Book Review: Libraries Designed for Kids
Libraries Designed for Kids. By Nolan Lushington, Facet Publishing, 2008, 155 pages, ISBN 978-1-85604-657-2
Published simultaneously as a US and UK edition, this is a practical 'how to' manual in creating children-oriented library spaces. It is a good starting point for practitioners involved in redesigning children's library spaces, and those lucky few who have been given the go-ahead to start from scratch and who wish to engage properly with the design and creation process before committing funds. The book is divided up into the following chapters, which give an idea of the basic issues that should be addressed:
- Introduction: Improving Service by Design
- Chapter 1: Innovative Children's Library Models
- Chapter 2: Planning a New Children's Library
- Chapter 3: Assessing Physical Needs
- Chapter 4: Design Considerations
- Chapter 5: Organizing the Children's Area
- Chapter 6: Entrances, Displays, Graphics, and Lighting
- Chapter 7: Age-related Design
- Chapter 8: Designing Programme, Activity, and Staff Areas
- Chapter 9: Furnishings and Equipment
- Chapter 10: Quick Fixes and Common Mistakes
This book is a solid starting point for anyone required to deal with some of the most basic issues when it comes to creating library spaces for kids. There is a good deal of useful, if elementary information, spanning such issues as: how to implement zone and boundary areas (Chapter 5); considering seating design (Chapter 9); as well as considering how to create complementary areas and spaces for all the age ranges your library space must serve (Chapter 7). If much of this information seems obvious to a children's library professional, that's probably because it is, but it's all too easy to forget some of this most basic, and yet important, information when you get caught up in the realisation of creating and implementing your designed library space.
It is also useful to point out that despite this user group being one of the key stakeholders in library services, in these troubled economic times library professionals may find themselves plugging gaps that others cannot fill. Not all libraries will have the opportunity to hire and support dedicated children's librarian professionals, who necessarily have many of the skills and know-how that this book offers in a concise, and very readable form. This, I would argue, is one of the target audiences for this title: if your staff budget has been cut, or if you just don't have the resources to dedicate to a proper feasibility study and consultation on how to rejuvenate your children's library space – yet you need to go-ahead and just 'make do' and come up with your own changes within your own budget, resources, and time-frame, then this is the title for you.
...Yet Essentially Basic
Where this title falls short, however, is in negotiating any of the aspects of Children's Librarianship that fall outside of the 'practical'. I would have welcomed additional thoughts and discussions relating to many of the issues each chapter covers, for instance, Chapter 1's 'Innovative Children's Library Models' was crying out for a more detailed exploration of how and why our models have shifted over the decades. Such an exploration, appended to each chapter, would have rounded out this title to be a really meaty, and weighty tome of both practical and conceptual use. However, I must add the caveat that this is not at all what the book itself purports to be, as the author clearly states in the Preface that 'Libraries Designed for Kids is a one-stop resource for both architects and librarians…intended to serve [as a]... 1. Guide to the planning process 2. Manual for planning a children's library 3. Reference book for specifications and details critical to effective library design'.
In judging the book from this perspective, it then certainly 'does what it says on the tin', and one of the most useful, interesting, and thought-provoking additions to this book is the inclusion of Case Studies, as well as direct quotations and feedback from real user groups, libraries and affiliated organisations and individuals. There is nothing like hearing it from the horse's mouth, so to speak, to add real value and validity to suggestions and models; after all, it's just as important to hear what hasn't worked, as well as what has, when considering such an important issue as a new, or newly rearranged, children's library space.
There is one final significant, albeit small point that can be made about this work. What could be seen as very useful Appendices E and F (a list of suppliers and architects) is let down by a wholly US-focused list, with UK readers instead referred to a Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals (CILIP) administered Web site , which on my cursory initial check gave me one sole listing for Children's Furniture, versus the plethora of suppliers listed in the book itself (but solely USA-based). Finding good, and tried and tested, architects and suppliers is surely a rather practical issue too? It seems a shame that Facet wasn't able to address this issue for the UK edition by devoting time and resources to correcting this anomaly. In the meantime, I guess I'll just write my own conceptual chapter additions and generate a list myself for the personal pleasure of completeness!
- Nolan Lushington, Libraries Designed for Kids, Facet Publishing, 2008, ISBN 978-1-85604-657-2, p.155: 'For readers in the United Kingdom and Europe, please refer to this online resource updated daily by CILIP': http://www.buyersguideonline.co.uk