8 steps to improve your library

Libraries should be an exciting place to visit, no matter whether the need to visit is for research, learning or simply recreational purposes. Regardless, they need to be a space where people feel welcomed and relaxed which is why it’s important to create a library with dedicated spaces that caters for all of these needs. Let's look a few tips to help you create the best space possible. 

Here are 8 ways to enhance your library with these easy to implement improvements:

1. Review your library design

Look at the design of your library and sections. Does it all flow, work well and are all areas easily accessible? Whilst it can be difficult to move shelves it will be worthwhile in the long term to make sure all of your spaces are easy to locate and navigate to.

You may also want to think about adding more free-standing display areas or new furniture where needed. A library that hasn’t been re-invigorated with a changeup in its layout or design for a few years can start to look tired, shabby and depressed. Ensure that basic maintenance activities have been done, so that people feel good about being in that space. I.e. peeling yellowed paint is not a good look, nor is heavily scratched and damaged furniture, or damaged carpet.

When looking at your library, it should be easy to see each distinct area. Visitors should be able to identify where one area ends and the other begins, regardless of its size. If there are no clear distinctions between areas then it may be time to make a few changes. Remember the library should be a place where visitors, including children can find things easily.

2. Make your entrance welcoming

How do you feel when you enter your library space? Does it feel welcoming and look neat, tidy and clean? Make a big impact on customers by enhancing your entrance area. If you only have the time and budget to improve one area of your library, then this should be your place of focus.

Consider making the entry doors exciting by adding brightness with colour or decorations, it will no doubt leave a lasting impression on visitors. Or perhaps consider if statement furniture would work in this space. Think items such as display cubes, ottomans or tetris seating which would help create a welcoming impact and are easy to move around. First impressions count, and people will take with them a lasting impression of your library. Make it worthwhile and make it count!


                                                                Source: Novelty Street                                                                                                                                Source: Pinterest                                                                          

Use your weeded books and create a piece of furniture with them, similar to what is shown above!

3. Furniture and decor

Tailor your furniture and décor to your target market. This might be kids (for a school library), or it might be a demographic with largely immigrants or seniors for a public library. Whatever your target demographics are, make sure it appeals to the people whom you wish to attract.

Purchase a large bright rug for the floor to cover up any damage or stubborn dirt marks and create a reading area. Fun, functional and interchangeable furniture also makes for great library additions. Plush book characters may also be a nice touch.

Carpet.jpgSource: Flickr

If you’re on a budget, visit a charity store and see if you can find anything you could revamp. A touch of bright paint on wooden furniture or some bright bean bags can add a nice touch.  Wall decals, a coat of paint, bright contact, or even posters could certainly make bare walls or old furniture more interesting.


Source: Interldecor Blogspot


The furniture and décor is the key component which can transform your library from tired to bright and engaging. Have a working bee where customers can come and help paint or spruce up the library. Engaging them in the process can be a great way to instil pride and engage them further in library life.

4. Display your books with pride!

We know most people buy with their eyes so it's obvious that visual merchandising would be an effective way to showcase your books. It's the perfect opportunity to highlight new additions to the library or topics of interest. Consider purchasing easels or stands to help your books stand out. These can be purchased from places like Kmart, Target, Officeworks and even Dollar Stores.

Bay end panels (as shown in the picture) are another useful way to increase user borrowing and display books. Bay end panels are often over looked but they are extremely useful and work best when they are panels with a slat wall as they have the flexibility to display books. The best part about bay end panels is that they are cheap to install and can be added to existing shelving. You could even get a local carpenter to create some and paint them bright colours if you are on a tight budget!

Source: DVA

Also, be sure to change it up! You want people to be excited and engaged each time they come with new displays and new ideas. This creates a sense of energy and invigoration in the library service. Get creative and have fun with it!


Source: Armidale Library

5. Shelf signage

If you don’t already have signage in your library then it’s time to start.  You can simply start with paper laminated signs, then over time progress to acrylic or professional signage. Take a step back and look at how your books are divided on the shelves. Signs at the top of book cases are great however remember that children might not be able to see the top shelves. 

Discard any drab or tired signs immediately. They add to a perception of a library service being tired or depressed, which is definitely not what we want! Make sure signs are large enough that they can be read from a distance, and make them engaging.

3791145179_7bdd3feb71_z.jpgSource: Flickr

6. Keep things neat and clutter free

A neat, tidy and clutter free space will mean you can create focus points within the library with displays, books or signage. Consider using trays or storage bins if you have piles of objects or books in the library, this way they can at least be stored in a tidy fashion.

Also, make sure that housekeeping is done regularly. There is nothing worse than dusty shelves and books, glass windows which have mucky hand prints all over them, and grimy furniture. Wipe, clean and dust regularly, so that the library is fresh and welcoming. This is also a Workplace Health and Safety (WHS or OHS) requirement, so this shouldn’t be a negotiable. You wouldn’t buy from a dirty, dusty shop, so why would one expect customers to turn up if the library is filthy or mucky? If your library needs a good scrub, why not organise a volunteer clean-up day? Get people involved in scrubbing your library from top to bottom. Again, this will involve them and help them feel pride in their library service.

20150120_MLK_Stacking.jpgSource: The University of Chicago

Ensure adequate bins are located around the library so people can dispose of their rubbish, without leaving it lying around. If they don’t know where to dispose of rubbish, they will most likely leave it lying around, which does not look good.

7. Create a game area

This is a fun little touch to add to your library and you don't need much to create one. Find a large rug and add a checkerboard or jigsaw puzzle for everyone to work on. It's the perfect addition for children and families to spend some quality time together.

V0012021015--465326.jpgSource: Ventura County Star

8. Take risks

There are always ways to make your library more interesting but sometimes it does involve taking risks. Remember if something doesn’t work, you can always change it. However, the benefits often far outweigh the risks, so take a leap of faith, use your creativity, and re-invigorate your library through undertaking a few small initiatives.

While these are great suggestions to get you thinking about general improvements, don't forget to simply ask your customers and target demographics. They will have some amazing insights worth listening to. 

A small budget cannot be an excuse for apathy in this area. Use what you do have access to, get some volunteers on board, and try something new! Your customers will only thank you for it.


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