Book Reviews

Creating the High-Functioning Library Space: Expert Advice from Librarians, Architects, and Designers. Marta Mestrovic Deyrup, ed. Santa Barbara, Calif.: Libraries Unlimited, 2017. 158p. Paper $70.00 (ISBN 978-1-4408-4058-6).

Book cover: Creating the High-Functioning Library Space: Expert Advice from Librarians, Architects, and Designers

In my mind, renovations and expansions fall into the same category as fundraising and staff supervision: no one ever mentioned them in library school, but somehow they sneaked in and became my entire job. Unlike most other administrative functions, however, major renovations and expansions come along rarely, and most librarians will work on only a scant few such projects in their careers, if any. That means the majority of library administrators overseeing building projects are either doing it for the first time or haven’t done so in quite a while. Happily, we can now count Creating the High-Functioning Library Space in our toolkit for library-building projects.

The premise of this collection of essays is to provide a nuts and bolts how-to for library administrators by calling on experienced librarians as well as experts outside our own field. Editor Marta Mestrovic Deyrup does a good job of bringing in a range of voices (out of eighteen authors, five are architects, two are designers, and one is a security professional), and their essays shed much-needed light on the processes and skillsets of professionals outside the library and information sector. Reading the chapters by architects and designers reminded me of what Donald Rumsfeld famously referred to as “unknown unknowns”: I didn’t realize that I was unaware of a whole host of sustainable design options, but after reading Creating the High-Functioning Library Space I at least know to seek them out and learn more about them in the future.

The chapters are arranged thematically, starting with the visioning and input process, moving into design, and finishing with a few chapters on specifics you don’t want to forget (storage!). The initial chapters cover the importance of preparing for a renovation and some concrete steps on how to get the ball rolling. Readers will learn about steering committees and how to develop them; what library mapping is and why you need it; and how to define the library’s purpose and audience. Librarians in the initial stages of considering a renovation would be well served to read these chapters as early in the process as possible. Getting a renovation off the ground can require years of work soliciting input, managing personalities and expectations, and working to articulate clearly defined goals. These chapters make the process a little less daunting.

Once you’re through the visioning and have moved on to managing the building process, the chapters narrow in on specific aspects of design and construction. “Working with the Contractor,” by Pixey Ann Mosley, is a particularly practical and useful overview. By explaining the typical contractor business model and reviewing their role, Mosley takes the mystery out of the selection process and prepares librarians to deal with delays, safety concerns, and time-sensitive decision making. “Library Programming,” by Daria Pizzetta, gives an overview of how programming (the decisions about the special needs of the library) is achieved. This is a process of priority setting, and Pizzetta’s chapter includes lists of questions designed to help clarify your library’s needs.

“Principles of Good Design,” by Jody Lee Drafta and Traci Engel Lesneski, gives an overview of the elements to consider in the design process and sets out a blueprint for the rest of the book. The following chapters tend to go into deeper analysis of a particular design element: for example, “Lighting Fundamentals” by Carla Gallina and Traci Lesneski and “Integrating Technology” by Edward M. Corrado. These chapters are helpful and thorough; they can be easily referenced throughout the design process.

Pursuing a renovation is a major undertaking, and no single work can cover all the details needed to successfully oversee such a project. As several chapter authors point out, new buildings must take on the challenge of planning not just for the present but also for the future. With the accelerated pace of growth and change in the library field, that is no simple task, but Creating the High-Functioning Library Space is an excellent place to start. While this work doesn’t cover everything—notably absent is a chapter on fundraising for renovations—it does answer many of the practical questions librarians will have about getting started, provide insight on how best to communicate with professionals from different fields, and set expectations for the process. The biographies at the end of each chapter are helpful references for further reading. I recommend this book in its entirety to any librarian considering a renovation in the future. I also recommend relevant chapters to librarians at any stage of a current renovation who need guidance on a specific issue.—Dana Hart, Ilsley Public Library, Middlebury, Vermont

Copyright Dana Hart

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