library. If swing space is unavailable within the existing building, then a temporary relocation of the library or a component of the library to another facility is also an option. The implementation plan will map out the steps necessary to complete the project with as little disturbance as possible.

Funding the project

Perhaps one of the most difficult hurdles to overcome when contemplating a library addition is the budget and financing. There are several different organizational structures for public libraries, and funding options can differ depending on the type of structure. School and Special District libraries may rely on a public vote, Municipal and Association libraries may utilize municipal funding, Friends Groups or traditional fundraising. Grants are another source of funding to be investigated. The Public Library Construction Grant Program administered by the New York State Library offers up to 50% funding for approved acquisitions, new construction, renovation or rehabilitation for public libraries and public library systems. The 2011 New York State Budget included $14,000,000 in capital funds for library construction through this grant program.

A library renovation project may be considered a daunting task with many issues to be considered. However, as the methods for sharing information change and the functional requirements of a library change, it is a step that must be taken by many libraries to meet the evolving needs of its users. A well thought out plan and clear goals can help mitigate the intimidation of this process.

About the author:

Greg Klokiw AIA is a managing principal at CSArch Architecture | Engineering | Construction Management, based in Albany, NY and with offices in Newburgh, Melville and Malone, NY.

Greg has over 18 years of architectural and project management experience and is a U.S. Green Building Council LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) Accredited Professional.

Do you have more questions for Greg?

  • Please stop by CSArch’s booth at the 2012 Trustee Institute.
  • Visit CSArch’s profile on LTA’s homepage, under “Additional Sponsors.”
  • Contact Greg at 518.463.8068 or

Note from LTA:

CSArch is LTA’s first corporate sponsor. LTA thanks CSArch for their ongoing support of New York State Public Libraries and trustees.