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Chapter V.- Buildings

In the presentation of difficulties in the use of libraries, the inadequacy of library buildings, in the opinion of faculty members, ranks next to deficiencies of book collections. The rapid changes and increase in services required of libraries at many institutions during the past 10 years are well indicated by the complaints as to inadequate buildings and by the demands for more adequate quarters for the housing of libraries. Fifteen land-grant institutions have erected new buildings for their libraries during the past six years (1923–1929). At least 10 institutions are now planning either new buildings or extensions of buildings already in use.

Desirable and Objectionable Features The inadequacy of buildings erected before 1915 and some objectionable features in buildings erected since that date are noteworthy. The objection that applies almost universally to older buildings is the difficulty or impossibility of enlargement. Twenty-eight institutions out of forty-eight, nearly all with buildings erected before 1920, reported that their library buildings could not be easily enlarged. Book collections have been increasing steadily and will continue to increase. The use of the library by the individual student has also showed a marked increase in the well-equipped libraries and probably has not yet reached its maximum in any institution.

Even concerning the buildings erected during the last few years, reports are made of “ inadequate space for bookstacks," " inadequate office and administrative space,” and “stack and readers capacity exhausted four years after erection.” The conclusion is sound that in the future no plans for a library building should be made without definite provision for later enlargement both for stack capacity and for additional space for readers. The mere assumption that the building can be enlarged is not satisfactory. Sketches should be prepared to show exactly how additions can be built. This plan if adopted in the past would have saved heavy expenditures.

The difficulties reported in the use of library buildings recently erected show great variations. Rooms are not planned for adequate economical supervision or for ease of use by students. The inconvenient relation of rooms to each other, to the loan desk, and to the public catalogue causes loss of time and confusion. More general were the complaints of a lack of quiet necessary for study. Marble floors cause unnecessary noise; poor arrangements of halls cause confusion. There are complaints that classrooms and lecture halls in the library building tend to increase noise. The undisturbed use of books is so important that no other factor should be allowed to interfere with the primary purpose of the library building. If classrooms are to be placed in the library building, they should have a separate entrance or be placed near the main door, as far as possible from the reading and service rooms.

Architects have given generally more attention to architectural features than to use. It is known that in some buildings which later presented difficulties in use the advice of competent librarians was not obtained or was not followed. The necessity of a constant reminder of the primary object of a library building is well stated by Klauder and Wise: “Buildings erected as enduring monuments at some of the larger institutions have soon been found so inadequate that drastic remedies must be applied, and it would be easy to point to a number of conspicuous library buildings erected from 15 to 25 years ago which it is already proposed to rebuild

The problems of the public library differ essentially from those of the institutional library. In the former the emphasis is upon circulation; in the latter upon study. The character of the books, the character of the persons using the library (requiring less oversight), the additional space per reader needed at the tables (study requiring more table space than mere reading), the open-shelf demands, and the need of segregating books on a given subject for students in seminar rooms or elsewhere are but a few of the conditions distinguishing a college library. Ever present in planning a library is the problem of housing books, but even more vital is that of facilitating their use." 25

Ratio of Seats to Students


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Formerly it was estimated that seats for 10 per cent of the student enrollment would be satisfactory. From the reports presented in this survey, this estimate no longer holds in institutions where the libraries are really functioning in instructional work, Oregon Agricultural College, with 488 seats for 3,800 students, reports that its seating capacity is at certain hours fully utilized. Kansas State Agricultural College in its new building allows 628 seats for 3,300 students, seats for practically one-fifth of the student enrollment.

2 Klauder and Wise.

College architecture in America, 1929, ch. 5, Libraries, p. 70.

North Carolina State College of Agriculture and Engineering has 258 seats in its main reading room and a student enrollment of 1,428, approximately 17 per cent. It should be remembered that the above figures do not include seminar rooms or seats in departmental libraries. The number of seats needed in the main reading room of the library will be affected considerably by the number of libraries outside the building. Libraries with seats for 15 per cent of the student enrollment may prove inadequate; 20 per cent would be none too high a standard. Klauder and Wise quote various authorities as recommending from 20 per cent to 33 per cent.26

Square Feet Per Reader The amount of floor space per seat varies greatly. Long tables can be used and tables and chairs placed close together, although such an arrangement is not conducive to quiet or to ease in the use of books. The newer buildings have allowed not less than 20 square feet per reader. The University of Minnesota allows 24 square feet per reader; the University of Illinois, 26.

Upon the basis of these tentative objective standards it is found that practically all library buildings at land-grant institutions erected before 1920 and some of the buildings erected since that time are inadequate.

Special Rooms for Private or Group Study Additional seats for students are obtained by the establishment of group or departmental libraries outside of the library building or by the arrangement of seminar rooms within the building. Seminar rooms with permanent collections have been found troublesome in some institutions when funds are not available for employment of supervising assistants. Special rooms are needed for temporary assignment to professors and to research workers for their use in connection with books and to debating and other classes who use intensively a considerable amount of library material. In order buildings complaints of lack of small rooms for group study and also lack of carrels or cubicles in the stacks were general. “ Few of our university libraries

are planned with any proper provision for isolation and with conveniences for continuous study."

Equipment Although no special study was made of library equipment in this survey, certain information was supplied which would justify the



Op. cit., pp. 78-79.
* Ork. 1.1. Rexcutreh in the humanistic and social sciences, 1928, p. :36.1.

conclusion that in many cases unsatisfactory and even unusable equipment has been purchased. Either a competent librarian was not consulted or his advice not followed. One institution attempted to save by the insertion of the card catalogue underneath the loan desk; the location was not conducive to use of the catalogue, and as a result this card catalogue was never used. Thin-legged chairs, easily broken, are an expensive luxury, as are loan desks which are too high or too low or poorly arranged for effective use. Many a library basement is the burial place of much unsuitable library furniture. Standard library equipment can be obtained from a number of well-known firms. Suitable library furniture may be higher in its original cost but will be less expensive eventually than substitutions by the local carpenter.

Library supply houses are usually well qualified to give advice in regard to equipment. A study of the satisfactory and unsatisfactory equipment in the more recently erected libraries should be of aid, but no plan should be slavishly copied. A loan desk excellently arranged for the return of books at the east end and requests for books at the west end utterly failed when placed in a library with the entrance on the west and the catalogue on the east.

Many, if not all, of the difficulties in the use of library equipment would be avoided if the advice of a competent librarian had been followed.

Summary In the reports of many land-grant institutions note was made of the fact that a new library building would be the next building to be erected. Some institutions, however, with the poorest library accommodations do not seem to have given any consideration to the need for an adequate building. There were several that did not supply one seat for 20 students as compared with seats for 15 per cent or 20 per cent of the student enrollment as noted in the newer buildings. Many institutions seem content with poor service in so far as their library buildings are concerned.

It is recommended that administrators planning new buildings study the objectionable features of buildings erected in the past 10 years and that careful attention be given to the use, which is the main purpose for which library buildings are erected. It is also recommended that no library building be erected unless the final plans have received the approval of a competent college or university librarian who has had experience in planning and building a library. Similar advice in regard to equipment should be obtained. It is possible for any institution to check its library building with the following requirements, which are recommended especially for the consideration of those planning new buildings:

(1) Possibility of easy enlargement of building without heavy expense for tearing down walls.

(2) Seating capacity in central library for 20 per cent of student body; 25 per cent if no or few department libraries.

(3) Floor space at least 20 square feet per seat; 25 would be preferable. Exclude shelving space.

(4) Arrangement of rooms with card catalogue near loan desk, reference room, and catalogue workroom.

(5) Arrangement of rooms and exits for satisfactory supervision; desks near doors and centrally located.

(6) Arrangement for easy access to books; 10,000 volumes at least on open shelves. Carrels in stacks. At least two or three small rooms for every group of 40 on the faculty, for private study, etc.

(7) Corridors arranged for service, not for show. Floors that will be conducive to quiet.

(8) Adequate stack capacity for at least 15 years without the need of additions. Figure eight books to a running foot of shelving; deduct one-fifth for "working capacity.”

(9) Adequate lighting and ventilation. Plan before building is started. Consult experts.

(10) Adequate equipment. Allow for it. It will be expensive.

(11) No lecture halls or classrooms in the building except near entrance and remote from reading rooms. A special entrance is desirable, if possible.

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