Observation – entering our Library

A visitor is given no directional signage to reception or anywhere else from the gate on the main driveway. There is no path through the “walk” gate and between the gateway and the edge of the library is slushy at this time of the year. I pass a large glass door before I reach the “main” entrance. It has two doors, and it is not clear which door is the one that opens. Parent visitor arrived during my observations and kept pushing the wrong door (and it’s a pull door).


Observations on the way to work
Observations on the way to work


The entry foyer is in many ways dead space. Junior students, who should enter with their teacher during class time, often wait here out of the weather – which blocks the entry. Sometimes it is a place for finishing lunch as the current policy is no food. Is it welcoming?

Next entry space fronts the visitor with lap top charging lockers, and a book display.

The path to the “Reading” area is obvious, warm and inviting.

The “Reference” area has a less obvious a pathway.

A welcoming face at the circulation desk would be nice addition, but staffing circumstances make that difficult to achieve.

Potential family tour groups are brought through another door, which brings them straight into the “Reading” area;  first impression is warm, welcoming and easy to navigate.

Limited options for collaborative space in reference end; no individual options in reading area.

Information screens generally appropriately sited except for 24 hour news screen.

Where most traffic flow goes
Where most traffic flow goes


4 thoughts on “Observation – entering our Library

  1. Sara R

    Hi Margaret,
    I had a look at your video walkthrough of your library, which helped me visualise your observations here. I didn’t see much of your entry foyer, but this is a preoccupation of mine, too, because students often pile bags on the floor, despite having shelves to put them on. Seems to be a common issue. See Heather Jesuadian’s blog entry and the comments. I like the book displays on the wall in the entrance. As for the laptop charging lockers, are you a BYOD school? If not, I presume you will eventually get there, and then those charging lockers might be much appreciated by students with flat laptops/tablets. The main thought I had “entering” your library via video is, yes, where is the circulation desk?! The second thought I had was, what a beautiful window with light and a view near the reading space…. but with bookshelves in front of it! I visited a library recently that had big, floor-to-ceiling windows that looked out into a stunning nature reserve, and the view was almost entirely blocked by shelves, too. I gravitate to window areas, and am always happier reading by a nice window. Would there be any way to move the seating by the window, and the shelves on another side? If so, apologise to the workmen for me! They’re going to stop answering the phone when they see it’s you ringing… 🙂 BSOs at my school laughingly roll their eyes when they see me coming, because they know I have a new idea!


    1. msimkin

      Hi Sara,
      I have thought about moving the entire reading area to the other end, where there is a wonderful glass corner, with a door, leading out to an amphitheatre. Currently that’s where our non-fiction stacks are, and the end where our research lessons are held. There is a massive size difference between the spaces so as things currently stand it wont work. Our office and the circulation desk are in between the ends, right of centre as you enter the building – I think I glossed over them in the walkthrough because I was focussed on the clientele end rather than our end. Even if we replaced our back to the wall shelving there would be no room for our whole class reading lessons – an important part of the English program from 7 – 10. The things I have moved in my time here have all added to our ability to please our users, and the most recent changes have started to impact on the whole dynamic in a very positive manner. Are these the types of discussion we should be having on our Google doc task?


  2. heather.jesuadian@syd.catholic.edu.au

    It is so valuable to think about the way people feel as they enter our space. I always wonder why schools seem so badly signposted. I agree that a friendly face at the counter make such a difference in a library. I have never thought formally about ‘service design’ but since reading the Madano Partnership (2012) reading, I have been thinking about our service in a less ad-hoc way. This year, we have changed our routines so that there is always someone at the counter, and that they can do their own work at the counter during that time. It involved making the desk more ergonomically friendly for long work periods but I think it is working well, and prevents students standing at the desk, looking around for help. My job share and I also located our work space to the middle of the library to allow students to access us (we moved out of an office). I have noted that we are much more a consultative part of the work going on in there as a result. I need to continue to think broadly to make best use of our small staffing budget! Will follow your progress with interest.

    Madano Partnership (2012). Research program scoping study. Arts & Humanities Research Council, Design Council and Economic and Social Research Council. Retrieved from: https://www.designcouncil.org.uk/knowledge-resources/measuring-value-and-role-design-1


    1. msimkin

      The Madano reading is interesting, as are all our readings. Applying design theory to a less than adequate space is challenging, especially when combined with very small staff numbers. Need to re-evaluate regularly too!


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