by WBDG Staff



The Library space types are areas where bound paper documents, film, or magnetic media are stored. A Library space type may include both open and closed storage systems and moveable shelving systems, and be applicable to file rooms and other dense storage of material in conditioned office environments. Libraries are assumed to be general purpose, and may include display spaces and reading, meeting, and electronic workstations, as defined by the desired level of access to materials being stored.

See also WBDG Libraries.

Space Attributes

Internet access, electronic media, computer technology, and other forms of modern-day advancements have had a profound effect on the function and design of libraries. As a result, Library space type design must be flexible enough to take into account these types of integrated technologies as well as to properly store, handle, and circulate printed and other media types. No special type of humidity control is assumed in the Library space type since storage of archival materials is not typical.

There are seven broad types of library space:

  1. Collection space
  2. Public electronic workstation space
  3. User seating space
  4. Staff work space
  5. Meeting space
  6. Special use space
  7. Non-assignable space (including mechanical space)

Typical features of library space types include the list of applicable design objectives elements as outlined below. For a complete list and definitions of the design objectives within the context of whole building design, click on the titles below.

Functional / Operational

  • Integrated Technology: Begin the design process with a thorough understanding of the technological requirements of the space, including anticipated future needs.
  • Shelving systems: Depending on the particular needs of a library space, shelving systems can be integrated into the design of the room or installed as modular and adaptable units.
  • Heavy floor loads: Library stacks and records storage are typically designed for a 150 LB/SF live load.
  • Acoustic and Visual Privacy: Library space types will typically include reading and private work/study areas that require acoustic and visual separation from general circulation and work areas. Program these spaces in relation to public access to shelving for self-service.
  • Special Lighting: Establishing lighting zones at the beginning of the design process. Differentiate between the lighting needs for shelving, circulation, reading and workrooms. Consider energy efficient lighting.
  • Occupancy: Occupancy Group Classification for the Library space type is Assembly Occupancy for libraries of 5,000 SF or greater, and Business Occupancy B2 with sprinklered protected construction, and GSA Acoustical Class C1 for spaces smaller that 5,000 SF and for enclosed offices.


  • Flexibility: The Library space type is durable and adaptable, and will typically include features such as a raised floor system for the distribution of critical services (power, voice, data, and HVAC) and mobile workstations and storage.

Example Program

The following is a representative building program for the Library space type.


Tenant Occupiable Areas
Qty. SF Each Space Req'd. Sum Actual SF Tenant Usable Factor Tenant USF
Library Facilities       4,496    
    Entry Vestibule 1 80 80      
    Exhibits 1 100 100      
    Check Out 2 80 160      
    Reference Desk 1 80 80      
    Reference Computer Terminals 4 20 80      
    Card Catalog 3 12 36      
    Lounge Seating 10 20 200      
    Table Seating 20 16 320      
    Carrels 10 30 300      
    Research Computer Terminals 8 20 160      
    Microfiche Cabinets 6 12 72      
    Microfiche Readers 2 20 40      
    Periodicals 4 12 48      
    Reference Stacks 10 12 120      
    Collections Stacks 100 12 1,200      
    AV Work Room 1 200 200      
    Audio Lab 1 200 200      
    Audio Visual Media Collection 6 12 72      
    Duplication Center 1 80 80      
    ADP 1 88 88      
    Librarian's Office 1 120 120      
    Librarian's Assistant 2 80 160      
    Work Room 1 200 200      
    Store Room 1 300 300      
    Housekeeping 1 80 80      
    Tenant Suite     4,496 4,496 1.24 5,565
Tenant Usable Areas           5,565

Example Plans

The following diagram is representative of typical tenant plans.

Library space type

Example Construction Criteria

For GSA, the unit costs for library space types are based on the construction quality and design features in the following table . This information is based on GSA's benchmark interpretation and could be different for other owners. Court-related libraries and/or libraries with extensive hardwood finishes are not included in the unit costs and must be treated as a special requirement or Chamber space type.

Relevant Codes and Standards

The following agencies and organizations have developed codes and standards affecting the design of library spaces. Note that the codes and standards are minimum requirements. Architects, engineers, and consultants should consider exceeding the applicable requirements whenever possible:

Additional Resources


Building Types

Educational Facilities, Health Care Facilities, Libraries, Office Building, Research Facilities

Design Objectives

Functional / Operational—Account for Functional Needs, Secure / Safe—Fire Protection, Sustainable—Optimize Energy Use


  • Architectural Graphic Standards, 12th Edition by American Institute of Architects, Dennis J. Hall. New York, NY: John Wiley & Sons, Inc., 2016.
  • Building Blocks for Planning Functional Library Space by Buildings and Equipment Section, Library Administration and Management Association (LAMA). Lanham, MD: Scarecrow Press, 2001.