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Architecture of Public Libraries as

Civic Institutions.
A study of public libraries.

Undergraduate Research Thesis

Guided by Mr. Qamar Shaikh

Written by Antara Patel

Code no. UA 9103

As per the requirements of

Bachelor of Architecture Degree
at Faculty of Architecture, CEPT University

Chapter 1.0 Introduction and History 1

1.1 Introduction 2
Aims and objectives 4
Scope and limitations 5
Methodology 6
1.2 Libraries through history 7
1.3 History of libraries in India 17

Chapter 2.0 Planning & Design Aspects of a Public Library 23

2.1 Introduction to Planning and Design 24

2.2 Inception and initial brief 26
2.3 General design parameters 27
2.4 Technology and its Impact on Library Design 38

Chapter 3.0 Study of Selected Public Libraries in India 43

3.1 Introduction 44
3.2 National Library, Kolkata 47
3.3 David Sassoon Library and Reading Room, Mumbai 54
3.4 M.J. Library, Ahmedabad 63
3.5 Inferences 76

Chapter 4.0 Study of Selected Contemporary Public Libraries 77

4.1 Introduction 78
4.2 Waterford City Library, Ireland 79
4.3 Palo Verde Library and Community Center, Phoenix, USA 90
4.4 Seattle Central Library, USA 99
4.5 Inferences 114

Chapter 5.0 Conclusion 115

Chapter 6.0 Appendices 119

Bibliography 120
Interviews/E-mail correspondences 122
Illustration Credits 123
Drawing Credits 124
Acknowledgements 125
“The Library will endure: illuminated, soli-
tary, infinite, perfectly motionless, equipped
with precious volumes, useless, incorruptible,

Jorge Luis Borges, “The Library of Babel”.

Chapter 1.0
Introduction and History
Introduction and History

1.1 Introduction

Globally, the image of a public library has under-

gone a transformation over the past decade. The
architectural prominence of the public library has
become largely dependent on its multi-faceted out-
look, not simply as an institute of civic importance
but also as a place which can gather and serve its
immediate community. One of the major factors
contributing to this shift in the library visage has
been the change in reading patterns brought about
due to new-age technology and easy accessibility
of information.

1. Asiatic Society Library, Mumbai, India. The role of the library as merely a civic monument,
or as a public repository for books is fast fading. In
its place, it is developing a new mutating role as an
urban hangout, meeting place and as an arbiter of
information. The evolution of the new age library
has less to do with the digital evolution of informa-
tion than with the age-old need for human contact.
The reshaping of information brought about due
to the internet has even led the prognosticators to
speculate about the ultimate demise of the library
as a physical institution. But rather than declining,
the urban public library is surfacing as a complex
civic and social institution.

New definitions for the delivery of public library

services need to be understood in the context of
the urban environment. Just as all new institutions,
2. Stockholm City Library, Sweden. both private and public, are undergoing a shift due
to the fluctuating technological and social trends,
the public library is also reconsidering its position
as an urban institution in the era of the internet and
digitally accessible information. Along with its
changing outlook, the debate also arises for its ar-
chitecture. Uncertainty arises in regards to its com-
plex planning, due to its multiple agendas, varied
material storage and accessibility for its diverse

Small and medium scaled public libraries are de-

veloping as community centers by sharing spaces
and facilities with other social organizations like
orphanages, teen-centers, old age homes and even
shopping malls. The new libraries serve as centers
for communication where people can gather and
3. Central Public Library, Des Moines, Iowa, USA. information can be enhanced through public inter-
action. The vital factor changing the library design
is the public oriented outlook with freer spaces as
opposed to the old formal and restricted areas.
Introduction and History

There is a trend amongst new library buildings to be

recognized as landmarks amongst the other prominent
institutions of the city such as museums or art-galler-
ies. This development has been the result of re-evalu-
ating the value of the library as a public space within
the city. Libraries are now moving from their tradi-
tional roles of being centers of knowledge and educa-
tion to places for civic, cultural and social exchange.

A public library is an important means whereby the re-

cord of man’s thoughts and ideals, and the expression
of his creative imagination, are made freely available
to all. Ideally it should render services to all classes
of the society without discriminating between caste,
religion, sex, age or economic inequalities. It need not 4. New internal piazza of the Morgan Library, New York.
be viewed as a relic of the past or as an object of nos-
talgia. Rather it can be developed as an essential plat-
form to increase equity, opportunity and community
development in the information age.

Each country and community needs its great ware-

house of books, because we cannot predict what fu-
ture generations will want to refer to, nor can we usu-
ally afford to record books in any more compact form
than the original. Anything ever published anywhere
ought to be preserved somewhere; the society which
destroys or willfully forgets it’s published past is on
the road to barbarism. We do not live in a world driven
only by facts. While knowledge of such matters, as the
means of adding a new chip to a computer, maybe of
vital importance at various times in our lives, it does
not make us into civilized people. Civilization, from 5. The ‘Living Room’ of the Seattle Public Library
which all human progress has stemmed, depends on
consciousness which is largely gained from under-
standing not just information, but the opinions of oth-
ers about facts. All other branches of human endeavor
are based on critical analysis of past opinions. Human
development has in a sense been enabled by extreme-
ly complex forms of textual criticism (Davey 4).

Libraries, metaphorical and literal are vital to civili-

zation, and we must go on experimenting with forms
of building in which they can be housed. Libraries,
though being radically affected by electronic media,
will continue to be needed and the buildings in which
they are housed will also need to keep on evolving
so that they can cater for ever more diverse societies
(Davey 4-5).
6. Lounge seating for the reading areas in the DOK Library,
Delft, Netherlands.

Introduction and History

Aims and Objectives

The aim of this thesis is to provide an insight into

the considerations that need to be taken into ac-
count while designing a public library in the pres-
ent urban context. The thesis intends to study the
architectural parameters of contemporary public li-
braries positioned in the current urban environment
and to identify the complex and diverse forces which
influence its design aspects.

This thesis makes an effort to get a general idea about

the position of public libraries in India currently and
to look into the design issues and considerations, de-
rived from the selected case studies, for reviving and
designing new public library buildings in the immedi-
ate present and the future. This thesis; while analyz-
ing selected contemporary libraries from other places
and looking at the present standing of public libraries
in India; ultimately wants to express the need for re-
viewing and revitalizing the public library architec-
ture. It thus attempts to look at public libraries as civic
institutions, for the varied range of users and the di-
verse facilities that they can provide.

The thesis also attempts to study the new emerg-

ing style of library architecture arising out of the
technological and social evolution.

In the past few years the amount of data stored elec-

tronically and retrieved digitally has increased largely
and this has become an important factor in the reduc-
tion of the need to actually go to a particular place to
seek information. Thus the function of a public library,
from being merely just a source of knowledge through
lending of reading materials, has diluted and become
obscure. Libraries today are grappling with the need
to reach out more to their immediate communities
and move beyond their original standing as formal
and solemn institutions. This change in the outlook
of library administration has undoubtedly affected its
architecture. More and more libraries are being con-
ceived and designed as dynamic public buildings to
congregate people and cater to the diverse needs of its

The thesis identifies the two prominent factors affect-

ing the new public library design - technology and
community; along with the other necessary parameters
for library design and thus tries to obtain a perspective
on the changes in style and attitudes in the contempo-
rary public library functions and architecture.

Introduction and History

Scope and limitations

The scope of the thesis is limited to the study of two

selected public libraries from India and three selected
contemporary public libraries. The study also focuses
on the necessary design elements of library planning
to understand the requirements and changing trends
in its architecture.

The National Library of India has been taken as an in-

dicative example to understand the civic position and
the forces affecting public libraries in India. The case
studies selected from India are varying in size, style
of architecture, outlook and location. They have been
included as a part of this study to demonstrate the cur-
rent position of public library buildings in India.

To identify and analyze the forces affecting the chang-

ing architecture, a range of contemporary public li-
braries, varying in their program, location and size
have been selected. Each selected case study has a
unique aspect to its program and design. The study
attempts to exhibit the various possible means of de-
veloping public library programs and designs in dif-
ferent contexts.

The research is limited to access of resources avail-

able in the library of the school of architecture, CEPT
University, National Library collections, online ar-
ticles, internet sources, publications and e-mail cor-

Discussions with Mr. Ashim Mukherjee, library infor-

mation officer, at the National Library of India, Kol-
kata, helped understand the problems and position of
library buildings in India and gave an insight into the
functioning of the Library.

As there is limited material published on either David

Sassoon Library or M.J. Library the information is
gathered from the respective library archives and the
librarians; Mr. Vivekanand R. Ajgaonkar - President
Emeritus, David Sassoon Library & Reading Room
and Mr. Shantibhai B. Patel - Principal Librarian at
M.J. Library.

Mr. David Cartoz, Architect from Bombay Collabora-

tive, the firm in charge of restoring the David Sassoon
Library, shared the information and the architectural
drawings of the library.

Introduction and History

Discussions with Professor R.J. Vasavada, who was

initially involved with the proposal to renovate the
M.J. Library, helped in understanding the library. He
also shared the measure drawings and photographs of
the library from his personal collection.


The study is divided into four chapters and chapter

five is the conclusion.

Chapter one is the introduction to the thesis, its aims

and objectives and history of the public libraries in the
world and in India.

Chapter two is the study of general design elements

and aspects of a public library design. It looks into
the layout and planning of a library building and it
establishes the main parameters for the analysis of the
selected case studies in chapters three and four.

The study is divided into two parts in chapters three

and four. The analysis is not a comparative study and
each library is analyzed individually.

Chapter three is on the public libraries in India; gen-

eral discussion on the position of public libraries in
the country today, with a reference to the National
Library of India, Kolkata; case studies of David Sas-
soon Library and Reading Room, Mumbai and M.J.
Library, Ahmedabad with the architectural drawings
and analysis. Inferences are given based on the pa-
rameters selected for the analysis.

Chapter four is a study of three contemporary public

libraries. Waterford City Library, Ireland; Palo Verde
Library and Community Center, Phoenix, USA; Seat-
tle Central Library, USA with the architectural draw-
ings and analysis. Inferences are given based on the
parameters selected for the analysis.

The thesis ends with a conclusion which tries to ex-

plain the primary forces which affect a public library
program and design in this information age. It also
tries to broadly identify the changing characteristics
in the architectural style and outlook of a public li-
brary with its shifting perspective.

Introduction and History

1.2 Libraries through History

Libraries In The Ancient World - Origins

The origins of libraries as an institution are very dif-

ficult to trace through antiquity. It can generally be
stated that with the recording of human thoughts, also
started the concept of library, as an institution which
would preserve knowledge for future use. In most
ancient cultures, knowledge had an important almost
sacred position. Thus each culture had some form of
library whether a scholarly, priestly, royal or private
collection of books. From primitive cave walls, me-
dium of storing information evolved through clay
tablets, papyrus or parchment scrolls, the illuminated 7. Cave painting, Lascaux, France, 15,000 to 10,000 B.C.
manuscript, the vellum codex, the incunabula, the
printed book, audio and video cassettes, microforms
culminating in the digitized and electronic media.

The essential function of almost all libraries through-

out history, no matter what they have been called, has
been collection, preservation and dissemination of
knowledge. In this sense, not only library, but even
the concept of public library is as old as civilization.
As always assumed, they were not merely store hous-
es for books; they were social institutions not simply
in their names but also by their functions (R.Nair 1).

Origin of Free Public Library

The concept of public library is to a large extent re-

lated to the principle of access rather than with the
considerations of size, content or organization of
collections. The principle ‘libraries are for all’ has
existed down through the ages. Many of the ancient
libraries were open to most users. Ancient libraries
were public libraries only in the sense that they were
at the service of those who could use them and those
who cared to use them (R.Nair 2).

The development of libraries can be traced parallel to

the evolution of the written script. The oldest system
of writing known to us is the cuneiform writing of
the people of Sumeria and Indus valley which goes
back to almost 3000 BC. Thousands of clay tablets 8. The Great Library of Alexandria was the most famed
prescribed with records of their systems and life literary repository of the ancient world. Founded in circa
300 B.C. An artist’s sketch.
styles have been excavated from those sites. Tello in
Sumeria had a collection of about 30,000 clay tablets
(R.Nair 2).

Introduction and History

The Library of Assurbanipal at Nineveh

Perhaps, the most important and largest collection

in the ancient world was established by the Assyrian
king Assurbanipal at Nineveh in 7th century BC. His
library contained more than 20,000 clay tablets, be-
sides huge collections of leather scrolls and papyri.
He undertook systematic collection of all recorded
information – religious, historical, geographical and
scientific knowledge from all parts of the known
world. They were classified and catalogued. The plan
of the library, the specialized equipment, staff and the
liberal provision can be compared with those of the
present day public libraries. His large collection was
a organized for the purpose of instruction of his sub-
jects and his collection of documents was open to all
people (R. Nair 2-3).

Mesopotamia’s highly-developed literature and learn-

ing are demonstrated by clay tablets from the library
of King Assurbanipal. The ancient Sumerian “Epic of
Gilgamesh” and a nearly complete list of ancient Near
Eastern rulers among other priceless writings were
preserved in Ashurbanipal’s palace library at Nineveh.
The collection was spread out into many rooms ac-
9. a) Site plan of Nineveh with location of Assurbanipal’s
cording to subject matter. Some rooms were devot-
palace complex b) plan of the north palace where part of ed to history and government, others to religion and
the library collections were recovered magic and still others to geography, science, poetry,
etc. Ashurbanipal’s collection even held what could be
called classified government materials. The findings
of spies and secret affairs of state were held secure
from access in deep recesses of the palace much like
a modern government archive. Each group of tablets
contained a brief citation to identify the contents and
each room contained a tablet near the door to classify
the general contents of each room in Ashurbanipal’s
library. Partially through military conquests and par-
tially through the employment of numerous scribes
there was significant effort placed into what modern
10. Assurbanipal hunting lions - carving from the north pal-
librarians would call collection development (The Li-
ace courtyard wall.
brary of King Ashurbanipal).

The Library of Alexandria at Egypt

Ancient Egypt had a number of libraries. A very big

library existed at Gizeh in 2500 BC and in 1250 BC.
Ramses II established a library at Thebes. At it’s en-
trance he had inscribed ‘medicine for soul’ which
proves that it was open to all (R. Nair 2).
11. The Flood Tablet, relating part of the Epic of Gilgamesh
7th century BC found from the palace library collections. The Royal Library of Alexandria, also known as the

Introduction and History

Library or simply the Library of Alexandria in Alex-

andria, Egypt, was once the largest library in the
world. It is generally thought to have been founded at
the beginning of the 3rd century BC, during the reign
of Ptolemy II of Egypt. The Library was likely cre-
ated after his father had built what would become the
first part of the Library complex, the temple of the
Muses – the Mouseion. The library of Alexandria can
be seen as the forerunner of today’s national librar-
ies, since its mission was to collect all the important
works of Hellenic civilization (Wikipedia).

The library had a magnificent collection of 700,000

volumes. This library was headed by great many
scholars like Aristophanes and Callimachus. Callima-
chus devised a catalogue with author, title and sub- 12. Artist’s sketch of the Great Library of Alexandria
ject entries. This library allowed free access to people
(R. Nair 3). The Library likely encompassed several
buildings, with the main book depositories either di-
rectly attached to or located close to the oldest build-
ing, the Museum, and a daughter library in the young-
er Serapeum, which was also a temple dedicated to
the god Serapis. The geographical diversity of the
scholars suggests that the Library was in fact a major
center for research and learning. Although the actual
circumstances and timing of the physical destruction
of the Library remain uncertain, it is however clear
that by the 8th century AD, the Library was no longer
a significant institution and had ceased to function in
any important capacity (Wikipedia).

The Libraries of Ancient Greece and Rome

The ancient Greeks advanced the idea of amassing

collected works owing to their interest in literacy and
intellectual life. Aristotle (384-322 BC) is said to have
been the first person to collect, preserve, and use the
culture of the past. Ancient geographer Strabo said
“Aristotle was the first to have put together a collec-
tion of books and to have taught the kings in Egypt
how to arrange a library” (Krasner-Khait. Survivor:
The History Magazine).

The Attalid kings formed the second best Hellenistic

library after Alexandria,The Library of Pergamum,
at Pergamum (Turkey), in 3rd century BC, in emu-
lation of the Ptolemies. Its holdings in 32 BC were
documented at 200,000 books. Pergamum was actu-
ally a complex consisting of four buildings (Spoon).
Pliny in his natural history describes the public li- 13. Trajan’s Column, in Trajan’s Forum which was flanked
brary planned by Julius Caesar and established by his by Greek and Latin libraries on both sides.

Introduction and History

friend Asinius Pollio in 39 BC Pliny states that ‘Asin-

ius Pollio had made men’s talents and mental powers
a public possession.’ Caesar’s assassination prevented
the creation of Rome’s first truly public library. The
idea of a public library with large collection of vol-
umes meant for common use first found practical re-
alization in the time of Emperor Augustus who ruled
between 63 BC and 14 AD (R. Nair 3).

Rome had only three public libraries at the time of

Augustus’ death in 14 AD : Pollio’s, one in the Por-
ticus of Octavia and Augustus’ on the Palatine Hill.
When Trajan (98-117 AD) built his monumental col-
umn in 112 AD, a library; sectioned into the tradi-
tional Greek and Latin chambers; was a part of it.The
collection there grew to include some 20,000 volumes
(Krasner-Khait).Trajan’s Library of Peace was shaped
14. Plan of Trajan’s Forum, depicting the Trajan’s column like the apses of two churches, and provided reading
and the libraries.
space in each. Roman libraries had to be bilingual,
and were usually built as bicameral edifices, one for
Latin works, one for Greek, each chamber consist-
ing of wooden bookcases housed in rows of niches

During the time of Constantine, by the 3rd century

AD, Rome possessed about 28 public libraries many
of these libraries would have been found in a gym-
nasium - Bath. A gymnasium was a gathering place
for scholars and their pupils complete with a library.
The gymnasium library is somewhat equivalent to our
idea of a public library. The architectural style of the
gymnasium is basically a square or rectangular court-
yard surrounded by a columned peristyle (Spoon).

When the library was part of a gymnasium it often

took the form of an exedra, a room added to the ex-
terior back wall of the gymnasium with a row of col-
umns in front. Most gymnasium library plans of Ro-
man antiquity use the ½ round exedra of the Roman
style to house the library, as in the Plan of the Baths
15. Plan of the Baths of Carcalla with the location of the
of Diocletian. In the plan of the Baths of Caracalla a
libraries, Rome (AD 212-216). rectangular Greek exedra was used (Spoon).

The Libraries through the Middle Ages

In the early 5th century AD libraries were established

as part of monastic communities. Monasteries acted as
centers of learning during the early Middle Ages, pro-
ducing as well as preserving books, their books were
numbered in few hundreds. These few books were
usually kept in cupboards or small vaulted rooms,
usually next to the cloisters, and dispensed to the me-
Introduction and History

mbers of the community as required. Carrels for read-

ing and writing were usually positioned in close prox-
imity (Graham 72).

Monasticism gave rise to an explosion of learning. In

529 AD, Benedict established a monastery in Monte
Cassino and established a rule by which the monks
would live which included the compulsion of book
reading (Krasner-Khait). The origins of the modern
institutional library can be traced to the later middle
ages. The establishment of universities gave rise to 16. Library of Leyden University in 1610. Print by Cor-
the fully equipped library rooms. As more readers nelius Woudanus: long lecterns with book storage above
needed to access the books, safety for the books be- and below.
came necessary. A long, narrow room, usually set at
the first floor level to increase security and reduce risk
of damp, lit by rows of windows was provided. There
were long lecterns onto which the books were kept
chained (Graham 72).

With the invention of printing in the 15th century, when

the number of books began to expand, it became sim-
pler to provide extra storage space in shelves above
and below the lecterns. By the late 16th century, in
universities like Oxford and Cambridge, lecterns had
become stalls equipped with seats (Graham 73).

17. Michaelangelo, Biblioteca Laurentiana, Florence, ves-

Libraries in Renaissance tibule and stairway.

With the advent of renaissance, building a library

had become a way for the princely collector, as well
as the university or college, to demonstrate commit-
ment to humanistic values and the spread of learning.
Though not public in the modern sense, such libraries
18. Plan., Biblioteca Laurentiana (1523-52). Michaelan-
were usually open to the serious scholar at least; more
elaborately decorated than earlier examples, they also
often served as galleries for the display of works of art
and curiosities (Graham 73). During the renaissance,
people began to look to the Greek and Roman artistic
and literary classics for inspiration. Many aristocrats
of the period were dedicated to developing their pri-
vate libraries. Cosimo de Medici of the famous Flo-
rentine family established his own collection, which
formed the basis of the Laurentiana Library designed
by Michelangelo. Also in Italy, the Vatican Library
opened in the 1400s (Krasner-Khait).

Renaissance brought about the wall-system of storing

books. It involved moving the book cases against the
walls and leaving the central space free. Bookcases 19. Wren’s Trinity College Cambridge library 1676-81.
were accessed using ladders. Thus it was possible to Wall shelving combined with projecting presses to provide
utilize the whole height of the room (Graham 73). grand version of old stall

Introduction and History

The earliest use of wall cases was at the Bodleian in

1610-13 AD. Thomas Bodley rebuilt Humphrey’s li-
brary at Oxford in the late 1500s. It was renamed the
Bodleian Library and today ranks as the second largest
in the country (Krasner-Khait). The most monumen-
tal of 17th century English libraries was the library at
Trinity College, Cambridge built by Wren in 1676-
81. Here wall shelving was combined with projecting
presses to provide a grander version of the older stall-
system (Graham 73).
20. Wren’s proposed plan for Trinity College Cambridge Until the end of the 17th century the library was con-
library. Early unbuilt example of concentric library. ceived as a long, rectangular space from the medieval
traditions of reading spaces. At the end of the 17th
century an alternative for a centrically planned library
emerged. The initial usual plan was an oval with a
rectangle as at Herman Korb’s building at Wolfenbut-
tel (1706-10). In an alternative proposal for Trinity,
Wren gave a proposal for a circular plan for the li-
brary. The domed building with its square shell was to
be located in the center of the open court. The tables
and seats formed an inner ring, the book shelves be-
yond were served by an outer corridor. This inspired
Hawksmoor to suggest a circular plan for the Radcliffe
Camera in Oxford; James Gibbs executed this plan
in 1737-49. The Radcliffe Camera is part of Oxford’s
21. Wolfenbuttel library, Lower Saxony 1706-1710 by Her- Bodleian Library. The centrically planned library in-
mann Korb. Early built example of concentirc library.
grained the idea that the building itself should demon-
strate the universality and perfectibility of knowledge
(Graham 73).

Prominent Libraries - 18th - 19th century

Until the late 18th century the library was essential-

ly a large, single space, with little or no extra stor-
age or administration spaces. The books, readers and
staff co-existed in one space. The building itself thus
became the principle catalogue of its contents, guid-
ing the readers through its contents, by arranging its
bookcases accordingly. The growing number of books
and readers created a problem due to the rigid physi-
cal grouping of books on a set of shelves. The solution
came with paper catalogue which offered permuta-
tions of arrangements far more numerous and flexible.
This permitted dramatic changes in the planning of
the late 18th and early 19th century libraries (Graham

Leopoldo della Santa’s - Della costruzione e del

regolamento di una pubblica universale bibliotheca
22. Radcliffe Camera Library (1739-49) Oxford, James (1816), in particular, marked a turning point in the
Gibb. Plan and front elevation. growing trend to separate out readers, books and staff
Introduction and History

and keep them apart wherever possible. The surge in

demand due to the rapid social and economic changes
brought about a change in the library layout by plac-
ing the books in a storage stack and restricting the
reader to a separate reading room (Graham 74).

This period was also marked by the creation of great

national libraries which often incorporated older reli-
gious or royal collections. The largest library in Brit-
ain, the British Library was founded in 1759 as part
of the British Museum. The British museum until the
1800’s was largely an accumulation of various pri-
vate and some royal collections, housed in converted
accommodation of Montague House. A circular read-
ing room placed within the central quadrangle of the 23. British Museum, Library Reading Room (1825-1857)
museum was proposed. The staff sat in the enclosed by Sydney Smirke.
space at the center, surrounded by concentric rings
of catalogue and the readers’ desks were arranged ra-
dial to it. The books lined its outer perimeter and the
main collection was housed in iron stacks beyond its
walls. A 140 feet glass and iron dome spanned across
it. Its circular plan is said to have influenced library
planning into tury : for instance at the Library of Con-
gress (1897) the Prussian State Library (1914) and the
Stockholm City Library (1928). The circular reading
space of the British Museum’s Reading Room, like its
centrically planned forebears, compellingly suggests
the ordering of knowledge (Graham 74).

In France, the national library in Paris known as

Bibliotheque Nationale de France began in 1367
AD as the Royal Library of Charles V. In 1865 AD
Henri Labrouste designed the main reading room. 24. Labrouste’s Reading Room, Bibliotheque Nationale,
The Reading Room is covered with a series of nine Paris (1856-68)
pendentived simple domes of terra-cotta, supported
by twelve slender columns of iron, aranged in four
rows, the outer columns standing close to the walls
(Fletcher 1206).

Amongst other libraries of prominence in the 19th

century is the Bibliotheque Ste. Genevieve by Henri
Labrouste in 1843 AD it is remarkably noted as one
of the greatest cultural buildings of the 19th century
to use iron in a prominent, visible way. The large two-
storied structure filling a wide, shallow site is decep-
tively simple in its scheme. The ferrous structure of
the reading room—a spine of slender, cast-iron Ionic
columns dividing the space into twin aisles and sup-
porting openwork iron arches that carry barrel vaults
of plaster reinforced by iron mesh—has always been
25. Section of Bibliotheque Ste. Genevieve, Henri
revered by Modernists for its introduction of high Labrouste, 1843.
technology into a monumental building (Trachten-
berg and Hyman 478).
Introduction and History

Labrouste’s use of industrial materials, such as cast

iron columns, as prominent features in the reading
room of this library, created controversy, since con-
ventional thought at the time associated such signifi-
cant building styles with dressed stone and other con-
ventional materials.

Libraries now functioned as accumulation of parts,

rather than single monumental spaces. The need was
thus for flexible buildings, with the potential for ex-
pansion due to which in the later half of the 19th cen-
26. Main Reading Hall of Bibliotheque Ste. Genevieve. tury there was a diversification of styles. Classical
Libraries were joined by buildings in a gallimaufry of
styles which were adapted to flexible planning like:
Gothic, Renaissance, Romanesque, Arts and Crafts,
Art Nouveau (Graham 75).

The public library movement came about in the 1850’s

in Britain. There was a great surge in the number of
public libraries from the last 50 years of the 19th cen-
tury to the first 20 years of the 20th century. For the first
time, books were made freely available to the general
public at the expense of the government. Manchester
was one of the first to establish a public library and ap-
pointed one of the main campaigners for this reform,
Edward Edwards, as its first Chief Librarian. Most of
the initial libraries were funded by philanthropists and
charitable foundations. The Carnegie trust of Andrew
27. An aritst’s sketch of the Manchester Public Library,
Carnegie was responsible for 660 new British librar-
Britain, 1960. ies between 1885 and 1920 (Graham 75).

Libraries in the United States of America

In 1638, a Massachusetts clergyman by the name

of John Harvard, donated 400 books to a university
which adopted his name and came to be known as
the Harvard University thus becoming one of the old-
est libraries in the United States of America. In 1731,
Benjamin Franklin and others founded the first such
library, the Library Company of Philadelphia. The ini-
tial collection of the Library of Congress was in ashes
after the British burned it during the War of 1812. The
library bought Thomas Jefferson’s vast collection in
1815 and used that as a foundation to rebuild (Kras-

It wasn’t until waves of immigration and the philoso-

phy of free public education for children that public
libraries spread in the US. The first public library in
28. Harvard University Library, Massachusetts, United the country opened in Peterborough, New Hampshire,
States of America, 1638.
in 1833. Philanthropist Andrew Carnegie helped build
more than 1,700 public libraries in the US between
Introduction and History

1881 and 1919.The historian David McCullough has

listed the five most important libraries in America as:
the Library of Congress, the Boston Public Library,
the New York Public Library and the university li-
braries of Harvard and Yale (Krasner-Khait).

Modern Libraries in the early 20th century

Up until the 19th century the stacks were organized

on the catalogue system (closed stacks). At the end of
the 19th century the open stack system was used and
it became possible to browse through the books. This
involved reducing the height of the shelves, moving
them apart to create aisles for movement and creating
a single bottleneck exit for issuing books. The mod-
ern library architecture brought about the decline of
the classical idea of grandeur and ornamentation and
enforced the functional simplicity of form and spac-
es. The need for expansion of major libraries also re-
quired the buildings to be adjustable to mutli-purpose
arrangements and functions (Graham 75).

One of the prominent examples of the early modern

libraries is the Stockholm City Library by Erik Gun-
nar Asplund. Built around 1927, the structure is com-
29. Final version of Gunnar Asplund’s Stockholm Library,
prised of a round central great hall on a square plinth. grpund floor plan and section through the main stair, 1921.
The library was built poised on the edge of modern-
ism (

Asplund’s scheme of a round hall surrounded by

staircases has a great deal in common with his Lister
Courthouse, completed at the same time. The first
sketches for the Public Library, prepared in 1921, de-
pict a domed room. The substitution of a tall cylin-
der imparted monumental stature to the room and to
the exterior of this moderately sized building, at the
same time making it possible for light to be admit-
ted through clear-glass windows in the outer walls in- 30. Aerial view of the Stockholm Library, Sweden.
stead of through the opaque glazing of the roof-lights
(Caldenby and Hultin 92).

The maturation process of the Public Library marks

an architectural turning point, the more traditional
classicism of the early sketches giving way to increas-
ing simplification. The ornamentation was gradually
pared down to a few pictorial friezes in bas relief. In
the simple, glazed shopfront base completed in 1928,
functionalism has already made its entrance (Calde-
nby and Hultin 92).
31. Central cylindrical Reading Room in the Stockholm

Introduction and History

Amongst other buildings of the early 20th century, Al-

var Aalto’s municipal library at Viipuri (1927-33) is
also cited as an example of prominent modern librar-
ies. There are many similarities in between Asplund’s
library and Aalto’s library which include the entrance
spaces, the main interior volume and its stairways and
control system and the main street facing façade. The
grouping of these features was done in a way which
was previously unknown in the architecture of Fin-
land. The simple and functional grouping of two vol-
32. View of Viipuri Municipal Library.
umes, the almost sacred diffusion of natural light, and
the entry on the central axis are some of the distinct
characteristics derived from Asplund’s library and the
architecture of the modern era. Aalto’s libraries in the
later years of his practice; the public libraries at Sein-
ajoki (1963-65) and Rovaniemi (1963-1968); are also
noted for their distinctly evolved style, away from his
early modern influences, and their innovative use of
natural light.

The building was planned in two main blocks, one

containing the library functions, the other the audito-
rium and a series of smaller committee and discussion
rooms. The library space was divided by areas and
levels into a control area, from which the entire li-
brary could be supervised and the movement of books
33. Entry stairway and roof lights in the reading room. regulated. The final buildings, while bold and clear
in plan, was marked chiefly by its careful handling
of lighting – so important to libraries and to condi-
tions in the long northern winters – and its shelves,
paneling, furniture and other fully integrated details.
The most noteworthy features of the library were its
depressed, traffic-free study room; its unique, shadow
less natural illumination, provided by 57 circular light
wells piercing the ceiling; and its auditorium with its
wave-like wood ceiling (Guntheim 12).

34. Viipuri Municipal Library, Aalvar Aalto, ground floor

plan and section (1927-33.).

Introduction and History

1.3 History of libraries in India

Ancient India

In ancient India the references of libraries can be

traced parallel to the growth of prominent education-
al universities like Nalanda, Taxila and Vikramshila.
These universities were important seats of learning
and each had their own collection of rare documents
for scholars and learned people. The trend of preserv-
ing and passing knowledge through the Vedic times
35. Plan of Nalanda depicting the eight viharas on a central
had been through recitations and narrations. During
spine with cells surrounded by courtyards and the temples.
the Buddhist period many learned monks and schol-
ars began the task of recording knowledge in form of
manuscripts and preserving them in Viharas (monas-
teries) and other places of learning.

Nalanda (600 BC) was a large university with dor-

mitories for students and teachers. It was a complex
formed around eight separate compounds with tem-
ples, halls and class rooms. The library was located
in an area known as Dharmaganja, and was noted to
be a nine storied building called Ratnasagara where
meticulous copies of texts were produced. Most of
the description of the Nalanda University is based on
the accounts of the Chinese traveller Hiuen-Tsang in
the 7th century AD and from Tibetan texts. Bakhtiyar
Khilji sacked the university in 1197-1203 AD and set
fire to it (Siwatch 20). Taxila was an early center of
learning dating back to at least the 5th century BC. It 36. View of a temple amid the ruins with stupas at nalanda
was the seat of Vedic learning and was very signifi-
cant in Buddhist tradition as well.

Pre-Independence Libraries

The history of public libraries in India begins with

educational reforms brought about by the British rul-
ers in the 19th century. With the establishment of vari-
ous universities in many important cities, the idea of
providing reading facilities to the general public was
also encouraged. The first libraries were set up by the
British in cities like Bombay, Calcutta and Madras in
the middle of the 19th century. However these were
only accessible to the upper class bureaucrats and
European members. Examples of such libraries were
Asiatic Society Library at Bombay (1830), Andrews
Library at Surat (1850), Gay Public Library at Gays
(1855), Connemera Public Library at Madras (1866)
and the Government Library at Junagarh (Walia 79).

Introduction and History

The Asiatic Society of Mumbai can trace its origin

to the Literary Society of Bombay which first met in
Mumbai on November 26, 1804 and was founded by
Sir James Mackintosh. It was formed with the inten-
tion of “promoting useful knowledge, particularly
such as is now immediately connected with India”.
After the Royal Asiatic Society was established in
London in 1823, the Literary Society of Bombay be-
came affiliated with it and was known as the Bom-
bay Branch of the Royal Asiatic Society since 1830.
37 The Bombay Branch of The Royal Asiatic Society, (Wikipedia). However up until then this library was
Bombay, 1830. only accessible to the patrician members.

On 15th November 1830, a journalist by the name of

Joachim Hayward Stocqueler started the Bombay
General Library as,“Bombay laboured at the time un-
der the great disadvantage of being deficient of a pub-
lic library to which all classes might have gratuitous
access” (in P.T. Nair 8). Thus, under the chairmanship
of Mr. Stocqueler, the name chosen for this institution
was “Bombay General Library and Reading Room,
open to all ranks, classes and castes without distinc-
tion, a respectable character, a decorous demeanour,
and a strict adherence to the rules, constituting the
only requisites for admission.” it was housed at the
residence of Mr. Framji Cowasjee who was a mem-
ber. The library gradually diminished after the depar-
ture of J.H. Stocqueler from Bombay (P.T.Nair 8).

38. Joachim Hayward Stocqueler, the journalist who started

the Bombay Genreal Library and Reading Room in 1830, Calcutta Public Library
Bombay and later set about the resolution for the Calcutta
Public Library in 1836. (The first liberated Public Library of India)

In 1833 J.H. Stocqueler reached Calcutta from Lon-

don and found it equally deficient in having a gen-
eral library for the common people. There were many
well known libraries existing in Calcutta formerly.
The Asiatic Society’s Library (1806) had the richest
collection of books on the Oriental subjects; it was
open only to its upper class members. The library in
the Writer’s Buildings of the Fort William (1800) had
a good collection of manuscripts and books in classi-
cal languages and it was open to young civil servants
of the East India Company. The Bar Library Club in
the Supreme Court was established by Longueville
Clarke in 1828. In 1818 the Clacutta Library Soci-
ety was established in the Town Hall, there was not
a single native member of this library even till 1831.
Finding the literary hankerings of the people of Cal-
39. Writer’s Buildings of the Fort William which housed
a library for civil servants in the early 1800’s and in 1841 cutta unfulfilled by the difficulty of accessibility to
also was home to the Calcutta Public Library. books, Stocqueler decided to start a resolution to set
up a public library, accessible without any discrimin-

Introduction and History

tion to people of all castes, color and nationality

(P.T.Nair 7-8). Calcutta Public Library was started on
21st March 1836 at the residence of one of its founders
Dr. Strong on 12 Esplanade Row. The founders of this
library were prominent figures of the Calcutta society
including Sir Charles Metcalfe, Sir Edward Ryan, The
Bishop of Calcutta, Mr. H.T. Prinsep, Sir J.P. Grant,
Mr. H.M. Parker, Prince Dwarknath Tagore (grand-
father of the Nobel Laureate, Rabindranath Tagore),
Russomoy Dutt and Dr. Strong (P.T.Nair 15-16).
Longueville Clarke stated that he knew “no measure
which would show the feelings of the inhabitants of
British India, - which would better show the estima-
tion in which they held the liberty of the press, than by 40. Prince Dwarknath Tagore (grandfather of the Nobel
the establishment of a public library’ (in P.T.Nair 10) Laureate, Rabindranath Tagore) the first Indian to promote
the Calcutta Public Library by donating Rs. 500 towards
its funds.
The library added a new dimension to the library
movement in the world by its self-financing principle.
It was a public library in the sense that it was open
to people of any nationality without caste, colour dis-
tintions, for reading and consultations within its walls.
This concept of a public library, run by a local body or
committee, was unthinkable in India during the rule of
the East India Company (P.T.Nair 19).

In 1841 the Library was shifted to the Writer’s Build-

ings in the rooms of Fort William (P.T.Nair 99). The
first public library building set up in Calcutta was 41. Dr. Strong house on 12 Esplanade Row which housed
the Calcutta Public Library initially in 1836.
started in the building known as the Metcalfe Hall
(1846) as a memorial to Sir Charles Theophilus Met-
calfe, Provisional Governor-General of India during
1835-36. He was merited as the person who was re-
sponsible for liberating the press in India and making
English India’s official language (P.T.Nair 41).

The Metcalfe Hall was designed by the Magistrate of

Calcutta by the name of C.K. Robison (1841). It was
a one storied building with strong Greek influences to
its order from the Temple or Tower of Winds at Ath-
42. Sir Charles Theophilus Metcalfe, Provisional Gover-
ens. It was raised on a solid, ornamented basement nor-General of India during 1835-36.
about ten feet high. A broad flight of steps led up to
its portico on its west side, towards the river front and
another covered flight of steps from the east entrance
led up to its lobby and internal staircase. Columns and
colonnade nearly surround the whole building. The
lower story was occupied by the Agricultural Society
and the upper by the Calcutta Public Library (P.T.Nair

It was a library for reference and circulation by com-

pulsion, with open stacks all around where the read-
43. Metcalfe Hall, Calcutta Public Library, 1846
ers could select the books for reading on their choice.
Introduction and History

Free permission was given to everyone whether a

member, a stranger or a traveler in the city were wel-
comed in the library and were allowed to issue the
books. Of course this level of open access also brought
about abuse of many valuable books and later the
rules were slightly amended. Peary Chand Mitra, the
writer of Bengali novels, was one of the first Indian to
be appointed as the Librarian of the Calcutta Public
Library in 1848 and nationalist, Bipin Chandra Pal
(1858-1932), was appointed the Librarian and Secre-
tary of the Calcutta Public Library in 1890 (P.T.Nair
44. Peary Chand Mitra (1814-83), the first Indian Librarian 73, 95).
of the Calcutta Public Library in 1848
The idea of the first, truly free, public library took
shape in Britain only in 1850 and in New York in
1895; thus Calcutta was the first to really give seed
to the idea of a liberated general library for all the
people. For the next 15 years the library ran on the
principle of self-financing without help from the gov-
ernment or philanthropists. Calcutta Public Library
was a concept far ahead of its times; it was a Public
Library in every sense of the term (P.T.Nair 19, 69).

The Imperial Library

In 1902 the Calcutta Public Library was transferred to

45. Bipin Chandra Pal (1858-1932), Librarian and Secre-
tary of the Calcutta Public Library in 1890. the government and was converted into the first Im-
perial Library of India by Lord Curzon, the Viceroy
and Governor-General of India (1899-1904). John
Macfarlane from the British Museum was responsible
for the amalgamation of the Imperial Secretariat Li-
brary (1881) with the Calcutta Public Library. Both
the floors of the Metcalfe Hall were used to house the
Imperial Library from 1903-1923 (P.T.Nair 198).

Lord Curzon described the arrangement of the Imperi-

al Library as such – the darker lower floor was used to
store the books not in regular use with ample room to
add to their number. The upper floor was used for the
functioning of the Library with a room for the librar-
ian, his staff and attendants, a room was provided for
students who wanted to study or write for themselves
and the main hall was used as the Reading Room of
the Library and was compared with the arrangement
of the Reading Room of the British Museum. The idea
of the imperial library was that it should contain all the
books printed about India in popular tongues, with ad-
46. Lord Curzon, the Viceroy and Governor-General of In-
dia (1899-1904) ditions that were required to make it a good all-round
library for standard works of reference (P.T.Nair 71).

Introduction and History

The Imperial Library established was not a lending

library. Lord Curzon believed that if the library was
made lending, then based on the experience of the
previously established Calcutta Public Library and
other lending libraries in India, most of the books re-
turned would either be depilated or in the last stages
of decay. He had also noted that 70% of the books
borrowed were of fictional nature and he did not have
the intention of creating a fictional lending library in
Calcutta as he believed that such a library provided
a desultory pastime than serious incentive and help. 47. Foreign and Military Secretariat Building home of the
The library also was provided provision for electric- Imperial Library from 1923-48.
ity so that it might function till 7 p.m. in the evening
for people who worked during the working hours
through the week (P.T.Nair 71).

From 1923-48 the Imperial Library was shifted to the

Foreign and Military Secretariat Building at 5 Espla-
nade East and in 1948 it was shifted to the Belvedere
Estate and renamed as the National Library of India
(P.T.Nair 1, 57).

With the conversion of the Calcutta Library to the Im-

perial and then the National Library; the first three
decades of the 20th century have been marked as the
golden period for history of public library movement
in India. The other prominent supporter of this li-
brary movement was Maharaja Sayaji Rao Gaekwad
III, the ruler of the Baroda state. In 1907 he declared 48. Belvedere, where the Imperial Library was shifted in
compulsory elementary education in his state and in 1948 and then converted to the National Library of India
1910 he invited Allenson Borden, the famous Ameri-
can librarian, to establish a network of scientifically
organized, free and open access libraries in the state.
He also established the Baroda University and the li-
brary of the university was also well known for its
collections. His network of libraries included conven-
tional libraries, mobile libraries, cinema libraries and
manuscript libraries (Walia 79-80).

Post Independence Libraries

The establishment of the National Library is the first

and the most important event for the public library
movement after the independence of India on 15th Au-
gust 1947. Though many reforms were set in motion
for the development of public libraries in independent
India, the rate of development of public libraries has
not been as effective as other types of educational or 49. Prime Minister of India, Jawahar Lal Nehru and the
research based libraries (Kumar). Minister of Education Maulana Abdul Kalam Azad at the
opening of the Delhi Public Library in 1951.

Introduction and History

In 1951 the UNESCO Public Library Pilot Project was

started by the joint efforts of UNESCO and the gov-
ernment of India, by the establishment of the Delhi
Public Library, at Delhi. This was the next important
stage in the development of public libraries after the
Baroda network of libraries. The purpose of The Del-
hi Public Library was to adopt “modern techniques
to Indian conditions” and to serve as a model public
library for Asia. The library provides free service for
all taking into considerations the modern concept of
public libraries as stated by the UNESCO public li-
brary manifesto. In 1955 the library was permanently
adopted by the Indian government, but unfortunately
50. Lending section of the Delhi Public Library started in
1951 by UNESCO and the Indian Government.
not much attention was paid to its growth and it thus
reflects poorly on the public library scene of India

However the library continues to tackle complexities

like reaching out to the growing city through mobile
vans and also functioning as a community centre by
organizing discussions, debates, lectures, dramas,
musical, concerts, exhibitions, and film shows for its
readers. Amongst its many branches the library also
claims of encompassing Community Libraries, Sports
Library, Braille Library for the blind people’s associa-
tion and Prisoners Library for the inmates of Tihar jail
(Delhi Public Library Website).

One of the prominent recent examples of landmark li-

braries in the country has been the Parliament Library
designed by architect Raj Rewal for the Parliament
House in New Delhi. The library is of course inacces-
sible to the common people and is strictly meant for
use only to the members of the parliament and special
guests. The architect has tried to designed this library
by combining strong regional influences with modern
techniques and needs. The library intends to stand as a
landmark in deference to the Parliament House which
51. Parliament Library, New Delhi, by architect Raj Rewal.
reflects the power of governance of India (Menon).

Chapter 2.0
Planning & Design Aspects of a Public
Planning & Design Aspects of a Public Library

2.1 Introduction to Planning & Design

Without a clear understanding of its functions and

systems it is difficult for an architect to design an
adequate library building. A good library fulfils both
requirements of being aesthetically and practically ap-
pealing to its users. Essentially a library is not just
a building but a service institution. With that con-
sideration in mind the architect of a library building
needs to take care of its functional and aesthetic needs
(Thompson 20).

Design is not simply a matter of self-expression but it

is also about producing a solution to a particular prob-
lem. It is important to completely understand the exact
functions for which the library is being designed and
the factors affecting its design to create a functionally
suitable building. But it is also important to under-
stand the tangential forces that influence the character
and ambiance of the building in order to design an
aesthetically appealing library (Thompson 20). There
are two important aspects that work in the making of
a library building:
52. The choice of elemental simplicity of a facade at a Li-
brary at Ilhavo, Portugal; reflects on the design decisions of
the archiects to harmonize the library with the context as 1 Planning
it’s crisp, white volumes are an abstraction of the surround- 2 Design
ing Iberian vernacular architecture.
‘Planning’ begins with the assessment of the library’s
total potential contribution to the community, the es-
tablishing of priorities and relationship with other so-
cial, cultural and educational services, securing a vi-
able fiscal base, the siting and the organizing of the
internal spaces. For public libraries the term ‘Plan-
ning’ is also met in the wider sphere of regional and
town planning. Each function of the library has to be
organized for its own effectiveness and for its rela-
tionship with the other operational activities (Thomp-
son 20).

‘Design’ has artistic implications, as applied to library

buildings it consists of devising a satisfactory envi-
ronment in which the already planned series of opera-
tions can take place. Design cannot begin until overall
area planning has been completed (Thompson 20).

The service provided by the architect while designing

a public library does not have a simple rational as there
is no easily defined single purpose of a public library
as an institution. Each library is unique to its com-
munity, thus the contribution of a particular library
reflects something special in the nature of it’s commu-
nity as well as in its direction of development.
Planning & Design Aspects of a Public Library

The design of a library building reflects its unique role

within the community and the careful and considerate
planning of its functions can enhance the position of
the library as a public institution.

The change brought about in the technology of com-

munication and information in the past few decades
has been rapid. The computer and digital media are
already playing a very vital role in the information
system of the library. The diversity of the medium of
information stored in a library is extensive and thus
it is important to ensure that library buildings are de- a
signed sufficiently flexible to accommodate exten-
sions, future developments, changes and multiplicity
in space usage for the range of their functions.

Some of the vital factors to ensure while designing a

library building are – environmental conditions, free
floor area for altering utility by grouping services
and other fixed elements, ceiling height which is ap-
propriate for a variety of functions, light conditions,
handicap access and easy circulation, security and
protection, noise control and climate control.

As a civic institution, the public library building re-

flects on the architecture of the adjacent area. Hence
the planning of the library involves other forces to
be taken into consideration like siting, context, traf-
fic patterns, movement of people, prevalent style of
architecture, the impact of the library building as a
public landmark and an institution to its immediate

53. Retaining an old chapel and a part of a facade of an old

famiy mansion; in a new public library at the Library at
Ilhavo, Portugal; adds a new civic dimension to the build-
ing and responds to the conspicious Catholic community
of the city.
a. Facade of the old wall and the chapel from the south-
west street side.
b. Ground floor plan and section at scale 1:1000

Planning & Design Aspects of a Public Library

2.2 Inception and Initial Brief

While making the program the library’s functional re-

quirements must be kept constantly in mind. Stacking
of books, reader seating, materials, access, services,
security etc. are important criteria to bear in mind
while resolving the space. The librarian, being famil-
iar with the needs of the library, gives the initial brief.
The architects studies the brief and understanding the
limitations, makes the first tentative space allocation.
54. Diagram for allocation of space requierments derived The brief is a statement of purpose, with requirements
from the information from initial program brief. in terms of accommodation, function and standards.
The brief helps in providing the basic information
which is necessary for the design solution and it also
helps in grasping the true extent of the problems and
need of the library (Thompson 33).

A program is formed based on the information of the

needs and requirements of the library. Aside from the
objectives and the priorities of the librarian it is also
important to -

1. Ascertain the type of community it serves, whether

it is rural or urban, special characteristics of the com-
munity, cultural patterns and the tie ups with other lo-
cal organization.
55. Diagram for allocation of various facilities based on
the requierments of the library derived from the program
2. Determine the number of users based in different
age groups, the major category of population- wheth-
er students, old people, physically handicapped etc,
staff size.

3. Consider the requirements on the varied kinds of

users, staff and general public of the community.

4. Desired methods of storage and system of control,

circulation/communication between readers and staff,
and readers and books, lighting, space allocation for
future expansion are some of the factors that need to
be considered while deriving the initial brief.

5. Timings of the functioning hours of the library and

the pattern of use need to be determined for deciding
56. Diagram for material storage based on the requierments the system for control (Konya 44-45, 50-53).
of the library derived from the initial brief.

Planning & Design Aspects of a Public Library

2.3 General design parameters

Design parameters for public libraries are dependent

on two primary influences. The first category is the
external urban influences of the location, streets, sur-
rounding building types and the community which it
serves. This establishes the sitting, approach, style and
prominence of the building within the surrounding
context. The second category is the influences which
directly affect the layout and internal design decisions
of the library. They establish the spatial allocations,
light, services, acoustics, protection and future growth
of the library.

The basic parameters for planning and design for a pub-

lic library can be broadly categorized into two parts:

A. Urban Parameters
B. Library Parameters

Urban Parameters

The public library being a civic institution, there are

other considerations that need to be looked into while
planning for it. These parameters are based on exter-
nal factors like the site, context, community and the
eminence of the building in its immediate surround-
ings. The architectural features of the building are are
a consequence of these parameters. Though there are
many such factors which need to be considered while
designing, these are the basic, prominent parameters
which influence the design of the library.

They can be categorized as follows –

1. Site and Context:

• Location - immediate and city level.
• Movement of the people and traffic
• Response to the street – facades and site entries

2. Urban presence:
• Landmark/icon/ institutional importance

3. Style:
• Architectural language of the building.

4. Considerations for the Community:

• Special design considerations for requirement
of the community.
Planning & Design Aspects of a Public Library

Library Parameters

These are parameters which directly affect the design

decisions of the library building. They are based on
the requirements of the library staff and users. They
provide the basic guidelines on which the structural
and interior layout can be planned and developed.

They can be broadly categorized as follows -

1. Spatial layout
• Allocation of areas
a) Stacking
b) Reading/ Reader Service
c) Staff and support areas
d) Services (toilets, staircases, elevators)

2. Light
• Natural light
g) Windows
h) Skylights
i) Light wells
j) Skin of the building
• Artificial light

3. Spatial relationships, Accessibility, Circulation

• Entry and exit points in the building
• Movement through stack and reading areas
• Segregation of user and staff entries
• Horizontal and vertical movement
• Public, reader and staff movements
• Handicap access provision

4. Ancillary spaces
• Location of ancillary spaces
• Amalgamation/division from library

5. Noise control
• Internal noise
• External noise

6. Climate control
• Temperature and humidity control
• Protection from dust
• Ventilation

7. Security and protection

8. Expansion/Flexibility

Planning & Design Aspects of a Public Library

A. Urban Parameters

1. Site and Context

The library is an institution of service to the people

of the city and has to thus respond accordingly to its
surrounding forces. Therefore the situation of the
building needs to be in an area which is both promi-
nent and accessible to all the people of the city. The
movement of its users and the traffic on the street are
also factors which affect the placement of the build-
ing within the site. The response which the building
gives to its adjacent architecture is unique to the ar-
chitect’s perspective, however there is bound to be
some influence from its surroundings thus resulting
in certain design decisions taken to synchronize it
within its context.
57. Aerial view of the Central Public Library,
2. Urban Presence Des Moines with its angular plan in the or-
thogonal city grid.
Size and type of the public library determine the ar-
chitectural position of the building within its urban
fabric. A city library may function as an icon or a
prominent landmark for the city whereas a commu-
nity based library can have a strong local influence.

3. Style

With time there has been an evolution of library ar-

chitecture from the rectangular and circular reading
halls to more varied and complex building types.
Many libraries which have grown or expanded over
a period of few generations have become an amalga-
mation of different styles of architecture. Though the
style of a building can be a very individual aspect;
most libraries through the ages have adopted some
elements which would have been typical to the era
around which they were built. There are also certain
key factors which can be considered as distinctive
styles of library architecture from specific eras.

4. Considerations for the Community.

Each community has a unique culture and a library

can become a part of its legacy. A library also provides
services for the people of the community and has to
thus be designed accordingly for people of varying
age groups, physical abilities and backgrounds. Many
times these additional facilities may not be a part of
the main library building but can be grouped together
in a different structure with separate accessibility.

Planning & Design Aspects of a Public Library

B. Library Parameters

1. Spatial Layout

1a. Stacking systems based on accessibility

i. open access

In open access libraries the policy is to place the reader

as close as possible to the books which they wish to
use. Generally, the material is not of exceptional value,
and the requirement of supervision can, to some ex-
tent, be subordinated to reader convenience. As a result
these reading rooms tend to resemble book stack areas
with ‘clearings’ of varying sizes for readers. The space
occupied by stacks is usually far greater than that oc-
cupied by readers. Changes in acquisition policy or in
the popularity of certain parts of the collection can lead
to relatively frequent changes in the furniture layouts
58. Spatial relationship of functions in a public library. of these areas (Thompson 148-149).

ii. closed access

Closed stack shelving is generally arranged to make

the maximum use of space. The rare and reference ma-
terial is stored in closed stacks where it is not directly
accessible by the reader but has to first be handled by
the librarian in charge. Compact shelving is done in
most non-book material storage. Compact shelving
is carried out in the three ways - revolving shelves,
sliding drawers and sliding shelves or rolling stacks
(Thompson 139)

1b. Reading and reader service areas

59. Diagrams representing basic heights of stacks for children’s
stacking to adult area stacking. i. Study areas

The space allocation here is desired to be at its mini-

mum. The most economical use of space is rows of
study tables in the centre of a room with shelving along
the walls. This restricted the number of books and was
thus mostly used in special collection areas. The other
option is free standing book cases in the center of the
room and study areas near the windows. While it is
convenient to provide seating scattered along with the
stacking, the problem arises from the disturbance to
the readers from the stack searchers (Thompson 161).

ii. Carrels

60. Reading alcoves arranged on the periphery and stacking in Individual study rooms are required where serious
the center of the Manchester Public Library.
researchers need to be undisturbed. These rooms are
Planning & Design Aspects of a Public Library

generally equipped with equipment for typing, mi-

croform readers, sometimes computers and means
for using other electronic devices. Noise control be-
comes an important aspect of study carrels to provide
barrier against disturbing sounds. Though being spa-
tially uneconomic, closed study carrels are an impor-
tant part for a good library design (Thompson 164).

iii. Browsing areas

A library needs at least one area where the readers

can sit in relaxing and informal surroundings. These
areas are mostly meant for readers who have made a
preliminary choice of books from the open shelves
and then wish to sit in comfort for a short while.
There are mainly two kinds of browsing areas – one
which is used for simply browsing through periodi-
cals and such material swiftly and the other which is
used for a slightly longer while by the reader who
needs to make a selection from the books in the
open stack sections. Both the areas can be combined
in many cases but while the former seating can be
placed informally in the periodical sections the latter
61. Browsing area in the County Library, Wyoming, USA.
needs to be placed near the book stacks and in rela-
tive quiet (Thompson 165).

iv. Various subject departments

Large libraries need to provide separate divisions for

a number of special services which require more al-
lowance for stacking books, reading tables and chairs.
These could include art departments, music depart-
ment, local history department, audio-visual depart-
ment and archive departments (Thompson 166).

v. Reader service areas

All libraries need prominently positioned centers

from which the staff can give services to the readers.
These will have 3 main functions -
• Control and issue of books
• Supervision of user activities and security
• Bibliographical assistance to readers

Control of books in a library is an important security

concern for most librarians. In many single room li- 62. Inquiry counter in the DOK Library
braries the counter was used as a means for creating a
bottleneck for security reasons. However with the in-
crease in users many libraries are using separate cen-
ters for issuing and returning books. In all libraries
there will be a separate inquiry desk manned by staff
to give bibliographical assistance (Thompson 167).
Planning & Design Aspects of a Public Library

vi. Catalouges

Catalogue keeps the record of the books in the stock

and the holdings of the whole system. It is a major
bibliographical tool for reference and research. Tradi-
tionally the cataloguing system was based on cards ar-
ranged in shelves or as sheaves in binders.Catalogues
of preceding libraries occupied a lot of space and in
many cases even separate catalogue department were
designed to accommodate them. Libraries are still
struggling with the problem and accessibility con-
cerns of huge catalogues. Modern libraries have ad-
opted computer based catalogues. This requires few
computer terminals to access the catalogue database
and restricts the use of space to a minimum (Thomp-
son 171).

1c. Staff and Support Areas

63. Catalouge sizes and arrangement diagram The staff areas need to be designed keeping in mind
the following necessities.
i. Arrival and dispatch of materials
ii. Accessioning
iii. Cataloguing and classifying
iv. Office areas
v. Processing
vi. Bindery
vii. Printing department
viii. Staff training section
ix. Committee rooms
x. Staff entrances
64. Staff pantry and meeting area in the DOK Library xi. Staff rest areas

In most libraries the provisions for the staff tend to

become inadequate in comparison to the facilities for
the books and the readers. While designing the floor
layouts of the library it is necessary to provide a sepa-
rate entrance and service areas like staircases and toi-
lets for the staff. These should serve as back entrances
to the libraries where the dispatch van can drive up to
dispatch the books. Maintenance section is required in
large libraries for elaborate service machinery and for
storing cleaning equipment for cleaners. Cataloguing
and binding of books are also important activities car-
ried out by the staff and thus need to be designed ac-
cordingly to be accessible only by them. For closed
stack areas and restricted book sections, where the
readers are not allowed access, staff entries and con-
trol points need to be designed. Rest areas, pantry and
sometimes even a staff lounge can be provided de-
pending on the size of the library and the number of
65. Flow diagram through process section of a library staff working there (Thompson 177-182).
Planning & Design Aspects of a Public Library

2. Lighting.

The lighting of a library is one of its most important

and complex matters. It has to serve several entirely
different purposes. It must allow reading to take place
in comfort and should contribute to the internal ap-
pearance of the space.It should however not dazzle,
tire the eye, disturb the reading atmosphere and raise
the internal heat level (Thompson 116).
2a. Natural lighting

Fenestrations of the building play a very important

role in its interior lighting quality. Some architects be-
lieve that reading areas require no natural lighting and
it’s both physically and psychologically acceptable to
have a windowless space for it. Sometimes windows
are also looked upon as being distracting for the seri-
ous reader or researcher. Direct sunlight is not as fa-
vorable as indirect or reflected light from light-wells,
interior courts or even atriums within the library. The 66. Roof lights in the Mount Angel library,
clear storey atrium is a classical method of obtaining Oregon by Alvar Aalto, bring daylight in
the reading galleries below.
indirect natural light (Thompson 83).

A large percentage of glass in the exterior facades in-

creases the heat levels in the interior. Skylights are
also another means of obtaining natural light. Glare
and excessive contrast are the disadvantages of natu-
ral lighting. These are hindrances to reading, thus it
is advisable to avoid full length, complete glass win-
dows but to instead control the size and position based
on the kind of seating and reading areas within the
library (Thompson 84-85).

2b. Artificial lighting

This is normally placed and selected so as to avoid

discomfort and glare. The main points of placing light
points aside from the obvious reading areas are -

a. Bookcase lighting : Illumination of bookshelves re-

quires to fall on the vertical surfaces of the books and
no light should shine into the eyes of people choosing
books. They may include general lighting fixtures or
even individual light sources above the book shelf.
b. Stack lighting : These are normally arranged paral-
lel to the stack length, above the stacks on the ceiling
or in between two rows of stacks.
67. Individual desk lamps for personal-
c. Lighting for open access area : In areas with high ized reading in the Main Reading Room
ceilings where bookshelves form alcoves against walls of St. Genevieve Library.
and each alcove has a reading table in the centre, fit-
tings hang from, or mounted on the ceiling can give
enough light on the tables.

Planning & Design Aspects of a Public Library

d. Aisle lighting for circulation : This is normally co-

ordinated with the stack lighting and arrangement.
e. Lighting for study carrels : They are provided as in-
dividually controlled lighting points, which provide
preferably, shadow free, reflected lighting. Top light
in the form of daylight can also be considered for in-
dividual study areas (Thompson 121-124).

3. Circulation

These aspects are basic to the design of a library:

3a. Space implication of stack planning.
3b. Human movement

3a. Space implication of stack planning.

Connection between service stations on each floor

and book stacks. Various means like trolleys, convey-
or belts and book-lifts can be considered for the main
accessibility of material in cases of larger areas. The
freedom of access and restriction between the large
masses of books and a large number of readers needs
to be planned. There are classical alternatives to the
68. Progress of materials through the library in different relationships between the reader spaces and stacks;
sections such as -
i. Reading room above and stacks below
ii. Central reading room surrounded by book stacks
iii. Reading room in front and book stacks behind
iv. Book stacks in the form of a tower with reading
rooms in what is virtually a separate building
v. Centrally placed book stacks with surrounding
reading rooms (Thompson 79).

3b. Human movement

The movement of people within the library is of vi-

tal importance to its design. Horizontal circulation of
people is normally taken into account while dealing
with stack positioning and reading spaces. The struc-
tural grid of the building also helps in making public
movement either easy or restricted (Thompson 53).

Supervised entry and exit points into the library, con-

trol of human movement and possible division of user
and staff movements in certain areas is required to be
69. Progress of readers through a medium sized public planned so as to ensure a comfortable accessibility to
library the facilities. Handicap access and enough space pro-
vision between aisles for wheelchairs should be kept
in mind, with provision for ramps and elevators.

Planning & Design Aspects of a Public Library

4. Ancillary areas

Other than the functional areas of the library, in larg-

er libraries there are usually other additional public
amenities which are provided within the library de-
sign. These facilities are not simply restricted to the
library readers and the staff but are more public in
their nature. They are open to the community at spe-
cific times or days and may work separately from the
library working hours and have sometimes different
entrances and accessibility. Many of these spaces are
used to promote the library activities and also to en-
hance the cultural and intellectual need of the commu-
nity. These facilities are provided keeping in mind the
varied age group of its users and the need of the com- 70. Children’s play area in the DOK Library
munity. Its location in the library design can become
a means to enhance the architecture of the library as
a landmark within its context. Some examples of the
ancillary amenities are -
i. Entrance hall
ii. Book display
iii. Exhibition areas
iv. Lecture rooms
v. Theatres
vi. Recreational facilities for readers
vii. Book shops
viii. Story telling sections/children’s section

5. Noise control 71. Auditorium in the Seattle Central Library

5a. External noise

Most buildings these days are close to sources of ex-
ternal noise like busy roads, traffic, closely spaced
buildings and even sometimes railway stations and
airports. In libraries noise control is considered to be
an important factor. External noise can be reduced by
designing suitable enclosing walls and by planting a
good amount of trees and shrubs in its vicinity.Exter-
nal noise is generally difficult to control and avoid
completely (Thompson 113).

5b. Internal noise

An environment acceptable to the readers includes a
noise level that is familiar and not obtrusive to them.
High double volume areas like the old fashioned
domes and atriums are responsible for echo. Sound
absorbing materials like acoustic tiles, carpets, cur-
tains and other forms of softer materials significantly
help in reducing noise levels.
Planning & Design Aspects of a Public Library

Sound insulation can also be carried out by using baf-

fles in ducts and breaking up of areas with partitions
and book cases. A wall of books and book alcoves suf-
fer fewer reverberations than normal open areas. Most
readers are disturbed, both visually and aurally, by
movements of other readers around the library. Noise
is carried from one floor to another via light wells and
double volumes. Readers are constantly aware of the
movement of other people in the vicinity (Thompson

6. Climate control

Books and other reference material are safe in tempera-

tures as low as humans can tolerate. The great dangers
to library materials are excessive heat and humidity,
very low humidity and the effect of air pollution. Due
to direct sunlight and glare balconies, vertical screens,
fins or louvers or even closely placed columns help
in reducing the amount of harsh light and heat inside
(Thompson 108).

Low humidity is often responsible for drying of paper

as well as vellum parchment and damaging to papers
made from wood pulp. The comfortable humidity lev-
els are around 45-50% in libraries. For unusual mate-
72. Horizontal louvers used in a partition screen to shade rials like films, slides etc. special considerations need
the internal areas from glare through the glass facade and to be taken in designing their storage. Natural ventila-
give filtered light in the Montreal Bibliotheque, Canada.
tion while being useful and required also brings about
the problem of dust. Books and reading material need
to be protected from dust and the exclusion of dust is
a priority in certain parts like microform storage room
(Thompson 110).

7. Security and protection

Security of the material stored in the library is vital,

however higher degrees of security diminish to a cer-
tain extent the readers freedom of access and movement
(Thompson 127). These categories are of importance
when it comes to the security of a library -

a. Natural forces like fire or floods

b. Outside thieves and vandals
c. Readers within the library

Natural threats can be to a certain extent controlled by

the design and materials used in the building as well
73. Facade of the Montreal Bibliotheque with the external as facilities like smoke alarms and fire extinguishers.
glazing and internal louvered partition used for shading.
Emergency exits and special storage in case of flood-

Planning & Design Aspects of a Public Library

ing are also necessary. However the most common

threat is that of reader hazards like book theft and mu-
tilation of valuable books and reference materials.

The floor layout is hence also designed keeping in

mind the controlled exit and entry points, baggage
check and deposit, security sensors and check out
counters. In most cases it is advisable not to have
more than one access point and for it to be close to
the check out counter. A core designed with the ac-
cess point on the landing of the vertical circulations
like staircases and lifts is considered ideal rather than
having scattered circulations and thus multiple entry
and exit areas. Separate access can be provided for
ancillary spaces but a very controlled and regulated
circulation and layout needs to be developed for the
main library, housing the information and materials.

8. Expansion/Flexibility

Digital information and technology have aided in

compacting printed material into micro chips and
disks but it has not reduced the quantity of printed
material or the requirement for space and storage in a
library. With the growing number of printed material,
technology and population of readers most libraries
are struggling with expansion and growth concerns.
Expansion is a factor that needs to be considered
during the initial planning stages of a library design.
Expansion is a primary requirement in two kinds of
spaces in the library, the stack/collection expansion
and the public area expansion. Flexibility in design
and layout is necessary for planning future expan-
sions. Building an extra wing on the existing site, ad-
dition of further floors to the building or remodeling
of the old building are some examples of physical ex- 74. Bookshelves on wheels in the DOK Li-
pansion of the building for more space. But a good brary for flexibility of layout and they can be
planned library building need not always require ex- moved around to make space for activities like
tensive physical extensions; rather it can have flexibly story hour.
designed interior spaces and areas which can support
future growth of both the library collections and read-
ers while retaining the original structure. Structural
choices within the building framework can also aid
to flexibility and expansion. A column-free span can
have more scope for flexibility in its space use than
an area with regulated columns. Another option is to
provide underground expansion through basements
by shifting stacks or reading rooms there (Thompson
47). Designing multipurpose areas which can be used
for more than one fixed purpose is also a means to en-
sure adaptability and future changes for growth.

Planning & Design Aspects of a Public Library

2.4 Technology and its Impact on Design

The strong illusion carried by many in today’s infor-

mation era is the dissolution of the physicality of a li-
brary as an institution. While the library will thrive in
the realm of the cyber space and tomes will be bundled
into miniscule packages as microchips, the physical
presence of a library building cannot be looked upon
as obsolete. The library might acquire the new-age
title of ‘Information Center’, but that will not change
“The future will spell not the end of the the basic idea of a library – which is to assemble and
book but a period of new equalities” (Kool- impart knowledge. The means of assembly and im-
haas 612). parting of information will undoubtedly differ.

Spatial Implications

Space proportions and its use is the first factor which

is affected by this infiltration of technology. With the
extent of information increasing there is a simultane-
ous decline in the amount of space required to store
it. The collection of a library can be now stored on
a single chip and a single library can store informa-
tion of all libraries. The impact of this phenomenon is
tremendous. It means that a library can now be con-
ceived as a single computer terminal, a multipurpose
room or a dynamic public building which has more
than simply aisles upon aisles of book stacks.

The minimization of space due to technology does not

make the library redundant but it gives it the oppor-
tunity to develop its individual character in regards
to its context, community and services. The library
building does not diminish in its proportions; rather
the vestigial spaces are supplemented with supportive
and activity related functions. In many cases the ves-
tigial spaces are evolving into a species of their own,
with mediums other than books thrusting their way in
as means of giving information.

For a considerable time period digital information was

looked upon as an aggressor to printed material. Now
libraries are slowly modifying with the understanding
that digital information is not a threat to books but
technology can be used to aid the cause of preserv-
ing and promoting knowledge. Digital cataloguing,
“At the moment when the electronics revo- digitizing old printed books and manuscripts to avoid
lution seems about to melt all that is solid wear and tear, accessibility of digital bibliographies
– to eliminate all necessity for concentra- from other libraries are few of many advantages that
tion and physical embodiment – it seems technology offers in aid to printed material. It means
absurd to imagine the ultimate library” that the book can be kept in a revered position and
(Koolhaas 606). technology can be used to strengthen its life and make
it accessible beyond the library walls.
Planning & Design Aspects of a Public Library

All living libraries have to grow. This means that they

become full of books and papers. Then they have to
either expand physically or decide to locate parts of
their collection in other places. These problems are
somewhat resolved by technology like microfilm and
fiche and a whole new spectrum of electronic record-
ing and publishing devices, which have special needs
for storage and display (Davey 4).

Where information itself has become digital and virtu-

75. Computer terminal in the DOK Library.
al, the technology which supports it is still very much
physical and requires space to be stored. Printed ma-
terial is getting electronic but the electronic devices
like CD’s, DVD’s, laptops, music-stations, scanners,
printers, computer handled book retrieval systems all
require space to be accommodated. Thus the overall
space requirement of a library is not lessened. The ba-
sic requirement today for a modern public library is to
give provisions for laptops or computers to a majority
of its readers. This means that the space, saved from
replacing a number of books with digitized versions,
goes into providing for individual terminals and oth-
er technological gadgets. Support, mechanical and
maintenance areas for these machines and equipment
are also required and technology like book conveyor
belts to handle book drops and retrievals require more
floor space than a simple manned book counter.

Changing Characteristics of Library Spaces

With technology giving a variety of means to access

information the difference is also noted in the behav-
ior of the users while accessing information through
different mediums. A person surfing the internet, or
browsing for music and visual media does not require
the same insulated atmosphere as a serious reader,
scholar or a researcher. It gives the smaller commu-
nity based libraries the opportunity to be casual, in-
teractive public spaces and larger public libraries to
have a variety in the character of their spaces ranging
from user-friendly and liberated public zones to more
private and reserved study areas. “The Very Big Library is interpreted as a
solid block of information, a repository of
Architecturally this change means that a library lay- all forms of memory - books, laser disks,
out is not merely defined by a place to store and a microfiche, computers, databases. In this
place to read. Many new library designs have a more block, the major public spaces are defined
compartmentalized space division with different kind as absences of building, voids carved out
of reading and different type of material accessibil- of the information solid. Floating in mem-
ity. It is not merely an act of throwing in a ‘computer ory, they are multiple embryos, each with
room’ in an existing library but more of remodeling its own technological placenta” (Koolhaas
the program, grouping of functions and space defin- 616).
ing to make a synergic library building.

Planning & Design Aspects of a Public Library

Experimental Concepts

The debates in the changing modes of the public li-

brary outlook have initiated some new concepts in
library design. One such successful example is the
multimedia center - DOK Library Concept Center,
designed by the Dutch firms DOK Architecten and
AEQUO Architects in Delft, Netherlands.

Built in 2002, the media library is a part of the

Hoogoven Building (former blast-furnace building),
1970 which stands on Cultuurplein (culture square)
in the centre of Delft, which also houses shops, res-
taurants and cafes, apartment and bicycle storage sec-
76. Entrance to the DOK Library with the glazed facade tions. The entrance to the building is placed 2 meters
overlooking the adjoining public square. in front of the old front façade and is emphasized by
a tall glazed façade screen printed with the image
of books arranged on their spines. In the middle of
the building the stairs – which double as seating for
events), a public café and a public stage together form
an open plaza beneath a striking glazed roof. Color and
light have been used to make it easier for visitors to
find their way around and to accentuate the distinctive
shell. The shelving is designed to allow for a front-
on presentation of all the media: instead of a row of
spines there is an enticing display of front covers. The
library is divided into several departments and collec-
tions each having their own individual identity while
remaining a part of the whole. The collections have
been arranged so as to create several smaller spaces
with their own individual atmosphere (Architecture in
the Netherlands Yearbook 2007/08 31).

DOK can best be described as a media center that

combines three unique collections: Music and Film
77. Shops and cafes towards the street facing side with ap-
partments for dwelling on the first and second floors -“Discotake” in Dutch, Literature - “Openbare Bib-
liotheek”, and Art - “Kunstcentrum”. These three
components make DOK much more than an ordinary
library. (Boekesteijn). It has succeeded in letting go of
the idea that the medium which it lend’s out will define
what it is. Hence books are not given the primary po-
sition as mediums of sharing knowledge. Books share
space here with every other medium of information,
including art, digital and visual mediums. Hence by
replacing the term ‘library’ with the term ‘Multimedia
Center’, DOK has tried to disassociate itself from the
fixed perspective of looking at libraries as only being
places for books.

Site plan of the DOK Library

Planning & Design Aspects of a Public Library

When a person enters the library premises, via Blue-

tooth a message is sent to his cell phone – “Welcome
to the most modern library in the world”. There are
various sections like a section dedicated only to ro-
mance novels which is done entirely in red and a
bright-lit area for graphic novel section. There is a
kids’ room which is done in blue with no chairs but
a rug thrown on the floor with pillows, the children’s
book stacks are designed on wheels (which allow 78. The art section - “Kunstcentrum”, of the library
children to stand on them to reach on higher racks) with its circulating art collection.
so as to change the arrangements to make space dur-
ing story times and the staff areas are done in purple

There are Play stations and x-boxes for both children

and grown-ups and specially designed, swiveling
chairs are fitted with video pods to download and lis-
ten to music or videos. There is a Coffee Corner and a
‘Genius Bar’ which is set up to help people with tech-
nology. There is an RFID system for both cards and
books and the book check out and retrieval systems
are operated through RFID sorters and book convey-
ors. The RFID system also allows users to swipe and
load money onto their library cards so as to use them
for fines, at the café etc. The art section has a cir-
culation collection also and there are lectures, read-
ings and musical performances almost every week

DOK’s Director, Eppo believes that “libraries are (for

the most part) all about not having fun.” At DOK,
they deliberately turned this stereotype on its head.
Instead, their theory is that “life is all about having
more fun than you can think of, and it starts at the
library” (in Levine).


All level plans of the DOK Library

Planning & Design Aspects of a Public Library

79. Reading section of the library with the glazed roof. 83. X-boxes and Playstations provided for kids and adults

80. Reading tables arranged between enclosing book stacks 84. Media collection -“Discotake”, with CD’s and DVD’s for
and provided with computer terminals for search or surfing. films and music.

81. Children’s reading area with a rug and pillows for relax- 85. Multimedia chairs designed for listening and download-
ation and no chairs or tables. ing music and videos.

82. Romance section interiors done in red. 86. Swiveling chairs designed with computer terminals pro-
vided for browsing or surfing the net.

Chapter 3.0
Study of Selected Public Libraries
in India
Study of Selected Public Libraries in India

3.1 Introduction

The foremost of challenges while designing or draft-

ing a program for a public library in any part of India
arise due to the cultural, economic, social and edu-
cational diversity of the general populace. The ideal
notion of a public institution providing free service
to people of all backgrounds and age groups is thus
disrupted; generating the primary need to question
and revive the notion of an ‘Indian Civic Institution’
parallel to the Indian civic sense and culture. Most
civic institutions like municipal buildings, judicial
courts, political buildings etc. are specific in the na-
ture of their functions and thus their architecture re-
flects accordingly. However a public library today has
undergone a tremendous shift in its core nature with
the fast developing technology and the new millen-
nium cultural potpourri arising out of this technologi-
cal globalization.

In the Indian scenario this bizarre struggle to digitize,

globalize and urbanize existing and new public librar-
ies is perhaps the most turbulent turning point on the
path of reshaping the notion of Indian public space.
Public libraries of the yore, built either as depository
of literary works, imparters of education or as idle
browsing halls for periodical and newspapers have
suddenly been shaken awake to the changing dynam-
ics of the new-age public library. Where technology
has leaped and bounded into a new information revo-
lution, the social and economic disparity of most parts
of the country is still slow to change. In most present
cases of public library rejuvenation globally, the key
change seems to lie in the library metamorphosis from
a collection oriented institution to a service oriented
institution. Formerly defined as a reserved establish-
ment serviceable to a specific category of readers and
scholars in a specific kind of an environment with
clearly defined functions, the public library today has
become far more ambiguous, flexible and open to the
needs of its general community. Easy accessibility of
information digitally without the need to physically
go to a specific place has contributed to this change.

Public libraries in India share the common problems

of the need for expansion, maintenance, accessibility
for its varied users and the fear of becoming redun-
dant in this time of digital information. While many
are still to realize the need to reshape their programs
along with their buildings to meet with these new
hurdles, few have already begun the process but with
haphazard results.
Study of Selected Public Libraries in India

Are we a reading culture? Who goes to a library? - are

few of the constant questions that are being debated in
the process of re-inventing the library outlook. Indeed
while having to design a new public library or reshap-
ing an old one, the question that stands most confusing
yet of primary importance is - who goes to a public li-
brary? The answer will differ in each situation depend-
ing upon the location, development, literacy levels and
the facilities which the library wants to provide. Who
goes to a library will depend a lot on what the library
provides. Hence a program can be facilitated based on
the needs of the community and also on the services
that it could provide.

‘Are we a reading culture?’ is not a question that can

get a direct answer. We were never a mall culture or
a consumerist culture, yet we developed that when
shopping malls, retail outlets, fast food chains and
multiplexes overtook. In the information age, reading
per say does not require a library and this fact needs to
be accepted. Most people who go to a library; whether
they be students for the purpose of studying, scholars
for research, children for entertainment or old people
for meeting friends and relaxation; go there for the
environment and services which the library provides.
People who really wish to read a book can very well
issue it out and bring it home to read which is the case
with most readers. But the desire is to read or access
information in a friendly, relaxing atmosphere which
may also serve other facilities on the side. The one di-
rect answer that we do have is that we most definitely
are an ‘information culture’ and visual media has nev-
er been as dominant as it is today, in this information

Another factor that differs in the Indian notion of a

civic space and the globally defined public institution
is security and fear of abuse - a reason why all public
libraries - except the National Library - despite wheth-
er being philanthropically patronized or supported by
the government charge a minimal amount of fees and
have either stringent restrictions or a lack of certain
facilities to prevent misuse to its collections and prop-

It is also an important aspect to bear in mind that a

public library can be noted as an icon or a landmark
in the city’s civic architecture, though this might vary
with its scale and position. As a public institution there
are various urban factors that affect its planning and
design strategies.

Study of Selected Public Libraries in India

These factors have been kept as a framework for the

selection of the case studies in this chapter. The crite-
ria for understanding and providing for public librar-
ies in rural settings is different from those located in
an urban context. Regional influences are strong in a
public library in any part of India, where in many rural
parts of the country it might seem useless to provide
complicated and expensive technology to the readers
who might be lacking at a basic literacy level. This
thesis focuses on studying public libraries located in
urban contexts.

The National Library, Kolkata which falls under a

separate sector from the public library sector has been
selected as an example due to its primary importance
as a national civic institution, the problems that it faces
in its growth as a public institution and the solutions
that it has deemed necessary. Though it is not a direct
case study as its scale and outlook vary from that of a
general city or community public library, it has helped
in understanding and providing a background for the
situation of urban public libraries generally in India as
an indicative study.

The two principally selected case studies are both

public libraries in urban contexts. The David Sas-
soon Library and Reading Room, Mumbai is a small
scale public library, privately supported by a group of
trustees and patrons with minor grants from the gov-
ernment. The M.J. Library, Ahmedabad is a relatively
larger public library and is supported completely by
the Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation. Both these
libraries have a common set of concerns which they
face and also have slightly varying issues due to the
difference is their scales and the levels at which both
individually function. The architecture of both is a re-
flection of their time periods. Both libraries today are
struggling and experimenting with the need for ex-
pansion, growth and renovation of their buildings as
well as in the need to develop as attractive, functional
gathering spaces for information seekers and mem-
bers of the community.

The parameters mentioned in Chapter 2 are used as a

method to analyze the two case studies. The case stud-
ies are individually analyzed and are not a compara-
tive study. The inferences for this chapter are drawn
at the end of the case studies in a tabular format based
on the selected parameters for analysis.

Study of Selected Public Libraries in India

3.2 The National Library, Kolkata


Post independence in 1948 Shri C. Rajagopalachari,

the then Governor-General took the initiative to sug-
gest the home of erstwhile Lieutenant-Governors and
Viceroys of Kolkata, Belvedere as the future home of
the National Library of India (Kesavan 28-29).

Belvedere, which traces its history as far as the 18th

century as the home of Warren Hastings the Gover-
nor-General (1774-1785), is located in Alipore, in
Kolkata. The first Prime Minister of independent In-
dia, Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru gave the following di-
rective to his government during the commencement
of relocating the Imperial Library to the Belvedere as
the National Library – “I do not want Belvedere for
the mere purpose of stacking books. We want to con-
vert it into a fine Central Library where large number 87. Steps leading to the main entrance on the south
of research students can work and where there will side of the Library.
be all the other amenities which a modern library
gives. The place must not be judged as something just
like the present Imperial Library. It is not merely a
question of accommodation, but of something much
more.” (in Kesavan 29). The formal opening of the
National Library was performed by Maulana Abul
Kalam Azad, the then Union Education Minister on
1st February 1953.

There were many counter arguments since the days of

the Imperial Library to shift it to the country’s capital,
Delhi. Established during the time when Kolkata was
the capital of the country, the Imperial Library firmly
took its roots there and as the National Library it re-
mained there as Kolkata’s literary and cultural set-
tings ensured its patronage and growth.

The First Library

Remodeling of the Belvedere mansion took four

years where new steel shelves were designed for stor-
ing books, new wooden furniture for reading, the old
wooden flooring was replaced with concrete flooring
covered with linoleum to reduce noise and provision
of indirect lighting for the reading areas was done.
The central banqueting hall which was nearly 114
feet long was turned into the main Reading Room
(Kesavan 31). The main façade of the Belvedere is in
the Italian Renaissance style and it has entrances with
huge flights of stairs leading to it from both north and 88. Location of the National Library in Kolkata.

Study of Selected Public Libraries in India

However after it was converted into the National Li-

brary the south entrance was used and the north en-
trance remained closed. The south side entrance ini-
tially faced a lake and park but the lake was later filled
up to be converted into a garden in 1948

The library had several stack rooms on its various

floors and the largest of them was on the ground floor
89. Reading alcoves in the main Reading Room
which was many-pillared and had marble flooring. For
of Belvedere. space management and to preserve the old flooring
steel rolling stacks were designed which also served
the purpose of flexibility. The entrance hall was con-
verted into an Indiana collection which had around
6000 books in all languages of India and those in
English pertaining to India. The main Reading Room
had a long central table for reading and alcoves on
the sides where individual reading areas in between
reference materials was provided. Each alcove had a
specific subject and had plaques of famous regional
writers in many languages fixed above them. The in-
90. The Indiana Collection in the entrance hall dividual reading tables had all been provided with
of Belvedere. local lighting. Research carrels were provided in the
balcony of the Reading Room made out of aluminum.
This Reading Room had a capacity to accommodate
about 350 readers. The library also had a huge cata-
logue area, Bibliography and Reference Division as
well as a Bindery. The old location of the Imperial
Library at Esplanade 5 was used as a Newspaper read-
ing room and in 1960 a children’s library was opened
in one of the ground floor rooms.

The Extensions

With time the library needed to expand and thus a

new Annexe building was built in 1964 in the same
premises as the Belvedere. This building has 8 floors;
accordingly the floor wise divisions are -

1. Map and prints division, a rare book reprography

91. Model of the new Annexe Building built in and science and technology section
1964. 2. A reading room
3. Stock verification
4. Asutosh Mukherji collection
5. Gift exchange
6. Newspapers and Gazettes
7. Asian and European languages other than English
8. Languages Chinese and French, Journals section

It is clear that the Annexe building was made chiefly

for storage and stacking rather than reading and the
main Reading Room was still located in the Belve-
92. The Annexe Building built in 1964. dere till that time

Study of Selected Public Libraries in India

93. Reading Room of the National Library at Belvedere, which was formerly a Ball Room, with the
long central table, the reading alcoves on the sides and the individual carrels in the balcony above.

94. A wooden bench designed for seating in the 97. Reading tables fitted with local light fixtures
Reading Room. with indirect light for comfortable reading.

95. Carrels arranged in the balcony above the 98. Individual carrels fitted with light sources for
Reading Room against a series of windows. reading.

96. Entrance to the Children’s Library at the 99. The Children’s Library reading area.
ground floor level of Belvedere.

Study of Selected Public Libraries in India

100. View of the north side entrance and facade Belvedere which was closed when 103. The grounds on the north side.
the National Library was shifted there.

101. View of the south side facade and the main entrance of National Library, Bel- 104. View of the north grounds from the ter-
vedere. race of Belvedere.

105. Main entry gate of the National Library

site from the north.
102. View of the east side facade of National Library, Belvedere.

106. North entry of the Belvedere.

107. Site plan of the National Library from 1987 when the initial proposal was given for a
phase II extension building (Bhasha Bhavan) for the Library.

Study of Selected Public Libraries in India

The Prashasan Bhavan was opened in 1989. It has 3

floors with a bindery and store on the ground floor,
computer division on the first and a Punjabi, Telugu
and Hindi language stack with a small reading room
on the second floor. Again the Prashasan Bhavan was
made to accommodate technical and stacking necessi-
ties rather than to expand or refine the reading areas.
108. The Prashasan Bhavan built in 1989.
Both these extensions were made by the CPWD and
they poorly reflect and even fail to take into account
the main existing National Library building with its
well developed grounds and its Italian Renaissance
style. Their placement on the site of the library and
their poor visage makes them almost inaccessible.
In terms of planning it seems a bad decision to place
them accordingly as the main entrance to the library
comes after crossing the Annexe and the Prashasan
Bhavan. Thus one needs to move backwards in the
grounds after going to the main library to access these
buildings. The Belvedere, though not initially built as
a library building, was properly remodeled to provide
adequate spaces, proportions, lighting and functions
of a good library. Further, its magnificent architec-
tural characteristics made it an appropriate structure
109. Bhasha Bhavan entrance staircases.
to house the nation’s First Library, thus elevating it to
the position of a national landmark. In comparison the
later extensions stand as examples of poor planning
and inadequate considerations of both library and in-
stitutional design.

The New Library Building

With such expansions taking place and the growing

number of readers the need arose to provide slight-
ly more varied facilities and larger reading space to
the readers. In 1994 the work started for building the
Bhasha Bhavan and by October 2004 the Main Read-
ing Room and the stacks were shifted from the Bel- 110. Steps leading to the podium
vedere to the Bhasha Bhavan which was located after level and the main entrance.
the Prashasan Bhavan in the National Library grounds
and is nearly one and half times larger than the Belve-
dere. The Belvedere meanwhile was almost stripped
apart of its old furniture and stacks as the place was
in need of considerable repairs and restoration. The
building is classified as a heritage structure and falls
under the jurisdiction of the Archaeological Survey of
India and is therefore inaccessible except for the Di-
rector’s office, the administration office, the accounts
division and the children’s library which still remain
to be shifted to the Bhasha Bhavan. There is a specu-
lation to partly restore it and convert it into a museum,
but as of now the building remains neglected.
111. Main entrance door to the Bha-
sha Bhavan.

Study of Selected Public Libraries in India

The Bhasha Bhavan is accessed by two adjoining

steep flights of more than 30 steps with elevators pro-
vided at the back entrance which are difficult to locate
from the main entry side. Both the flights lead up to a
podium on the first floor level where the entrance to
the library is located. This leads into a double volume
foyer which has a security and baggage counter. The
entrance façade is formed of black tinted glass pan-
els and provides insufficient light to the interior foyer
and the main reading room. The foyer leads into an
atrium space from where the reading room is acces-
sible. The main stacks are in the basement and the
ground floor of the library and are not directly acces-
sible to the readers. There is a book lift system with 4
112. Browsing area in the new reading room dumb waiters and 2 service elevators which requires
with the sofas arranged next to the glass fa- a reader to fill a particular slip and deposit it in a col-
cade and the high ceiling lights. lection counter. From there it is put in the dumb wait-
er and passed to the stack levels where the required
book is found and sent up to the service counter via
the dumb waiter.

The new reading room, which is centrally air con-

ditioned, is designed with ample but haphazardly
planned space. The reading areas and stacks are ar-
ranged in a confusing manner. The volume of the
space causes sounds to echo and no sound proofing
113. Study tables arranged in one part of the has been done either in the floors or the ceiling. The
reading room where there is no provision general reading is provided on the north side of the
for individual reading carrels.
library which also has the tinted glass façade. Inside
the reading room, the browsing area is arranged in
a double volume space next to the glass façade and
hence the quality of the direct light is poor for read-
ing. The discomfort is notably marked in the reluc-
tance of readers to sit so adjacent to a tall, imposing
wall of glass. The electrical light in the other reading
areas is insufficient and there is no provision for per-
sonalized indirect light for individual reading.

The basement also contains a Rare book section and

114. Open stacks with periodicals and jour- temperature controlled vaults for manuscripts with
nals arranged to form a partition between their own reading areas. Again while ample provi-
the reference, browsing and study areas.
sion has been made for storage and reading very little
thought has been given to the quality and needs for
the design of these spaces. This is remarkably ob-
served in the difficulty which many senior citizens
face in accessing the library premises and in reading
in the poor, insufficient light. The library catalogues
have yet to be computerized, although the process has
already started. With 25 lakhs of books and reading
material in the library’s collection the space require-
ment for card catalogue shelves is more than that of
115. Reading tables arranged between open
the reading areas, and makes information seeking that
stacks in the reference section of the read-
ing room. much more tedious.

Study of Selected Public Libraries in India

Under the Delivery of Book Act, the National Library,

Kolkata and its recipient Public libraries i.e., Delhi
Public Library (DPL), Connemara Public Library,
Chennai and the State Central Library, Mumbai are
the depositories of the printed cultural heritage of In-
dia. Which means that any material printed in India
requires a copy to be sent to these libraries. Thus the
National Library stands out as the largest single library
which acts as the depository as well as the repository
of all published material of India (Majumder 3). The
catalogues thus will continue to expand tremendously
in size and require a lot of space if they are not re-
placed by computerized catalogues with digital search
116. Open stacks for periodicals and journals
An auditorium is provided on the ground floor from with reading tables arranged in-between the
the back entrance and a conference room is provided stacks.
on the fourth floor with offices for the staff and ad-
ministration while the in-between floors have been
provided for various collections and open stacks. But
except for the reading room all the other parts of the
library are yet to be put in use as the shifting of the
stacks from the Prashasan Bhavan and the Annexe still
needs to take place and consequently the rest of the
building remains closed up.

117. The back entry ramp to the Bhasha Bha-

van opposite the Prashasan Bhavan.

Bhavan 118. The Bhasha Bhavan as seen from the ter-
race of the Belvedere.


119. Sattelite image of the National Library site indicating the Belvedere and the
Bhasha Bhavan in red.

Study of Selected Public Libraries in India

3.3 David Sassoon Library and Reading

Room, Mumbai


The history of David Sassoon Library and Reading

Room goes back to 1847 when a few young me-
chanics working in the Royal Mint and Government
Dockyard conceived an idea to form an association
to promote knowledge. The association’s objectives
at that time were to set up a library and a museum of
mechanical models and architectural designs, as well
as to organize lectures and discussions on science and
technology. This organization was known as the Bom-
bay Mechanic’s Institute. This institute was housed in
the old clock-tower of the Naval Dockyard Building
on the Marine Street, Fort (The Sassoon Mechanics’
120. David Sassoon (1792-1864), the Jewish merchant who
was the principal patron of the Sassoon Mechanic Institute.
In October 1863, Mr. David Sassoon, a wealthy Jew-
ish merchant of Bombay, funded Rs. 60,000 to the
Government in aid of the Mechanics’ Institute to pro-
vide it a suitable building. A site on the Esplanade was
leased and the foundation stone for the building was
laid on 21st February 1867, changing the name of the
institute to ‘The David Sassoon Mechanic’s Institute.
On 24th March, 1870 this new building was opened.
The building was designed by Scott McClelland and
Company and built by the architects J. Campbell and
D. E. Gosling (The Sassoon Mechanics’ Institute).

The institute activities gradually came to a stand-

still with the stoppage of the annual grants from the
Imperial Government and thus it was reduced to its
present state of being a library and a reading room.
Consequently, in March 1938, the Sassoon Mechan-
ics’ Institute was rechristened the David Sassoon Li-
brary and Reading Room (“History of David Sassoon

Today the David Sassoon Library has a collection of

about 40,000-odd books in English, Hindi, Marathi
and Gujarati. It has 2 memberships; a yearly member-
ship costs 500 Rs. and a lifetime membership costs
Rs. 5000. Out of the nearly 2000 life members and
about 500 regular members nearly 1000 are senior
citizens. The library relies almost entirely on funds
given by private charitable trusts and donors. There
is a library committee formed of 15 members which
121. The street side facade of the David Sassoon Library and
looks after its management and strives to collect funds
Reading Room.

Study of Selected Public Libraries in India

A. Urban Parameters

1. Site and Context

The library is located on the Mahatma Gandhi (M.G.)

Road in the old fort precinct of Mumbai overlook-
ing the Rampart Row (Kala Ghoda node) opposite the
Jehangir Art Gallery. The main entry to the library is
from the M.G. Road side. The adjoining buildings are
Elphinstone College (1890), Army & Navy Building
(1897) and the Watson’s Hotel (1868).The Library
has been listed as a Grade I heritage structure within
the Fort precinct and the Museum sub-precinct as per
the Heritage Regulations of the Mumbai Municipal
Corporation (1995). The Mahatma Gandhi road is a
heavy traffic zone in the busy fort area.
122. Location of the library in the old Fort precinct of Mumbai.

The entry to the library is from an arched portico

on the pedestrian walkway into the covered arcade
which connects the library with the Army & Navy
and Watson’s Hotel. The parking for the vehicles is
on the opposite traffic island provided as a general
parking space for the buildings in the vicinity. The
two front parts of the library flanking the entrance are
tenanted out as shops, and that along with the ground
floor shops of the Army & Navy and the Watson’s
Hotel gives the arcade a commercial character.

2. Urban Presence

The library is located in an important, institutional part

of the old fort, south of the flora fountain. The Bom-
bay University, the Elphinstone College, The Bom-
bay High Court, The Old Secretariat and the Cawasji 123. Location of the library in the western edge of the Fort pre-
Jehangir Hall are the prominent institutes around it. cinct among the other civic buildings built along the maidans.
There are also important financial buildings like the
Bank of India, Grindlay’s Bank and the Hon Kong
Bank. The Jehangir Art Gallery opposite the library is
an established art and culture center.

In 1862 the Ramparts Removal Committee carried

out the first efforts to restructure the Fort area. These
efforts had a pre-conceived image for Bombay and
consequently a magnificent ensemble of Gothic pub-
lic buildings set in formal gardens was built in the
western edge of the Fort. These constituted of the Old
Secretariat, The Bombay University, The High Court
and other government buildings along the maidan
(Mehrotra and Savant 18-19). Built in this time pe-
riod, the David Sassoon Library’s Venetian Gothic 124. North facade of the library from the garden side.
style is a reflection of its civic nature and of its cons-

Study of Selected Public Libraries in India

cious efforts to be a part of the surrounding urban fab-

ric of that period.

Today the area is a blend of tourist, business, com-

mercial and cultural activity with a vibrant, dynamic
city life. The street façade along the David Sassoon
Library is a mix of different styles of building facades
with the Watson’s Hotel - one of the first iron frame
structure in Bombay - which is a Colonial style build-
ing, the Army & Navy which is a Renaissance revival-
ist office building and the Elphinstone College which
is a Romanesque Neo-Gothic building. The covered
arcade is an important addition to the urban edge of
the building as it contributes to the movement of pe-
destrians along the street façade. The library blends
125. Revivalist Gothic elements in the street facade. in with the surrounding heritage structures and yet re-
tains its presence. It is a small scale, patronized public
library and has a reserved character amidst the hustle
and bustle of the street and the intimidating institu-
tions around it.

3. Style of Architecture
The style of the library is Revivalist Venetian Gothic.
Like the other Heritage structures in the row the li-
nave brary is made of yellow Malad stone. The columns are
of black (Deccan) trap and the dressing is in random
rubble masonry. The ground floor facade has pointed
arches decorated in white and black stripes protecting
126. Plan of the library forms a Gothic cross. the arcade. The Venetian Gothic style is noted in its
heavy, strong construction with thick walls, the style
of its openings with pointed arches, the turrets that
flank its façade and the clock tower.

The gothic style of the building can also be seen in

its plan which is primarily a cross. The emphatic en-
trance portico with the ribbed groined vault and the
sharp pointed gables are also gothic elements. In an
adaptation from the typical gothic church style of us-
ing colored glass to emphasize the apse; green colored
127. Ribbed groined vault of the entrance portico.
glass is used in the arched doorways opening onto the
verandah on the southern street façade.

Internally the entrance passage leads to foyer area

which is a double volume space with a high wooden
roof in an angular stepped profile. Above the main
reading hall, part of the wooden roof has been torn
down to be replaced by a flat concrete ceiling due to
the damage caused by water seepage.

128. Wooden sloping roof above the library foyer.

Study of Selected Public Libraries in India

4. Considerations for the Community

While the library has no special provision designed es-

pecially for the people in its community, the adaptive
use of its verandah is useful. The verandah on the first
floor is equipped with chaise lounge chairs which are
very convenient for senior citizens, who form the ma-
jority of its members, to relax and read or even take a
quick nap. The garden at the back is a relaxing place for
the readers to meet and have discussions and sometimes
even book readings and musical concerts are organized
there. The library and its garden become vital locations
once a year during the Kala Ghoda art and book festival
which is organized annually there. The library also al-
lows readers to get their own material to read or study
within its premises. The entrance passage, which has
129. Verandah on the first floor with chaise
wooden partitions on the sides, is used as a display area
lounge chairs.
to exhibit the work of upcoming artists.

B. Library Parameters

1. Spatial Layout

Stack areas

The library has no distinct stacking area. Shelves are

provided in the Main Reading Hall on the first floor and
also in scattered places like the ground floor foyer, the
mid-landing of the stairs and in the study room. The
shelves have individual categories of books like ‘Lit-
130. Book shelves in the main reading hall.
erature’, ‘History’, ‘Philosophy’ ‘Fine Arts’ ‘Crime’,
‘Gujarati’ and ‘Marathi’. The library has many fragile
and valuable books and gazettes which go way back as
1798 but there is no special storage or department for
these books. They are piled together with other books in
the general shelves. The study room has certain shelves
which are stacked with reference, academic and study
related books.

Reading /Reader service areas

131. Reading table with magazine stand.

The main reading space in the library is the Main Read-

ing Hall which has two long central tables equipped
with wooden stands to display magazines and stands
equipped with glass panes to read papers with reading
light from below. The verandah is a relaxing, brows-
ing area for reading. The study room is provided for
students to study in relative isolation. The catalogues
are provided in steel shelves on the first floor landing.
There is only one counter in the entrance foyer which is
132. Long reading tables placed centrally in the
provided for reader service, guidance and issue/return.
reading hall.

Study of Selected Public Libraries in India

The study room is located on the mid-landing of the

main staircase. It is a small room with flooring of
wooden planks and a wooden ceiling. It has a read-
ing table placed in the centre with book shelves on
all four sides. This is a quiet place for study as it is
located towards the part of the library which faces the
back garden and so there is no noise from the street
traffic or disturbance from other browsing readers.
133. Study room of the library.
Staff areas

The administration along with the secretary’s office

is provided on the ground floor. The staff toilet is ac-
cessed from the outside through the path of the gar-
den. There is no provision for a staff lounge or a pan-
try. Book binding and repairing areas are not provided
in the library.

2. Light

Natural Light

134. Entry from the staff office to The entrance passage and foyer remain dark recessed
the garden.
spaces which get little light from the door opening
into the garden as the main entrance is shaded by a
covered arcade and a portico from the M.G. Road
side. The first floor reading hall gets light from two
tall glazed wooden windows placed symmetrically on
the east and west walls and from the doors opening
towards the verandah on the south. The verandah on
the south shades the reading room from direct glare
and heat. The windows are double shuttered with
glass and wood shutter on the outer side and wooden
louvered shutters on the inner side. This allows the
windows to be completely opened for direct light or
partially opened for indirect and diffused light.
135. Office area for the assistant
librarians on the ground level.
Artificial Light

The lamps hanging in the entrance passage and the

foyer areas provide light to the ground floor transition
area. The reading hall and the study room are fitted
with light fixtures in the ceiling. The light fixtures in
the study room are at a comfortable level to give suffi-
cient reading light as the ceiling height there is lower.
But in the reading hall the ceiling height is more than
5mt. and so the light fixtures are placed too high to
give sufficient reading light. While this doesn’t hinder
during daylight hours, in the late evenings the reading
hall is not a comfortable area to read due to lack of
136. Entry to the staff toilet from
the garden path.
adequate lighting.
Study of Selected Public Libraries in India

137. Chandelier above the foyer area. 141. Truss supporting the wooden roof from which the
chandelier is suspended.

138. Lampshade above the reception.

142. The reading hall and the door opening to the ve-
randah on the south side.

139. Light fixture in the passage for the

display section.

140. Chandelier in the entrance passage. 143. Light fixtures in the ceiling of the reading hall.

Study of Selected Public Libraries in India

3. Circulation/Accessibility

The main circulation axis of the library is the north-

south central axis which holds the main transition
areas like the entrance passage and the foyer on the
ground level. From this axis the circulation is split
in two with the staff access on the western side of
the axis and the user access from the main staircase
to the east of the axis. The northern end of the axis
opens out into the back side garden. The mid land-
ing of the staircase has access to the study room. The
first floor landing leads to the main reading hall. Out
of the two original entries into the main reading hall
one is kept blocked and the entry directly in line with
the staircase is accessible. From this entry the axis of
movement continues inside the reading hall and splits
the hall into two slightly unequal reading areas which
lead to the south verandah through six arched doors.
There is a wooden spiral staircase in the verandah,
placed on the central axis, which leads to the room in
the clock tower above.

The circulation is simple but cluttered in certain plac-

es. The huge service counter in the reception after the
entrance passage hinders the movement line and the
large statue of David Sassoon, placed in the foyer,
obstructs the path of movement to the back garden.
The haphazard catalogue shelves, drawers for old
portfolios and stacks of old newspapers on the first
floor landing almost blocks the entry into the reading
room. There is no provision for handicap access or
any signage to guide users and it gets difficult to lo-
cate certain facilities like the catalogue shelves or the
toilets without guidance from the librarians. 144. Diagrams showing main axis of movement.

4. Ancillary Spaces

Considerable area of the library is tenanted out for

commercial use and many parts inside the library are
kept unused due to lack of planning or damage to the
structure. The library area itself is rather small and
so it is difficult to provide for any ancillary activi-
ties within the building. The entrance passage is the
only part of the library which is used for an additional
function as a display area. While the garden is used
for many purposes there is no fixed function or plan-
ning done accordingly to enhance its value.
145. Garden at the back of the library which is
used for discussions and organizing events.

Study of Selected Public Libraries in India

5. Noise and Climate Control

The thick stone walls and the verandah act as buf-

fers from noise of the street and traffic in the reading
hall. The garden at the back also gives some protec-
tion from the surrounding street level noise. However
there is no specific sound proofing done on the library
walls or ceilings. The library is relatively quiet though
directly facing the busy M.G. Road.

There is no provision for specially controlled tem-

146. Steel racks and drawers used perature or humidity systems for the rare collection
for storing old periodicals and rare of portfolios and books that the library has. They are
portfolios on the first floor landing. kept in steel drawers and cabinets which has already
caused them considerable damage. These books, some
of which are architectural sketches and drawings are
in a depleted state as they have been infested by ter-
mites and have been damaged by the damp and humid

6. Security and Protection

The building has no security measures except for the

main lending desk which also acts as a security point.
147. Lending desk in the reception.
The books are not under constant supervision and
there are no stringent measures to block the level of
accessibility or abuse of books. However the library
has not had too many problems of misuse by the read-

7. Expansion/Flexibility

The original building was not designed as a library

and so no preliminary planning measures were taken
into consideration for its future growth or extension.
148. Catalouge shelves on the first As a result over the years there have been no additions
floor landing. to the library building. Today it is a Grade I heritage
structure and thus no alterations or intervention can
be carried out in the building unless strictly necessary.
The part of the library which is tenanted out to gather
funds and the garden are certain areas where the li-
brary board wishes to develop plans for further use.

8. Technology

There is no digitization in the library of the catalogues

or the rare collections. The library does not have any
other form of reading materials other than books like
149. Old newspapers piled on the
first floor landing.
CD’s, DVD’s or even facility for internet.

Study of Selected Public Libraries in India

3.4 M.J. Library, Ahmedabad


The Maneklal Jethabhai Pustakalaya (M.J. Library)

was founded in 1933 mainly for the purpose of pres-
ervation of the literature owned by the Satyagrah
Ashram and Gujarat Vidhyapith. Prior to the Dandi
March in 1930, the British government had both the
collections of the Ashram and Vidhyapith kept in
Hutheesing’s Vadi. Thus, Mahatma Gandhi gave the
suggestion to lay the foundation for a public library
for the people of Ahmedabad and to retrieve the books
from the municipality (Patel).
150. From the front row left side, Manilal Chaturbhai, Sar-
Sheth Rasiklal Maneklal Jethabhai, son of Sheth dar Vallabhbhai Patel, Chief Minister - Balvantrai Thakore,
Maneklal Jethabhai an established businessman of Sheth Kasturbhai Lalbhai and the principal patron, Sheth
Ahmedabad contributed Rs. 55,000 to the establish- Rasiklal Maneklal during the opening of the M.J. Library
in 1938.
ment of the library in his father’s name and thus be-
come the principal patron of the library. The founda-
tion for this library was laid on 21st September 1933
by Mahatma Gandhi and it was formally opened by
Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel on 15th April 1938. 9650
books of the Satyagrah Ashram were given by the mu-
nicipality to the library and 8891 books by the Sastu
Sahitya Karyalaya (English Pamphlet 2).

The library felt small in the coming few years so new

additions were added, and in 1950 Sheth Rasiklal
Maneklal Jethabhai, funded Rs. 12,500 in his moth-
er’s name for the opening of the Subhadra Maneklal
Newspaper Hall. A further donation of Rs. 12,500 was
made for the opening of the Bal Kishore (children’s)
section on 14th June 1956 (Patel).

The financial assistance to the M.J. Library is given

by the Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation and the li-
brary is an autonomous body of the A.M.C. and man-
aged by its own trust deed. The library has a majority
of regional readers and thus regional language col-
lection is larger than the English collection. The total
collection is 627609 books and 521 periodicals out
of which 140650 books are in English (English Pam-
phlet 2).

The M.J. Library is the country’s only 24 hour library

and is open 364 days except for the 1st of January ev-
ery year. The membership is not completely free and
there is a subsidized amount of fees to be paid, which
is further subsidized for women, children, students,
senior citizens and people with physical disabilities
(English Pamphlet 2).
151. Front facade of the library with the entrace portico and
the dome.

Study of Selected Public Libraries in India

A. Urban Parameters

1. Site and Context

The library is located on Ashram Road near the Ellis

Bridge next to the Mangaldas Girdhardas Town Hall.
The site of the library is on a junction which connects
the old eastern part of the town to the new western
part. The Ashram Road and Ellis Bridge are busy ar-
eas with very heavy traffic most hours of the day. Most
of the buildings around the library are either commer-
cial or office buildings. The site has two entrances on
the east and north side from the Ashram Road and the
Kavi Nanalal Marg respectively. The entrance on the
north is flanked by hawkers and parking for vehicles
152. Map of Ahmedabad with location of M.J. Library.
is provided inside the library compound. The diagonal
axis of the library and the orientation of the entrance
emphasize the corner of the site.

2. Urban Presence

The strategic placement of the library next to the El-

lis Bridge and its proximity to the Sabarmati River
makes the site a strong point of focus between the old
and the new city. During the time of its construction,
the city on the western side of the river was still un-
der development. Like the location of the Town Hall,
NE the library asserts its presence by ensuring its visibil-
153. Orientation of the building with the garden as an ity while crossing the Ellis Bridge to the new part of
urban response to the corner edge of the site.
the city and it serves as an institution to both the old
and new parts. Today the library has lost its original
peaceful settings and its visibility from the river side
owing to the surrounding construction and develop-
ment. Originally the library had a garden beyond its
entrance and it was a prominent landmark, as a public
building, in the city’s architecture.

3. Style of Architecture
154. The library in 1945 with the front garden.
The building was designed by Claude Batley of Greg-
son Batley and King, an Anglo-Indian firm based in
Mumbai and executed by his assistant Mr. Sharma
(Desai). The library was built when there was a strong
attempt to emphasize and define the Indian identity;
at a time when the struggle for independence was at
its peak. Claude Batley believed in using elements
of past architecture of India along with elements of
western architecture to evolve the definition of mod-
ern Indian architecture. Unlike the Town Hall (1940)
155. Corner of the library compound wall which
has a bust of Balvantrai Thakore.
built by Claude Batley which has a distinct Art Deco

Study of Selected Public Libraries in India

156. Niche below the dome

with the bust of Mahatma

Section of the main entrance portico and dome

157. Column capital detail.

158. a) Bracket in the portico. b) Bracket detail.

Elevation of the main entrance portico and dome

159. Portico at the entrance to the reading hall. Elevation of the portico at the entrance of the reading hall
0.75 2.25 5.25 m

Study of Selected Public Libraries in India

style, the M.J. Library is eclectic in its characteris-


There is a strong influence of the Islamic Style in the

elements like the entrance dome which has an octago-
nal base, the sitting of the library which had a garden
in the front, the strong symmetrical geometry of the
original building, the painted and carved motifs of the
library and the jalis used for diffused light. The deco-
rative brackets, columns and chhajjas are adaptations
from the Hindu architecture like the step well at Ada-
laj and the Palace of Bijapur (Sameer Patel 75-76).
160. Diagram representing the symmetry of the plan The entrance porticos, the clerestory above the lend-
on the northeast-southwest axis.
ing section and the response to the urban edge is simi-
lar to that of colonial and European civic buildings.

The new extensions added after the 1970’s are by Mr.

Talati (Patel) and they are disjointed from the original
style. The new part of the building is modern in style
and though it is attached to the original library build-
ing, there is a very distinct differentiation between the
termination of the old part and the beginning of the
new. Overall this makes for a very confusing blend of
styles in the library architecture.
161. Side elevation of the 162. Jali in the facade
portico at the entrance of of the reading room.
the reading hall. 4. Considerations for the Community

The library has a service van for their mobile library

and a bus as their circulating children’s library for
people from slums and rural parts around the city.
But there are no provisions in the library design or
services for physically disabled or senior citizens.
163. Junction between the There is separate women’s section and reading area
old and new buildings. provided for women and a children’s section. There
is an auditorium in the basement which is used for
literary gatherings and readings of regional authors
but the premises hardly functions as a gathering place
for the community at any other level.

164. Mobile Library van.

165. Bus for the Circulating Childrens’ Library.

Study of Selected Public Libraries in India

B. Library Parameters

1. Spatial Layout

Stack areas

Initially the stacks were in the current lending area.

By early 1940’s a new stack section was built with
two levels accessed by two symmetrically placed
staircases. In 1970 an extension was added to this
stack area which was called the ‘Granth Bhandar’.
The stacks in the old part of the library are divided
into an English language stack on the upper floor and
regional language stacks on the lower floor. The new
part of the building has stacks on each floor accord- 166. Stacks in the Regional Section with a reading table.
ing to their functional division like the women’s and
children’s stack on the first floor and the student’s and
reference stack on the second floor. The stack areas
are cramped for space and dingy with open steel racks
used for stacking books.

Reading/Reader service areas

Originally two reading halls were provided symmet-

rically to the dome and stack area. These reading halls
were for general reading and browsing and they could
be accessed separately from their respective entries. 167. Entry to the reading hall with the staff counter and
the newspaper reading stands.
These entrance areas were converted to - The Sub-
hadra Maneklal Reading Room and The Children’s
Library in 1950 and 1956 respectively. The Subhadra
Maneklal Reading Room was a newspaper reading
area equipped with stands, placed against the win-
dows, to read the newspapers. Currently the north-
ern reading hall is being used for offices, exhibition
area and internet facility. The eastern reading hall has
some magazine stands and long reading tables and is
used as a browsing area for periodicals.

Scattered reading tables are provided in between the

168. Main Reading Hall used for browsing periodicals
stacks in every section but there is no facility of a and newspapers.
study area or individual study carrels. The library
lacks a defined general area for reading the books
provided in the collections unlike the clearly defined
newspaper and periodical halls. Wooden card-cata-
logue shelves are provided in the individual stacking
sections to search for the books.

Staff area

Aside from the administration room and offices there

is no provision for staff areas like a staff lounge or a
separate staff toilet. The book assessing and binding 169. Lending and administration counter in the foyer.

Study of Selected Public Libraries in India

170. Entry to the Regional Stack section with

catalouges and a reading table.

175. Book rack in the stack area.

171. Stacks in the Regional Language section.

176. Internal staircase leading to

the first floor english stack from the
regional stack section.

172. Periodical stand in the reading hall.

173. Circulating Library collection on the first floor. 177. Card catalouge shelves.

174. Newspaper reading room. 178. Women’s reading area on the

first floor.
Study of Selected Public Libraries in India

are provided in the basement but there is no facility

for a book drop or unloading area. Thus the books
have to be manually transported to the basement from
the parking area. The cabins provided for the head
librarian, the assistant librarians and the committee
room cover only half of the floor to ceiling height in
the old reading hall, the remaining top half portion
remains unused and wasted.

2. Light 179. Cabins for the librarians and the committe room
on the ground floor, north wing of the library.

Natural Light

The initial library design had sufficient means of nat-

ural light. The two reading halls had a series of open-
ings on their outer facades and the entrance doorways
with the covered porches provided enough light for
reading. The stack area had clerestory light from
above and the dome was lit with the diffused light
from the jalis and the main entrance. The ornamental
stone jalis are also provided in other areas to get dif-
fused light. However with the expansion of the build- 180. Atrium below the clerestory which provides light
to the lending area below.
ing and the new construction the quality and amount
of natural light in the building has reduced. The stacks
have been shifted to a new section which has insuf-
ficient openings and the entrances to the reading halls
are kept closed which reduces the quality of light for
reading. The openings in the northern reading room
are blocked by cabinets and shelves while the cabins
provided for the librarians have entirely sealed up the
former entrance door and porch.

The new building has three floors and thus blocks the
entry of light into the old building from the western
side. Entry of light from the central court is minimal
due to the small and insufficient openings most of 181. Windows in the reading hall, east wing
which are usually kept closed. The facades in the new
building have a series of continuous windows but the
light quality is reduced due to the wire mesh which is
used to seal up most of the windows. Most windows
in the new parts of the library have a fixed double
layer of metal grill and wire mesh which reduces the
amount of light considerably and prevents the win-
dows from being completely opened up for light
and ventilation. But the windows in the old part are
double shuttered with glazed shutter on the outer side
and wire meshed shutter on the inner. This allows the
windows to be partially or completely open and helps
to control the amount of light required.
182. Windows in the english stack section
on the first floor.

Study of Selected Public Libraries in India

Artificial Light

Reading The electrical lighting has not been updated in a long

Room entry time and the poor quality of natural light requires the
electrical lights to run even during the peak hours of
daylight. There is no individual or local provision for
indirect, good quality reading light.

Main Entry 3. Circulation/Accessibility

The orientation of the original building is symmetri-

Reading Room entry cal on a diagonal southwest-northeast central axis and
183. Diagram representing the original three entries. the main entrance is accordingly from the northeast
corner. Though initially, the old library was designed
to have three entries with one main entry into the
dome and two separate entries for the reading halls;
currently only the main entry is accessible into the
building. Another entrance from the north court be-
tween the old and new building is kept closed except
in case of emergencies or service requierments like
book drop. The dispersion of movement happens
from the lending area from where there is access to
the reading room, the stack division and through the
administration and exhibition area to the new part of
the building. There is no separate staff entry or circu-
Main Entry
lation. There are three internal staircases in the stack
division and two staircases from the foyer area which
Closed entry/exit reach to the balconies above the lending, reading and
exhibition areas.

There is one main staircase in the new part of the

building placed in the service core between the toi-
lets. There is no provision for handicap access or el-
evators. The circulation is confusing due to the poor
184. Diagram representing the present main entry and the signage and haphazard layout of functions.
entry/exit door from the new building which is kept closed
except in case of emergencies or service requierments.

4. Ancillary Spaces

There is an exhibition space provided on the ground

floor of the old building which displays photographs
of the history and heritage of Ahmedabad. Auditori-
um is provided in the basement and there is a small
toys section for children on the first floor of the new
building. The ancillary spaces are pushed within the
library plan and do not have individual access or pres-
ence. The exhibition is placed in a transition space
which is poorly lit and the auditorium is dark and
dingy in the basement. The toys’ section is very small
185. Exhibition area on the ground floor, north wing.
and cramped and allows no play area thus merely be-
comes a storage facility.

emergency exit
Study of Selected Public Libraries in India

5. Noise and Climate Control

There is a lot of traffic noise from the busy Ashram

Road but the building is placed a little away from the
roadside and the site has few trees which help buffer
the sound slightly. Internally there is no soundproof-
ing on the floors or ceiling and the noise from human
movement has no buffer. Sound in the large volumes
of the dome, foyer and reading halls in the old part of
the library cause echoes.

The poor quality of natural light and ventilation had

186. Toys’ section on the first floor.
damaged the books when the stacks were initially
placed in the basement (Patel). There is no specific
climate or dust control for any stack or user areas.

6. Security and Protection

The site has two entries which have security guards.

Only one main entry is kept accessible in the library
building to prevent theft and misuse. There is a bag-
gage counter at the entrance to prevent people from
187. Maps section in the foyer on
carrying bags. The main central lending counter is the ground floor.
provided for the stacks and reading rooms in the old
part of the library as a service counter and security
check point. In the new part each section has its own
reader-service counter for assistance and security
checks. Despite of this the library has suffered losses
and abuse to its collection mostly due to reader neg-

7. Expansion/Flexibility

Mahatma Gandhi had expressed a desire to plan the

library building with considerations for future growth 188. Security and baggage counter
at the main entrance.
and expansion (“M.J. Library-English Pamphlet”
1). The first extension was the two level stack areas
built in the early 1940’s. Subsequently the library has
already gone through a series of expansions carried
out in a disjointed manner. In 1970, the Granth Pan-
thal (new stack) was added behind the original stack
area and in 1974-75 a basement with an auditorium,
ground and first floor in extension to the old building
were built. A second floor was added in 2001 (Patel).

The concern area is for the growing number of books

which the library claims reaches to about 25,000 new
books each year. The new library building (1970 on-
wards) is not a strong structure and as a result the col-
189. Drinking water supply at the
umns are already showing signs of cracking due to entrance dome.

Study of Selected Public Libraries in India

the heavy loads of the stacks. The new library build-

ing was not designed keeping either growth or flex-
ibility in mind. As a result there are debates on tear-
ing down the new extension building and making a
new structure with more number of floors or erecting
a separate structure on the existing weak one after
strengthening its framework (Patel).

8. Technology

The library catalogues are yet to be computerized so

there is no digital database or search system within
the library. There are a few computers provided on 190. Computers in the stack area
the ground floor for internet surfing. The library has where the digital catalouging of
the library collections is yet to be
about 1200 CD’s and DVD’s and 800 audio cassettes
but no facility to use them within the library. The col-
lections of rare books given by Mahatma Gandhi is
being indexed and a database of about 1.5 lakh books
is being prepared. The standing comittee of AMC in
2006 alloted Rs. six crore to the library for modern-
ization and upgradation of facilities.

3.5 Inferences

Chapter 4.0
Study of Selected Contemporary
Public Libraries
Study of Selected Contemporary Public Libraries

4.1 Introduction

This chapter focuses on the study of selected public

libraries which have attempted to incorporate the di-
verse factors that are reshaping the notion of a modern
public library.

Three case studies have been selected for this study,

each of which has a unique aspect in its design related
to the changing trend of public library architecture.
All the three libraries are contemporary public librar-
ies situated in different contexts and each has a differ-
ent perspective on public library design. The librar-
ies are varying in their sizes, programs and positions
within their communities. The varying range of the
study is an attempt to understand the different prob-
lems, requirements and design solutions of different
types of public libraries situated in diverse contexts.

The Waterford City Library, Ireland is a small pub-

lic library which had to expand and modernize with
its growing number of readers and collections. The
Community Centre and Library, Phoenix, USA is a
public library with a recreational sports complex in a
reasonably sized community center. The Seattle Cen-
tral Library, USA is a large central library which is
designed on the new definitions of public library ar-
chitecture. Each library has emerged with a resolution
to its individual needs and concerns and has strived to
develop as a landmark within its context. All the three
are relatively recent examples of library extension, re-
juvenation and design respectively.

The parameters mentioned in Chapter 2 are used as

a method to analyze the three case studies. The case
studies are individually analyzed and are not a com-
parative study. The inferences for this chapter are
drawn at the end of the case studies in a tabular format
based on the selected parameters for analysis.

Study of Selected Contemporary Public Libraries

4.2 Waterford City Library, Ireland


Waterford City was founded in 914 AD and is an im-

portant port in Ireland. Its architectural heritage is
being conserved and restored through a development
plan drafted by the Waterford City Council. Water-
ford is rich in its cultural history and traditions which
is reflected in the attempt to merge new modern inter-
ventions while preserving and reviving the old heri-
tage structures.

The Waterford City Library is a modest municipal

library which was built in 1905 by Albert Edward 191. Map of Ireland showing the location of Waterford.
Murray. Consequently the library was in need for
alterations and expansion with the growing need for
electronic facilities and space. Thus the proposal for
its remodeling and extension was given to architects
Jo McCullough and Valerie Mulvin of McCullough
Mulvin, Dublin in 2002 (“Layers of Meaning” 42).

A. Urban Parameters

1. Site and Context

The library is located in the City Centre situated on

192. Ariel view of Waterford city and the river Suir.
the north-eastern edge of the promontory, on the river
Suir. The City Centre is a defined area of Waterford
which contains a greater portion of the city’s artistic,
historic, cultural and archaeological heritage. It also
contains the main commercial and administrative ar-
eas of the city. It is a key commercial zone due to its
compact nature and wide mix of activities.

The City Center also contains the Architectural Con-

servation Areas (ACA) which has some of the old-
est populated areas and heritage structures in Ireland.
Thus this area falls completely under the city’s Zone
of Archaeological Potential (Draft Development Plan
“Schedule 2” 1). The Waterford City Urban Archaeo-
logical Survey has identified the zone of archaeologi-
cal protections which is generally equivalent to the
areas enclosed by the Danish and Norman city walls
(Waterford City Development Plan 56). Therefore 193. Plan of Waterford city showing the location of the
the maintenance and development within this area is library.
monitored by the City Council to ensure that it does
not adversely affect the archaeological heritage.
Study of Selected Contemporary Public Libraries

The library falls in the Record of Protected Structures

(Draft Development Plan “Schedule 1” 14) within the
General Conservation area in the Zone of Archaeo-
logical Potential. The City Council intends that the
status of Waterford in the field of urban archaeology
is maintained and thus any development in the area
is required to be assessed by an archaeologist, The
Planning Authority and Duchas, The Heritage Ser-
vice (Waterford City Development Plan 57).

The City Centre is composed of a variety of build-

ing types including Norman Towers, Medieval Town
Walls, Georgian churches as well as The City Council
Offices and City square shopping centre. The vicinity
194. Plan of Waterford showing the location of the city center.
of the library has mostly residences and warehouses
from the 18th and 19th century. Most buildings are of
rubble-stone construction and the Georgian churches
located on The Mall have brick facades. This varia-
tion lends a distinctive texture to the streetscapes in
this area.

2. Urban Presence

The library occupies a corner site in between the Lady

Lane and the Bakehouse Street. The existing library
was a squat two storied structure and it was built as a
symbol of municipal dignity to the pursuit of knowl-
edge. As the conservation policy requires utmost pres-
ervation of the heritage building and as a response to
its surrounding urban fabric; the corner part of the old
library building is left intact in the new remodeling
195. Urban response to the corner by retaning the old facade
of the library. An adjoining site on the western side,
of the library.
which was formerly an undertakers yard, has been
incorporated for the expansion of the library. The in-
corporation of the new part has been carried out in a
manner which emphasizes the juxtaposition of the old
and new parts from both the street sides.

3. Style of Architecture

The old library building was built in the Neo-Classi-

cal style with a pediment on its south facade on the
Lady Lane side. The thick walls were constructed of
smooth sawn Kilkenny limestone with varying shades
(“Layers of Meaning” 42). The original library plan
was a rectangle with spaces arranged around a dou-
ble-height top lit reading room. However with the
new incorporation the overall site has been extended
196. View of the corner junction of the library with the original
into an L-shape.

Study of Selected Contemporary Public Libraries

Plan of Waterford showing the location of the library in the zone of archaeological potential

100 300 700 m

Study of Selected Contemporary Public Libraries

The old construction is in contrast to the new exten-

sion which also uses limestone but of different size
and pattern of joints. The facades of the old walls
have characteristically smaller and regulated win-
dows whereas the new parts have larger and unregu-
lated glazed openings.

The combination of the old and new parts is also seen

in the interior of the library where parts of the old
walls have been blended with the new construction.
The walls of the new entrance hall are in boardmarked
concrete while the old wall in the central hall are lined
with dark timber (“Layers of Meaning” 46)

4.Considerations for the Community

197. Street view of the library along the Lady Lane The extension of the library was carried out for the
purpose of accommodating a new range of digital
technology and facilities for the community of read-
ers. This consisted of a special area provided for in-
ternet facility, an audio library and facility for readers
with impaired vision to be able to read on enlarged

B. Library Parameters

1. Spatial Layout

Stack areas

Originally the spaces were arranged around the central

double-height hall which was also the general read-
ing area. Stacks were arranged in different sections
around this reading hall. However with the changes
and the new extension the stacks have been divided
into specific categories and placed in individual areas
with their own reading facilities. The categorical divi-
sion of the collections is in three parts at three levels.
The ground floor has the casual children, adult and
young-adult sections, the first floor has the Waterford
room which contains rare archives and collections on
the history and information of Waterford, the second
floor has the non-fiction and reference collections.
Except for the archives and the reference sections all
198. Sketch of the original library areas around the
the stacks are open collections and accessible to ca-
central reading hall.
sual readers.
Study of Selected Contemporary Public Libraries

Reading area

The specific reading areas are organized within the

stack divisions. These reading areas are arranged in
the periphery of the library along the openings. Each
section has its characteristic reading space like the
children’s library which has a dynamic reading area
with differently arranged seating spaces for story tell-
ing and playtime, the young adult section which has
comfortable couches and the adult section which has
linearly arranged reading tables. The Waterford room
and the reference section have reference tables ar-
ranged amongst scattered stacks in the centre of the
room with closed shelves lined on the walls. There
is a study room provided on the first floor which is
equipped with diagonally arranged, individual study
tables. The mezzanine on the first floor has seating
provided for newspaper or periodicals browsing.

Staff areas

With the extension of the library a new floor was add-

ed on the existing library which could accommodate
the staff facilities. The floor is accessible only to the
staff and contains the administrative offices, the com-
mittee room, the staff canteen and a staff toilet. This
floor can be directly accessed from the old staircase,
which has a separate entry on the ground floor acces-
sible only for staff and service purpose.

2. Light

Natural Light

The old façade of the library on the southeastern cor-

ner has regulated openings which provide direct light
for the reading areas arranged on the periphery. The
central part of the library has an atrium which pro-
vides indirect light through a skylight on the top. Dur-
ing the remodeling of the library structure, the walls
around this atrium have been made more permeable
for better quality of light. In the new part of the library
on the western side, a light well has been provided by
creating a void in-between the floor and the rear north
wall. Like the central top lit hall, this provides a con-
tinuous infiltration of light at all levels. The areas on
the second floor of the north eastern corner are indi-
vidually top lit from skylights above. The large glazed
199. View of the central hall and the roof light on the top. openings on the new facades also provide good light
to the main entrance, reading and staff areas.

Study of Selected Contemporary Public Libraries

3. Circulation/Accessibility

The original main entrance of the library was directly

below the pediment on the Lady Lane side. This was
closed and the main entrance was shifted to the new
block when the library was extended. The entrance
hall and the central hall are the main transitory areas
from which the movement is dispersed into other ar-
eas. The new block has a staircase and elevator acces-
sible from the entrance hall. The staircase in the old
part of the library has an entrance on the ground level
from the Bakehouse Lane which is mainly used for
staff and service entry.

200. View of the new block and the main entrance of the The central hall which was originally the main reading
hall of the library is now also used for general reading
purposes with movement through the different sec-
tions placed around it. The separate staff floor ensures
that the staff movement is restricted to one level ex-
cept for the information/control areas. Another entry
from the Bakehouse Lane into the adult section at the
ground level is kept closed.

On the first and second floors the circulation is con-

tained between the two staircases through the bridge
links above central hall. This ensures visual connec-
tion between the areas on the above floors and the
central hall.
201. Central hall with the separate sections arranged on the
4. Ancillary Spaces

There is no specific division of the ancillary areas

from the rest of the library. The internet access area
and the audio library are provided on the second floor
whereas the reference library is also used as a meeting

5. Noise and Climate Control

The climate of the region requires maximum use of

direct sunlight for reading. The central atrium func-
tions for providing both light and in keeping the areas
ventilated. No special sound buffering or climate con-
trol is done within the library. The walls are board-
marked concrete or lined with dark timber strips and
the flooring is in stone. The thick stone construction
would buffer the external noise from the streets to an

Study of Selected Contemporary Public Libraries

6. Security and Protection

To control the movement within the library the en-

trances from the Bakehouse Lane have been kept re-
stricted. The main information area is located within
the central hall and service counters are provided on
all the floors which are accessible to the users. These
serve as service areas and as control points within the

7. Expansion/Flexibility

The expansion of the library has happened in phas-

202. Light well in the new block with the es. An old caretaker’s house was incorporated in the
service desk at the entrance level. northern part previously and in the new extension the
undertaker’s yard on the western side has been includ-
ed as the new part of the site. The re-modeling of the
library and its new extension are particularly noted for
their juxtaposition of the old and new parts. The new-
er parts are discernible in the use of limestone which
is also used in the old library walls, but in a newer
pattern of joints and finish. This extension forms a
new 3 storey structure on the western side and has
the main entrance hall with the first floor mezzanine.
A new third floor has been added onto the old 2 sto-
rey library part which houses the staff. To completely
wrap the new extension on all sides of the library a
new room has been added on the second floor on the
203. View of the entrance hall with the first Bakehouse Lane side with the similar limestone fa-
floor mezzanine from the central hall. çade of the new extension. Within the original central
hall, parts of the old limestone wall have been modi-
fied and superimposed with new dark wood strips to
make it more permeable and to emphasize the old and
new construction.

The preservation of old structure and its fusion with

new parts, without destroying its original character ,
was a result of the library’s listing in the Record of
Protected Structures. The expansion retains the old
prominent corner façade and the interior spaces of the
building with equally prominent and bold new parts.

8. Technology

The redevelopment was done so as to accommodate

new technology in the modest municipal library. The
204. New part in the second floor from the library has provision for internet access and to access
Bakehouse Lane side with the skylight on the basic digital media without being diverted; with too
top. many technological interventions or changes; from
being a simple, reading library for its members.

originally a caretaker’s
Study of Selected Contemporary Public Libraries

4.3 Palo Verde Library and Community

Center, Phoenix, USA


Maryvale, located on the western edge of Phoenix was

one of the USA’s first postwar master planned com-
munities back in the 1950s. Its population is a diverse
mix of immigrant families who shifted there due to the
lower housing and living costs. The urban public core
of this community was structured around a generously
scaled park, equipped with a library and community
centre, an outdoor swimming pool, basketball and
volleyball courts, children’s playground and a base-
205. Map of USA showing location of Phoenix. ball field (Slessor 50).

The City of Phoenix proposed to re-invigorate this ur-

ban core with a mixed-use building program, which
required a single building complex with a larger Li-
brary/Community Center that would incorporate the
existing park and public pool. The unique aspect to the
rejuvenation of this program and design is the amal-
gamation of the library and the community center into
one complex. The brief, given by the Phoenix munici-
pality, asked for the new structure to reconsider the
relationship in-between the library and the community
center areas, and its relationship with the surrounding
park. The renewal of this urban core was a civic mis-
sion and it thus demanded an apparent public mani-
206. Urban core in Maryvale in the city of Phoenix.
festation in its new design (Slessor 51). In 2001 this
project was given to the Phoenix based architectural
firms, Wendell Burnette and Gould Evans and it was
completed in 2006 .

A. Urban Parameters

1. Site and Context

The site is located in the heart of Maryvale which in-

cludes a community hospital, a post office and an El-
ementary and Middle school along with the Maryvale
theatre. The 51st Avenue is an important street and the
sitting of the new building is done so as to have a vi-
207. View of the urban core with the public pool, community sual and transitional link with the street side. The mas-
center and library as seen from the baseball feild side. ter plan for Maryvale featured a park, around which

Study of Selected Contemporary Public Libraries

stood the hospital, shopping center, library, pool, and

community center. The architects lined up the new
buildings on axis with the existing pool along the east
side of the site

The old library and community center were oriented

towards the interior side of the park whereas the park-
ing was facing the street side. In the new design the
community center and the library have a direct ac-
cess from the 51st Avenue through a new promenade
which leads to the entry breezeway connecting both
the buildings. The southeast corner of the site is pre-
served as the original landscaped park and is used as
a ‘contemplative park’ for the library and the reading
room. The private access drive is used to access the 208. Plan of the urban core showing the original locations of the
old library and the community center.
administrative areas provided at the back side like the
book drop and shipping/receiving as well as the park-
ing provided at the back.

2. Urban Presence

The new design of the library has a strong public

presence with its shaded promenade and visual con-
nectivity. The 8 feet tall bands of externally shaded
glass enable the connection between the street and
the activities within both the buildings as well as in-
between both the library and the community center.
The ‘Palo Verde’ name is derived from the Palo Verde
trees, which are a local species growing in the arid
desert climate of Arizona. These trees are also used in 209. View of the promenade leading to the library and commu-
the form of planting within the site. The preservation nity center from the 51st Avenue.
of the park towards the southeast corner and planting
of new trees in the parking on the street side gives the
building a bold but quiet street presence. The rejuve-
nation of the new complex is done in a way which
preserves and enhances this site as the green heart of
Maryvale. The complex attempts to be a part of the
public realm through its transparent glazing which
enables the internal functions and character of each
space to be discernible; thus giving the buildings a
democratic and unassuming character.

3. Style of Architecture

The new building design has an innovative modern 210. Metal box of the library and the masonry administration
block connected with the in-between breezeway.
approach. The buildings have been kept in line with
the street but to avoid making a wall in between the
park on the west and the street on the east, the two
Study of Selected Contemporary Public Libraries

buildings have been designed as a pair of metal boxes

resting on feet high bands of glazing. This ensures
that the relationship between the street and the activi-
ties within the buildings remains linked.
211. Equal volumes of the library and community center con-
nected by a breezeway and resting on bands of glass.
The two buildings are equally scaled volumes which
incorporate the library and the gymnasium facilities
park side
respectively. Each of these volumes is a clear span,
masonry masonry existing column free space which is well lit from the skylights
pool at the top and the glazing bands at the bottom. Dif-
metal boxes metal boxes fering from the response to the street edge and the
park side, the buildings have been divided into four
volumes. The two street side volumes are double-
volume, metal boxes with transparent shop windows
which visually relate the activities within the complex
with each other as well as with the street side. The
volumes on the park side are single storied masonry
street side
structures which from a solid mass. These contain
212. Four volumes of the complex with two double-volume the administrative functions of the library along with
glass and metal boxes towards the street side and two masonry other enclosed spaces in the community center. The
structres in line with the pool house on the park side. street side volumes contain the dynamic functions like
the collections and reading room of the library and
the sports hall in the gymnasium. The street facing
facades are clad in finished stainless-steel panels that
have an absorptive nature, subtly changing colors in
varying light conditions and gives the facade a fluid,
translucent quality; whereas the solid masonry forms
are continued in the line of the existing pool house.

4. Considerations for the Community

213. Street facing metal volumes resting on continuous The building design manifests what the architect Wen-
bands of glass. dell Burnette calls the ‘mind/body’ duality, with the
library for intellectual contemplation and a sports hall
for physical recreation (Slessor 51). The complex pro-
vides both facilities to its community members in an
enclosed, temperature controlled structure. The func-
tions are organized in a user-friendly and functional
means which is easily accessible even for people with
physical disabilities. The most contributing factor is
the proximity of the buildings and the visual connec-
tion as well as the common circulation between the
two. The idea is to remove the confinement of the
library as a secluded, isolated space and to locate it
such that it creates a sociable sense of awareness of
the other surrounding activities and a sense of being
connected to them. The complex contributes to the
general urban wellbeing of the community by stimu-
214. Sports hall in the community center which is visually
lating both the mind and the body and providing an
connected to the library collections opposite via the glazed attractive ambience for the users.

Study of Selected Contemporary Public Libraries

B. Library Parameters

1. Spatial Layout

Stack areas/Reading areas

The library collections and the reading areas are lo-

cated in the street side double-volume block on the
southeastern side. This is a spacious, column free,
hall which has a collection of open stacks mostly for
general reading purposes and few reference stacks.
The reading areas are arranged in-between the stacks
in varying clusters with lounge like arrangements as 215. Southeastern metal box which houses the library col-
well as formal study tables. Individual study tables lections.
are also provided for secluded reading. Most of the
reading areas are arranged towards the periphery with
the stacks occupying the centre of the space. Every
reading space is equipped with the provision to ac-
cess laptops and other digital devices.

Staff areas

The staff and other library administrative areas are

provided in the southwestern masonry block. These
include the staff offices, pantry, meeting rooms,
staff lounge and staff toilets. There is also a separate
staff entry that is accessed from the back side which
serves for book drops and shipping/receiving. The
staff lounge has access to a private court towards the
southern side which provides light in the solid ma-
sonry structure and acts as a relaxation area. 216. Lounge like reading areas arranged next to the glass
band in the library.

2. Light

Natural Light

The required amount of light is balanced in the build-

ing through a grid of ‘Solatube’ skylights which pro-
vide light from the top and the bands of glazing pro-
vided at the bottom. To ensure that the light quality
is controlled and glare-free the bands of glazing are
externally shaded with fixed horizontal louvers. The
Solatube skylights provide shadow-less lighting for
comfortable reading (Burnette 10). The provision for
good natural light ensures that there is a reduced reli-
ance on the electric lighting thus reducing the energy
costs considerably. The harsh daylight of the Arizona 217. Masonry single volume blocks on the park side.
desert also needs to be properly shaded and filtered
which is further achieved through the dense planting

Study of Selected Contemporary Public Libraries

of Palo-Verde trees on the eastern street side which

helps shade the continuous band of glazing.

Artificial Light

While the general lighting is provided throughout with

a series of suspended light fixtures, low-hung reading
lamps are provided at the periphery in the reading ar-
eas for good quality, indirect reading light.

3. Circulation/Accessibility

The main circulation in the site is the 36 feet wide

218. Low hung lampshades in the reading areas of the li-
brary. east-west pedestrian promenade made of Arizona Ash
which leads to the entry breezeway connecting both
the buildings. The circulation within the building is
along the north-south spine of the breezeway. The per-
pendicular axis of the pedestrian movement ensures
that the circulation is simple and direct. The separate
parking for the library is provided on the southwest
corner from which the promenade to the west can be
accessed. As the building is only at ground level and
the circulation is even it enables easy handicap access

219. Breezeway continuing the main axis for circulation The user and staff accessibility is split with a separate
within the library.
staff access into the southwestern masonry block. The
vehicular access for the book drop and book shipping/
receiving are also provided in a separate entry into the
staff block. The breezeway entering the library acts
as a multi purpose area by functioning as the main
movement spine and also holding the main informa-
tion desk along with other reference tables provided
for browsing.

4. Ancillary Spaces

A children’s story time area is provided in the mason-

ry volume of the library. Provision for music stations,
internet browsing etc. is provided within the general
library layout. The design of the buildings is such that
the column free spans can be used for performances
as well as public gatherings on certain occasions.

220. Vehicular entry from the private access drive for the 5. Noise and Climate Control
library parking and the book drop

Acoustical treatment is given to the interior of the li-

brary spaces by using 4’X16’ panels of sanded OSB

Study of Selected Contemporary Public Libraries

panels made from recycled Aspen wood chips. The li-

brary collection floor plate is cork and recycled carpet
tiles which muffle sound and provide flexibility for data/
electrical distribution. Formaldehyde-free insulation in
the walls and the ceiling provides both acoustical and
thermal insulation (Burnette 10).

Arizona’s harsh desert climate requires good tempera-

ture control and shading from the heat. This is provided
by the uniform grove of Palo Verde trees which consid-
erably reduce the heat island effect caused by the ex-
posed asphalt. A continuous underground plenum, along
the glazing, provides perimeter air conditioning in the
lower part of the structure whereas the upper 2/3 part is
allowed to stratify and remain unconditioned. The mill
finish stainless steel panels reflect much of the potential
221. Horizontal louvers externally shading the glass which solar heat gain (Burnette 10).
protect from direct glare and heat gain.

6. Security and Protection

The library areas are contained in one large space and

thus it helps regulate the movement of users within as
the staff can maintain a friendly but controlled environ-
ment. The main information counter, which is placed in
the breezeway on entering the library, functions as a main
point for the accessibility and control. The regulated pe-
destrian movements through the site also help in control-
ling the large groups of users within the complex.

7. Expansion/Flexibility

The library building has not been designed keeping any

physical future addition in mind. However the large, clear
span of the structure enables a flexibly in it’s layout and
function for future use. The library is not built as a re-
pository and thus does not intend to add considerably to
its current collections but the provision for further data/
electrical distribution in its structure ensures provision
for future increase in the digital media and equipment.
222. The column-free large span and volume of the library
with an interractive and flexible layout.

8. Technology

The library has provision for several terminals to access

internet and other digital mediums of information. There
is also provision to access personal laptops. The design
of the library structure has accommodations for further
growth and modifications in the changing technological

Study of Selected Contemporary Public Libraries

4.4 Seattle Central Library, USA


The old Seattle Central Library was suffering from

over-crowding, inefficiently designed spaces and
inadequate collection and seating growth capacity
amongst other structural and spatial concerns. Thus
a new program for the library was drafted by the city
Librarian, Deborah L. Jacobs in 1997. Jacobs stat-
ed that “Seattle is a city of readers, but our library
buildings were getting tired. They were not working,
not big enough, not functional for the change in the
way information is being delivered” (in Rawlinson).
Keeping this in mind the new program was drafted to 223. The Carnegie Library, on the same site as the current
building, was Seattle’s downtown library for nearly 60
provide sufficient growth space for the next 30 years, years.
flexibility and the most efficient means to convey in-

In 1999 the design competition for this project was

won by the architectural firm OMA in collaboration
with the Seattle based firm LMN Architects. The ar-
chitects for this project were the Dutch architect Rem
Koolhaas and Joshua Ramus. Koolhaas found Seattle
a very receptive breeding ground for his ideas. “It’s
a very specific culture here,” says Koolhaas. “There
is a very highly developed common sensibility and a
highly developed sense of solidarity between the rich
and the poor. It is also a culture where many people
have been involved in the digital world. What con-
nects everyone is a dedication to reason and to rea- 224. View of the library from the 5th Avenue and the Spring
soning, and I think that enabled us to do the project
and explains the way it turned out” (in Becker).

Given today’s penchant for extreme visual stimuli,

the design for any new library needs to stand out to re-
tain both, a degree of civic authority and the ability to
entice. Despite the isolation that technology enables,
libraries are assuming urgent new roles of congre-
gation and education (Lamprecht 52). These are the
key factors which have developed the new program
and design of the Seattle Central Library. The new
building which opened in May 2004 is a functional
example of a new emerging public library type which
stands as a civic institution, a public hub and a tech-
nologically updated information center for people of
225. Eastern facade of the library from the 5th Avenue side.
all ages, backgrounds and abilities.

Study of Selected Contemporary Public Libraries

A. Urban Parameters

1. Site and Context

The Seattle Central library is located at the corner of

a block, in the center of downtown Seattle in between
the Madison Street, Spring Street and the Fourth and
Fifth Avenues. The surrounding vicinity is an urban
metropolis with skyscrapers and busy roads. The plots
and roads are arranged on a strict orthogonal grid with
the tall and imposing streetscape of office, civic and
bank buildings. The Elliott Bay falls towards the-
northwestern side and Mt. Rainer lies towards the far
226. View of the library and its surrounding context. southeast.

The library building occupies the full city block

(33, and has entrances from both the 4th
and the 5th Avenue on the west and east sides respec-
tively. The site is located on a steep slope and thus the
level difference between the entrances on both sides
leads to entries at two different levels. There is almost
an 8.8 mt. difference in the levels on both the 4th and
5th Avenue sides thus on the 4th Avenue the entry is at
the first floor level and on the 5th Avenue it is at the
third floor level. Parking for about 150 cars is pro-
vided in the basement level.

2. Urban Presence

Surrounded by regulated buildings and skyscrapers

227. Library at night as seen from the 5th Avenue. the library’s angular and irregular facades give the
building a distinctive civic presence amongst its adja-
cent urban architecture. Yet it seems to blend in within
it’s surrounding fabric through it’s continuous skin of
steel and glass. The idiosyncratic form of the library
is not merely to make a statement. Joshua Ramus says
that although the library is sculptural, it is not in any
way an attempt to make a form. The library’s appear-
ance comes from pushing boxes around to stay within
the height and setback restrictions and zoning codes

Though the transparency of the glass links the interior

of the library activities with the exterior city life, there
is no direct connection or function which enhances
the surrounding dynamic downtown city life. The li-
brary, in that manner, is an internally focused building
228. Spring street and the library edge with the landscaping
which, other than its glass exterior, is cut-off from the
along the pedestrian walkway.
immediate vicinity. On the 5th Avenue entrance side,
an unglazed lattice of steel framework which forms a

Study of Selected Contemporary Public Libraries

covered walkway is provided as a response to the pe-

destrian movement.

3. Style of Architecture

Though the immediate style of the building comes

through as Post-Modern; the form is derived from the
requirements of the library program and the organi-
zation of space according to use and function. The
229. Covered walkway of unglazed lattice along the 5th Av- library’s exterior is an angular composition of folded
planes. Exterior facades are of glass, supported by a
diagonal grid of steel that covers almost the entire
surface. The form is divided into 5 main structural
platforms each with a fixed permanent function and
the in-between flexible areas serving as other inter-
mediary functions. It becomes difficult to gauge the
scale of the building accurately as the form remains
irregular on all the four sides, the facades are differ-
ent and the external planes are angular. Tapered fac-
ets are formed from the cantilevered, staggered boxes
and the detached, stretched glass and steel skin. Basic
structural grid is formed of the exposed box trusses
and the vertical columns, mostly concealed above the
third floor where angled columns take over. The col-
umns are pulled back from the corners so the boxes
are distinctly read as articulated volumes.

230. Southeastern corner of the library from the 5th Avenue

and Madison Street. 4. Considerations for the Community

The needs for the community are met with in both

the design and program of the library. The program
of the library has three distinct public spaces called
the ‘Living Room’, ‘Mixing Chamber’ and the ‘Read-
ing Room’. The ‘Living Room’ is an antithesis to the
formal ‘Temple of Knowledge’ outlook of the older
libraries. It is a dynamic and interactive space which
encourages a relaxed atmosphere. The ‘Mixing Cham-
ber’ is a reference area where the librarians interact
with the users and provide necessary information and
service. This area is a technological and digital hub
with 135 computers where all the librarians work in
a single space. The ‘Reading Room’ has a series of
reading areas at the 10th level of the building.

With its varying facilities for public gatherings, in-

formal meeting, reading, browsing, conferences, lec-
tures and workshops the library is designed as a fully-
231. View of the ‘Living Room’ on level 3. functional hard working public space, generated for
dynamic informal and formal gatherings. The library
also has a coffee shop which trains homeless people
Study of Selected Contemporary Public Libraries

to work as baristas. The Learning Center on level 1

is provided with language learning work stations and
a classroom for literacy and ESL programs. Library
Equal Access Program (LEAP) on level 3 is provided
with equipment for people with physical disabilities
to access information.

The library has a number of strategically located

elevators and escalators which provide good handi-
cap access and the book spiral also enables handicap
movement amongst the collections. Out of the eleven 232. View of level 3 ‘Living Room’ with the fiction stacks.

floors of the library only two are restricted to the staff

the rest all are open to the public.

B. Library Parameters

1. Spatial Layout

Stack areas

Though the library is divided into several unique

sections the main collections are located in a ‘book
spiral’ which covers the levels 6-9. This book spiral
is a continuous four-story ramp which holds major-
ity of the nonfiction collection — 75% of the entire
collection. This lets the non-fiction collection exist in
one continuous run, and avoids the problem of having
to move books into other rooms or floors as the col-
lection expands. The spiral lets all patrons, including
people with disabilities, move throughout the entire 233. Book Spiral from levels 6-9 which house the main
collection without depending on stairs, escalators or non-fiction collections.
elevators (Seattle Public Library website).

The shelves are arranged perpendicular to the 2 de-

gree ramp which is calibrated with walking pace of a
disabled person and a wheelchair. Black rubber strips
containing a part of the numerical sequence of the
Dewey Decimal system line up with the correspond-
ing shelf on the adjacent floor. The book spiral starts
with 000 at the bottom level and finishes with 999 at
the top. This system of organization ensures easy and
fast access to the required book section. The spiral is
also navigable through a centrally placed one-way-up
escalator from level 5 and a parallel staircase which
starts from level 6. Currently holding about 750,000
234. Ramped aisles of the book spiral with mats indicating
books, the spiral has a capacity for 1.4 million books
the Dewey Decimal number of the adjoining stacks.
and other materials.

Study of Selected Contemporary Public Libraries

The collections on each level include -

Books Spiral 6 - Magazines, newspapers, govern

ment publications, small conference room
Books Spiral 7 (000s - 600s) - The Maffei Family
Aviation Room, the Barry A. Ackerley Business Col-
lection, nonfiction media collection, science, public
Books Spiral 8 (700s - 800s) - Peter F. Donnelly Arts
and Literature Collection, music CDs, two music
235. Book spiral with the centrally placed staircase.
practice rooms, the Kreielsheimer Foundation Perfor-
mance Arts Room, regional arts collection
Books Spiral 9 (900s and biographies) - Genealogy,
the Maritz Map Room, A. Scott Bullitt History and
Biography Collection, Eulalie and Carlo Scandiuzzi
Writers’ Room, small conference room.
Each level features a reference desk, copy machine
and computers (Seattle Public Library website).

The other stacks are divided into different sections at

every level like the Children’s Center, the Learning
Center, the Teen Center, Family Fiction Collection,
236. One-way-up escalator which connects the levels of the Popular periodicals and newspapers etc. and the refer-
book spiral. ence collection on level 5 in the ‘Mixing Chamber’.

Reading Areas

The main reading galleries are provided on level 10

which is known as the ‘Betty Jane Narver Reading
Room’. This level has 5 reading galleries split at dif-
ferent levels located on the northern side and has seat-
ing for 400 readers. Here the exterior walls of steel
and glass slopes at an angle of 45 degrees to a height
of 40 feet till the top of administration platform and
provides fantastic views of the surrounding buildings
and Elliott Bay.

237. Diagonally arranged stacks in the fiction section on The other reading area is on level 3 in the ‘Living
level 3. Room’ which is an informal space on the southern
side from the entrance at the 5th Avenue. This is more
of a browsing area for the fiction stacks, periodicals
and has provision for accessing personal laptops.
Seattle’s Living Room is not about research, or any
explicit library-related task but it’s about pleasure ori-
ented activities with its coffee area, gift shop, fiction
stacks, teen center and its unrestrained use of space
for meeting friends, browsing or just relaxing. It be-
comes a close parallel to a public space and a center
238. Reading galleries on level 10 in the ‘Betty Jane Narver for the community within the city.
Reading Room’.
The reference section on level 5 has computers dedi-
cated to the catalog and subscription databases, a gen

Study of Selected Contemporary Public Libraries

eral reference print collection and about 135 public

access, Internet-enabled computers. The Language
Center on level 1 has individual language carrels. A
writer’s room is provided on level 9 and individual
reading areas are also provided within the book spiral.
The Language Center on level 1 has individual lan-
guage carrels. A writer’s room is provided on level 9
and individual reading areas are also provided within
the book spiral.

Staff Areas

The main staff levels are on level 2 and level 11 and 239. Staff Headquarter’s platform on level 11 seen above
from the reading room on level 10.
both these levels are restricted only to the staff. Level
2 has shipping, receiving, book sorting and technical
and collection services. It also has the loading dock,
the book conveyor and space for storing book carts.
This level deals with the general receiving, sorting and
re-shelving of the checked in books. It also deals with
the arrival, dispatch and distribution of new books.
Level 11, which is the topmost level of the library, is
the main administrative platform and is known as the
headquarters. It has all the administrative offices, the
head librarian’s office, the board room, staff lounge
and meeting and conference rooms. 240. Meeting room platform on level 4 seen from level 3
‘Living Room’.
The other staff areas are on level 4 with conference
and meeting rooms along with two Boeing Technolo-
gy Training Center labs used for public and staff com-
puter instruction. On level 5 the ‘Mixing Chamber’
has a large interdisciplinary area where the librarians
work and interact with the users by providing neces-
sary help and information. Every level has its own
administrative office space along with service and in-
formation desks in each section.

2. Light
241. Bookshelf lighting in the fiction stacks.
Natural Light

Natural light is brought in and controlled via the means

of the external skin of the building. The external skin
is made of glass, cut in approximately 4-foot by 7-foot
diamond-shaped units supported by a diagonal steel-
mullion grid (DelFraino). To overcome the effect of
direct light, heat and glare caused by this continuous
glass skin aluminum expanded metal mesh interlayer
is stretched between layers of glass. This is used in
half of building’s façade which gets maximum solar
exposure like the south facing sides. In other areas, 242. Light fixtures in the white fabric-wrapped squares cov-
like the north facing reading rooms, plain glass is us- ering the ceiling and walls in the reading room.

Study of Selected Contemporary Public Libraries

ed in the skin (Seattle Public Library website). The

building is designed to control the type and quantity
of sunlight. Library program areas are located such
that each receives appropriate light according to its
function. The reading areas in the Living Room face
south thus it gets light filtered by the metal mesh lay-
er. The Betty Jane Narver Reading Room, however,
faces north and it has more controlled light with less
glare, which is more favorable for reading. An atrium
starting from level 3 and going up till level 9 provides
indirect daylight in the book spirals. A similar atrium
243. Entrance from the 4th Avenue into level 1.
on level 11 provides light to the administration level
and on level 10.

Artificial Light

General lighting of areas is done so as to give each

space its characteristic style. On the first level Quartz
light fixtures are suspended from the ceiling of the
entire floor, creating a plane of light throughout the
space. In the Story Hour Room on level 1, the random
lights mimic a starlight pattern. In the book spirals
the ceiling is covered with clear polycarbonate pan-
els with fluorescent lights. On the level 10 Reading
244. Entrance from the 5th Avenue into level 3.
Room the ceiling underneath the administration plat-
form and the walls are covered with soft 4-foot by
4-foot white fabric-wrapped squares, many of which
have lights attached in the center (Seattle Public Li-
brary website). The study tables in the reading areas
have individual lighting fixtures for indirect reading

3. Circulation/Accessibility

The library has two entrances from different levels on

the 4th and the 5th Avenue side. The entrance on the 5th
245. View of the concrete box of the main service core seen Avenue leads to the ‘Living Room’ on level 3 which is
on level 3. a larger and a spacious entrance. The entrance on the
4th Avenue leads to a lobby on level 1. This entrance
is smaller compared to the 5th Avenue entrance and
seems scaled down for the children accessing the kids’
section. A spiral car ramp leads down to the basement
parking level from the Spring Street side. The main
service core is located in the southwest corner and
has a staircase and elevators which run through all the
levels. A smaller staircase is located on the northeast
side which is also accessible at all floors.

Interlinking escalators and staircases are provided in

246. Escalator for the book spiral accessible from level 5.
between the floors in staggered locations. An escala-
tor leads from level 1 to directly level 3 as level two

Study of Selected Contemporary Public Libraries

is closed to the public. A perpendicular escalator on

level 3 connects it to level 4 and 5. An amorphous
staircase, painted bright red, leads up from level 4 to
level 5. A one-way-up escalator is accessible from
level 5 which moves through the center of the 4-sto-
rey book spiral up to the reading room on level 10.
A staircase positioned parallel above this escalator is
accessible from level 6. The book spiral is a continu-
ous ramp and the reading galleries on level 10 are also
accessible from this continuing ramp.

There is no separate staff entry or service core. The

staircases and elevators are accessible only for the
staff on levels 2 and 11. Except for these two levels
the staff and user circulation is mostly overlapping or
247. Main circulation areas in the library for users.
adjacent to each other. The library circulation is con-
fusing in certain places and requires traversing long
distances. The escalator in the book spiral leads up
but there is no visible direct means to get down. A part
of the floor length needs to be crossed to reach the
service core or the staircase to move down. Within the
book spiral, though the numbered Dewy Decimal sys-
tem helps in navigating the stacks, still the continu-
ous ramp and stacks can make searching for a specific
book a tedious and lengthy task.

For easy navigation all the vertical circulation servic- 248. Staircase leading from level 4 meeting rooms to level
es have been painted neon- chartreuse except for the 5 ‘Mixing Chamber’.

bright red staircase on level 4. The library circulation

has been provided keeping handicap accessibility as
a decisive factor, with its numerous elevators, escala-
tors and even the slope of the book-spiral ramp.

4. Ancillary Spaces

Ancillary spaces are placed within the library design

at different levels. Each of these spaces has their own
individual characteristic. A 275-seat Microsoft Audi- 249. Corridors of level 4 with curved walls of the meeting
torium is accessible from level 3 which has seats set rooms, flooring and ceiling painted in shades of red.
on its treads. Its side aisles form a stairway descending
down to the 4th avenue entrance floor. The children’s
area on level 1 has an Anne Marie Gault Story Hour
Room where story times in many different languages
are held. FriendShop (gift shop) and Chocolati coffee
cart with seating for 20 are provided on level 3. The
teen center on level 3 offers two sound domes where
listeners can here music without disturbing other pa-
trons. A special music collections and performance
arts workspace is provided on level 8 and large multi-
purpose lecture and meeting rooms are provided on
level 4. An exhibition space is located below the Au- 250. Toddler’s play area in the children’s section on level 1.
Study of Selected Contemporary Public Libraries

5. Noise and Climate Control

The acoustical treatment of each level is done differ-

ently so as to muffle sounds in some places and to
encourage it in some places. In the Living Room the
Worthwood floor absorbs noise and vibration along
with the patches of nylon carpet printed with images
of grass and plants. Acoustical treatment is given to
the auditorium with dove gray wood paneling and
custom-designed curtains which have two layers; one
is acoustically absorbent and the other is made of a
251. Auditorium used for performances and concerts.
reflective, flameproof material. The Reading Room
ceiling and walls are covered with soft 4-foot by 4-
foot white fabric-wrapped squares which form acous-
tical pillows and keep the space quiet. Different col-
ored carpeting patterned with plant foliage in three
distinct areas of the reading room also helps muffle
the sound. In contrast the ‘Mixing Chamber’ on level
5 has an aluminum floor with no sound proofing to
let the sounds from this area infiltrate into other areas
(Seattle Public Library website).

Heat in the building is considerable reduced by the

use of aluminum wire mesh sandwiched between two
panes to reduce heat buildup from sunlight in about
half of the curtain wall. Landscaping and exterior de-
sign have been designed to reduce the heat island ef-
fect and automatic lighting controls to reduce light
252. View of the fiction section with the nylon carpet print-
pollution. A monitoring system automatically adjusts
ed in images of leaves and grass.
for thermal comfort and maximizes daylight in 90
percent of all regularly occupied spaces (Seattle Pub-
lic Library website).

6. Security and Protection

All the books and reading materials have RFID chips

installed within which prevent unauthorized access
and removal from within the premises. Each floor
has its service desk to help and maintain control of
the users however the large spans make it difficult to
monitor all areas. The black columns and ceiling in
the Mixing Chamber are fireproofed and coated with
a clear sealer that contains mica chip glitter (Seattle
Public Library website).
253. Information desk on level 1 from the 4th Avenue en-

7. Expansion/Flexibility

The library is designed with the basic concept of seg-

regating the function into two primary groups. One
group has all the fixed functions which won’t reuire

Study of Selected Contemporary Public Libraries

drastic change and the other group has all the func-
tions which might need to be modified or spatially
altered over a period of time. The parking, staff level,
meeting rooms, book-spiral and the administrative
headquarters are all placed in 5 platforms as fixed,
permanent functions. The in-between functions are
the ones which require flexibility and change over a
period of time. These spaces are mostly public areas
with distinctive service and sections and will most
likely change with the growing number of readers and
the changing technology. This division encourages
change by redefining use and forming new programs
in certain sections but not at the cost of encroachment
on other fixed sections.

The main concern was for the growing number of 254. Platforms with fixed functions and in-between flexible
areas for future changes and expansion.
non-fiction stacks which formed 75% of the collec-
tion of the library. This problem was solved by the
design of a book-spiral which is a 4-storey continuous
ramp with enough room to double the current hold-
ings of around 750,000 books to about 1.4 million.
This means that the continuing collections grow with-
in the fixed platform of the book-spiral without being
shifted or divided into other areas. Compact shelving
has been provided along with the stacks for accommo-
dating the growing collections. The aluminum floor-
ing in the technological sections has interchangeable
square units, and is screwed on to raised plenums to
accommodate inevitable changes in the technological
need (Lamprecht 56). 255. Search and technical section in the book spiral.

8. Technology

The changing technology and means of accessing

information has been one of the driving factors that
has shaped the program and design of the library. The
new design does not aim to absolve books from being
an important means of knowledge and information.
But in an era where most of the library collections
can be stored and accessed via a single computer, po-
tential rethinking has been done to define the coali-
tion between printed and digital mediums. The idea
that has emerged is that technology can be a means
to enhance the sorting, accessibility and quality of 256. Computers in the reference section of the ‘Mixing
Chamber’ on level 5.
the printed material. The library program seeks a new
parity amongst the various modes of information both
printed and digital.

The design of the library building has seen the effects

of this thinking in the grouping of its spaces and in the
opportunity that it gives to the library to implement

Study of Selected Contemporary Public Libraries

it’s new social agenda. Technology is used in a man-

ner which liberates the spaces to have a more flex-
ible and civic oriented character. The new-age library
is perceived as an ‘information warehouse’ which
asserts itself as a public domain against the isolated
trend of accessing information via a solitary, personal
terminal (Concept Book 6).

Thus in the Seattle Library though users can get infor-

mation without having to go to the library, technology
is used as means to gather people within the library
257. Computer section in the children’s area on level 1. premises in various public pockets. Technology, hu-
man-contact and the civic outlook of the library are
all symbiotic to each other.

Seattle library is one of the first libraries of this size

and volume to employ a computer controlled auto-
mated sorting system. A conveyor system moves
materials overhead and through the ceiling once it is
checked into the library system. This 250 feet long
conveyor system moves the materials from book drops
and circulation desks to an automated sorting room
on level 2. A book is checked back in to the Library’s
circulation system by Radio Frequency Identification
(RFID) technology. A computerized catalog system
determines which section the book belongs to and is
then placed on a conveyor belt. The books are placed
in book carts for manual re-shelving or in motorized
bins for deliveries to other branch libraries (Seattle
258. Conveyor belt used for book sorting in the loading Public Library website).
dock on level 2.
This automated handling system reduces the time it
takes to get books and other materials back in circula-
tion after they’ve been returned. It also leaves the staff
free to work with the users by handing the labor inten-
sive work to the machines and encourages self-check
out amongst users. But the computerized system is an
industrial task and requires an entire restricted floor
for the machines and conveyor belts along with the
loading dock.

The ‘Mixing Chamber’ on level 5 is an interactive

space between librarians and uses. An interdisciplin-
ary desk has been provided for the librarians with
computers dealing with catalog and subscription data-
base. This area is provided for inquiry and service for
the readers; eliminating the need to move around in
search for a specific material in every section. A wire-
259. Automated book sorter which moves the checked in less communicating system has been installed here
materials via the ducts in the ceiling at the check out coun- which enables the librarians to communicate with
ter on level 1.
specialized librarians in other sections of the library
for specific inquires. The ‘Mixing Chamber’ has the

Study of Selected Contemporary Public Libraries

maximum number of computers for public use in its

reference section making this zone a digital hub of
the library. Most of the library areas have wireless
internet provision and personal laptops can be used in
these areas (Seattle Public Library website).

Technology is also used in the form of art installa-

tions in public areas to communicate with the users.
On level 5, Tony Oursler’s talking video sculptures
inside the escalator walls informs the users about
the library; George Legrady’s electronic installation 260. Largest collection of computers in the reference sec-
above the reference desk gives information on the tion for research and study.
materials checked out of the library recently. Gary
Hill’s computer generated images are projected on
the wall of the atrium on level 10 (Seattle Public Li-
brary website).

4.5 Inferences

Chapter 5.0


This chapter is an attempt to summarize and draw

conclusions from some significant observations de-
rived from the overall study and the analysis of the
selected case studies. The conclusion is restricted to
the ideas and factors already mentioned in the course
of the study in previous chapters.

The intention of this study is to understand the chang-

es taking place in the perception of public libraries
which in turn is also affecting its architecture. It looks
into a range of public libraries of varying scales locat-
ed in different contexts, each having a unique aspect
and an individual set of concerns.

The observations from the analysis of case studies in

both chapter three and chapter four is that though the
libraries are from different time periods and in differ-
ent contexts all of them are significantly affected by
technology and the need to gather people.

In the Indian libraries a majority of the rejuvenation

plans depend on provision for technology and public
spaces which can attract and serve their community
of readers. The libraries have their fixed set of readers
but there is a growing need to provide spaces for sup-
portive activities other than just reading. Proper plan-
ning and enhancement of existing spaces is required
for the Indian libraries rather than just haphazard ex-

In the Indian libraries the facilities and the civic sense

of the users affects the library’s layout and design. The
building cannot be made overtly transparent and open
for the fear of abuse. It is a complex task to general-
ize facilities and spaces for the overall community as
there is high social and literary diversity amongst the
readers. Books are still the only medium of informa-
tion in many libraries and there is a lack in the overall
quality of the areas.

The target community for the libraries in India needs

to be specific. Despite being a public library, it can
still identify its general group of readers and provide
accordingly. Public spaces within the Indian libraries
require constant monitoring and control. Thus many
libraries avoid large gathering or meeting spaces or
restrict them to certain hours and events.


From the study of the diverse contemporary public

libraries the following viewpoints have been derived -

With the various possibilities that the change in the

means of imparting information has brought to the
new-age public library, much of the design decisions
will depend on the perception which is formed of a
public library.

There are many choices which can be made while de-

ciding the type, style and size for a public library today
along with developing its program. A library can be
perceived as a single computer, a room with books and
tables to read, a room with no books and only visual
media and equipment or a large public square, bursting
with activities and providing quiet, insulated nooks. A
balanced combination can be put together depending
on the kind and size of the community which the li-
brary serves. It’s the perception which ultimately pro-
vides the guidelines for the requirements and design.

Information, technology and community are not iso-

lated factors affecting the library perception. Rather
they are interconnected and are responsible for decid-
ing each others position in a public library. Technology
has brought about the liberation of the library from its
original reserved image to a dynamic, contemporary,
public space. Possibly for the first time, the social plat-
form and community service which a public library
can provide are being seen as vital factors affecting its

Space constraint is an important concern for most

growing and old library buildings. But discarding and
tearing down the old structure or building haphazard
extensions doest not solve the problem. The public
library outlook has changed from being a serious re-
pository of books to a relaxed, public oriented institu-
tion which can house selected collections and cater to
a specific community of readers. Thus the collections
and spaces in the library can be restricted by deciding
the main requirements and kind of collections and the
number of readers which the library can comfortably
sustain. Ultimately it is not the size and quantity of
books that matter in every public library but its quality
of collections, services, space and ambience.

Libraries are being designed as dynamic spaces either

directly or by being included in a multipurpose com-
plex. They are needed as much for human contact and
for social platforms as they are for information and


The revolution brought about due to technology and

the change in the social outlook has brought new con-
cepts to the library spaces. The idea of a casual, in-
teractive and dynamic public space which provides
sources for all types and means for information has
shifted the public library from its former rigid posi-
tion of being a repository of books and knowledge.
Equality in the means of accessing and storing infor-
mation is seen as a necessity with the growing re-
sources of digital and electronic data. Printed books;
though still forming a majority of the collection’s
holdings; have to share space with other mediums of
information like art, music, films etc. Knowledge is
not seen as merely being in books anymore but in all
kinds of media.

The change in outlook has affected the elements and

style of the public library architecture. With the need
to be a more public-centered institution, the library ar-
chitecture is more flexible and transparent compared
to its previous formal and overwhelming stature.

The changes brought about in the style and function

of public library design from its traditional standing
can be broadly represented as follows -

Traditional Library Architecture Modern Library Architecture

Revivalist, Neo-classical (set elements) Modern (function oriented elements)

Imposing steps and entrance halls Street level user-friendly entrances
Domes and rotundas Atriums and interactive floors
Restricted access to books Majority open access to books
Bookshelves with ladders Bookshelves at human scale
‘Temple of Knowledge’ ‘Living Room’
Formal layouts and seating Casual layouts with informal, lounge seating
Stand alone institution Shared spaces with other organizations and activi-
Individual study carrels Individual computer terminals and seminar rooms
Defensive spaces Networked spaces
Silence as a rule Sound encouraged in specific zones
General reading hall Specialized sections and reading areas
For specific section of the society For the general community
Discouraged hang-outs and relaxing Encourages human interaction and relaxing

Chapter 6.0


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Prof. R.J. Vasavada Initial architect for the proposal to renovate M.J. Library by the AMC
Prof. Miki Desai Research on the architectural style and elements of M.J. Library
Mr. Vivekanand R. Ajgaonkar President Emeritus, David Sassoon Library & Reading Room
Mr. Shantibhai B. Patel Principal Librarian at M.J. Library
Mr. Ashim Mukherjee Library information officer, at the National Library of India
Mr. P. Thankappan Nair Historian and author on Kolkata and the National Library

E-mail correspondences

Marijke Timmerhuis Librarian, DOK library, Delft

Erik Boekesteijn Communication and Innovation Department at DOK library
Aat Vos Architect of the interiors of DOK library, AEQUO Architects
Jodee Fenton Hugh and Jane Ferguson Seattle Room, Seattle Public Library
Josh Bentley Architect from Gould Evans, architectural firm in partnership with Wendell
Burnette for the design of Palo Verde Library and Community Center

Illustration Credits

All the illustrations, photographs and drawings included in this document are unless specifically credited as
otherwise, the work of the author.

2, 30
3 The Architectural Review, June 2006, pg. 59
4 The Architectural Review, June 2006, pg. 6
5 AEQUO architects, lecture by Aat Vos at the NBD reunion.
6, 70, 74, 78-79 ‘The Shifted Librarian’ photoset,
83, 84
9b, 10
11 http://www.british
12 Library of Alexandria - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
13, 14 Roman Architecture, J.B.W. Perkins
15 A History of Architecture, Sir Banister Fletcher, pg. 260
16, 19, 20, 21, 26 The Architectural Review, June 1998, pg. 72-74
17 Meaning in Western Architecture, Christian Norberg-Schulz, pg.138
18, 22 Renaissance Architecture, J.Q. Hughes and L. Norbert, pg. 115, 372
23 British Museum Reading Room - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
24 Bibliotheque Nationale,
25, 26 Bibliotheque Ste. Genevieve,
27 Public Libraries Act,
28 Survivor: The History of the Library,
29 Modern Architecture through Case Studies, Peter B. Jones, pg. 125
32, 33, 34 Alvar Aalto, Frederick Gutheim, images 9-11, 16
35, 36 Vistara - The Architecture of India, pg. 40-41
37 Asiatic Society of Bombay - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
38-45, 47, 88, 108 Origin of India’s National Library, P.T. Nair, plates 1, 5, 6, 7, 10, 15
46, 89, 90, 91 India’s National Library, B.S. Kesavan
49, 50 Delhi Public Library website,
51 Frontline, May 25 - June 07, 2002,
52, 53 The Architectural Review, June 2006, pg. 81-82
54, 55, 56 Libraries: A Briefing and Design Guide, Allan Konya
57 The Architectural Review, April 2005, pg. 63
58, 59, 63 Libraries: A Briefing and Design Guide, Allan Konya
60, 65, 68, 69 Planning and design of library buildings, Godfrey Thompson, pg. 43, 79, 89
61 The Architectural Review, June 1998, pg. 70
62, 64, 70, 81, AEQUO Architects,
82, 85, 86
67 Bibliotheque Ste. Genevieve,
72, 73 The Architectural Review, April 2005, pg. 63
76, 77 Dok Architecten,
93-95, 97, 98 Archives of the National Library
107 India’s National Library, Uma Majumder, plate 4
119, 206 Google satellite image
120 David Sassoon - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
122, 123 The Fort Precinct in Bombay, Volume 2, Rahul Mehrotra.
150, 154 Archive of M.J. Library
191, 205 Google Maps
192, 194 City Development Plan,
193 Draft Development Plan 2008-2014,
196, 200, 201 Waterford City Library,
197, 199, 202-204 The Architectural Review, Jan. 2004, pg. 42-47
207-210, 213-218, e-mailed by Gould Evans, Palo_Verde_-_Maryvale.pdf
223, 227, 231 Seattle Central Library - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
226, 225, 232, 233, REX – Architecture,
236, 249, 250, 260
224, 228, 230, 234, Seattle Public Library website
235, 237, 238-242,
248, 252-259
229, 244, 245 Seattle Public Library,
243, 246 Seattle Public Library,
251 Seattle Public Library,

Drawing Credits

David Sassoon Library and Reading Room, Mumbai

Architectural drawings provided by Mr. David Cartoz, architect, Bombay Collaborative, Mumbai for the res-
toration of the library building. The drawings have been re-drawn and additional information concerning the
interior spatial layout and use of space has been added by the author.

M.J. Library, Ahmedabad

Measure drawings prepared by Mr. Bakul Jani under the guidance of Prof. R.J. Vasavada for his project for
A.M.C. Ahmedabad. The additional information concerning the interior spatial layout and use of space has
been added by the author.

Waterford City Library, Ireland

Library drawings acquired from The Architectural Review, Jan 2006, Vol. CCXV no. 1283. Waterford City
Development plans obtained from -

Palo Verde Library and Community Center, Phoenix, USA

Drawings e-mailed by Josh Bentley, Gould Evans as Palo_Verde_-_Maryvale.pdf for 2007 Institute Honor
Awards for Architecture. The drawings have been re-drawn and additional information concerning the use of
space has been added by the author. Section AA on plate 9 is from The Architectural Review, April 2005, Vol.
CCXVII no. 1298 and is re-drawn by the author.

Seattle Central Library, USA

Architectural drawings e-mailed by Jodee Fenton, Seattle Public Library as Central Plans Part 1.pdf, Central
Plans Part 2.pdf. Additional information concerning the use of space has been added by the author. Satellite
Images on page 101 are from google. Site elevation and sketches on pg. 101 and plate 10 are from The Seattle
Public Library OMA’s Concept Book, and

DOK Library Concept Center, Delft, Netherlands

Site plan and all level plans from Architecture in the Netherlands Yearbook 2007-08, “DOK Architecten/AE-
QUO Architects Mediatheek/Multimedia Center”, NAI Publishers, Jan. 2008.


To Professor Qamar Shaikh for his clear guidance in understanding and structuring this thesis. His faith in
the topic, encouragement in times of confusion and emphasis on self-discovery and learning has been an
important motivation for this exploratory study.

To Professor Ismet Khambatta for her initial guidance and discussions in arriving at the research topic. Spe-
cial thanks to her for pushing me to explore and understand more.

Thanks to Professor R.J. Vasavada for his crucial insights and for lending drawings and information on M.J.
Library from his personal collection. I also wish to thank him for his insightful discussions on the topic.

Thanks to Professor Prabhakar Bhagwat for his interest, enthusiasm and discussions on libraries. His enthusi-
asm and faith have been inspiring.

Thanks to Professor Aniket Bhagwat for his encouragement and assurance in me.

Thanks to Professor Miki Desai and Madhavi Desai for their impromptu discussion and insight on M.J.

Thanks to Mr. David Cartoz for his help and information on David Sassoon Library and thanks to Mr. Ashim
Mukherjee for all his help and guidance on The National Library.

I wish to thank all the librarians and architects who have helped and provided valuable information via
discussions and e-mail correspondences. Special thanks to both Aat Vos, AEQUO for his liberal sharing of
information on his own lectures and designs and staff of the Seattle Public Library for their speedy help in
seeking information.

Thanks to all my amazing friends who have supported, helped and pushed me to finish my work.

Thanks to my mother and all my family for their patient support and in making me realize that my time is
valuable and so should not be wasted.

Above all, very special thanks to my elder brother for his long lasting patience, indulgence, care and his
timely impatience. He has opened this wonderful world of architecture to me and from his collection I’ve
been sneaking out books since I was ten.