Category: Library Design

Kroski’s hands-on sourcebook for makerspaces


Makerspaces are drawing new users into libraries and engaging them as never before. Edited by technology expert Ellyssa Kroski, The Makerspace Librarian’s Sourcebook, is a must-read for any librarian using technology in teaching and learning as well as those considering whether to set up a makerspace, or with one already up and running.

Ellyssa Kroski said,

The Makerspace Librarian’s Sourcebook aims to be an essential all-in-one guidebook to the maker realm written specifically for librarians. I hope it will inspire readers through practical projects that they can implement in their libraries right now. The book is jam-packed with instruction and advice from the field’s most tech-savvy innovators, and will be well-suited for any librarian seeking to learn about the major topics, tools, and technologies relevant to makerspaces today.

The book:

  • Shows readers how to start their own makerspace from the ground up, covering strategic planning, funding sources, starter equipment lists, space design, and safety guidelines
  • discusses the transformative teaching and learning opportunities that makerspaces offer, with tips on how to empower and encourage a diverse maker culture within the library
  • delves into 11 of the essential technologies and tools most commonly found in makerspaces, ranging from 3D printers, Raspberry Pi, Arduino, and wearable electronics to CNC, Lego, drones, and circuitry kits.

Find out more about The Makerspace Librarian’s Sourcebook

Ellyssa Kroski is Director of Information Technology at the New York Law Institute, as well as an award winning editor and author. She is a librarian, an adjunct faculty member at Drexel and San Jose State Universities, and an international conference speaker. Her professional portfolio is located at

Original colour photographs from ‘Better Library and Learning Space’ Part 1

In this post you will find the original colour photographs that were reproduced in monochrome in Les Watson’s 2013 book Better Library and Learning Space: Projects, trends, ideas. The first set below are from chapter 1 – UK projects and trends by Les Watson and Jan Howden.  You can read that chapter for free here.

1.1 Ayr

Entrance to the Ayr Campus Library with a window onto the group learning floor above (copyright University of the West of Scotland)

1.2 Forum

View through the Forum showing library ‘buffer zone’ on the right (courtesy of Jisc infoNet)

1.3 Hive

The Atrium (copyright The Hive, Worcester)

1.4 Tiled Hall café, Leeds Central Library

Victorian Arts and Crafts interior in Leeds Central Library, showing the café (copyright Leeds City Council)

1.5 saltire mall

Open Plan services mall in the Saltire Centre showing artwork by Toby Paterson, semi-private ‘igloo’ spaces and a variety of seating and workspace (copyright David Barbour and BDP)

3 things I always ask myself about a new or refurbished library space

This blog post originally appeared on the CILIP website.


Flickr cc image from Karen Roe

I read recently that the judging for the gardens entered into the 2015 Chelsea Flower Show has been modified with the aim of enabling more objective judgements to be made for the various award categories.

There seems to have been a problem previously that these judgements were based on opinions so, as you might expect, a system has been devised that awards points to each of 9 criteria resulting in a number that then determines the award.

Sound familiar? – It’s what we always do when faced with something that involves complexity – supposedly making it objective by turning the judgements into a number. We seem to think that numbers mean more than words and that turning our subjective opinions into ‘objective’ numbers is a way of making the judgement transparent. But great gardens are an act of creativity that exist to provide an experience – as one eminent critic said about the new system ‘where is the love and passion in the judgement?”

Like libraries, gardens fundamentally affect us emotionally and any assessment of their worth has inevitably to be about how they make us feel.

Whenever I visit a new or refurbished library I am inevitably asked what I think about it – I never give a simple numerical score. There are 3 perspectives that I usually base my comments on.

What does the building say to me? 


Flickr cc image from Dennis Jarvis

The first is prompted by John Ruskin, one of the founding fathers of the Arts and Crafts movement, who is reputed to have said that buildings should not just shelter us but that they should also speak to us. I think this is a powerful idea that can help us to understand a library space.

Asking ourselves what the space says to us and whether there is a clear message, multiple messages, confused messages or none at all is a useful starting point for developing an overall assessment of it.

It is also a useful way for library managers to think about their spaces – what are they intended to say to those that use the library? What we are trying to say with library space reflects our expectations about the way it will be used. It forms the heart of the vision and purpose for the library and provides a baseline to assess, through conversations with our users, whether we are being heard and understood and whether and how space should be modified over time.


Flickr cc image from Tony Hisgett

Spaces speak to those that use them through environmental factors that give psychological cues such as layout, colour and graphics. In the Saltire Centre we used such cues to make it clear which spaces were for engaging in active group work and which were for solitary quiet study for example. The Library of Birmingham, through its use of colour in particular, speaks of the industrial heritage of the city and the entrance to the recently refurbished Liverpool Central Library has the feel of an ocean liner linking it to the city’s shipbuilding past. Is it a place of learning?

Is it a place of learning?

In Better Library and Learning Space I point out that libraries, all libraries, have always been about learning and that this role is of increasing importance in a world where learning is bursting out of classrooms and becoming a lifelong, web-supported activity.


Flickr cc image from jwltr freiburg

Libraries have an increasingly important role to play as part of the national learning infrastructure. So, secondly, I think about how a space performs as a place of learning. Does it acknowledge the wide variety of forms of learning, the diversity of needs, and the individuality of learners? Does it have the flexibility to change what it provides over time? Does it recognise the embedded nature of technology in learning and allow for its development? Above all is the space designed for learning in all its rich variety?

I think for many libraries this means making use of the architecture that already exists to ensure that the best learning environments can be created. Good examples include the local and family history room at Leeds Central Library that encourages a collaborative exploration of the past, the Mini Theatre at City University Hong Kong and the Li Yuan library in China, which is a library as a place for contemplation.

Does it contribute to its community?


Flickr cc image from San Jose Library

Thirdly, and this really is why a tick box numerical assessment of library space is of little use, how does it respond to the hope, needs and aspirations of the communities it serves? For although there is a consensus on current trends in aspects of design and configuration, what really matters is how a space interprets these trends in the context of its locality.

The way in which the space of the library contributes to its community, its ‘local fit’, shows how it is responding to its locality. The Hive at Worcester shows how important ‘local fit’ can be in the success of a library through its integration of services that meet the needs of both the University and the public. In Australia, the vast distances that libraries serve has led to radically different solutions, such as Indigenous Knowledge Centres like the one on Palm Island and the library at Mount Gambier, which focuses on being a place of social gathering and interaction.

These local interpretations of international trends make every library unique, and provide an endless variety of species in the library ecosystem. Developing rich descriptions of the libraries that we have, based on what they say to us, how they support learning and develop their communities, enables us all to learn and develop better library and learning space into the future.

What do you think makes for good library design? What are your favourite examples of good library design? Let us know in the comments.

Les Watson is a library and learning consultant who previously spent 35 years working in education as a teacher, lecturer, Head of IT Services, Dean of Learning and Information Services and Pro Vice Chancellor. His book Better Library and Learning Space: Projects, trends and ideas was published in October 2013 and has now also been released as an e-book available here.