Chris Noll on the Value of Libraries, Navigating Flexibility, & Why Listening Leads to Great Ideas | Episode 8

Prefer to listen? You can also find the podcast on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, or wherever else you get your podcasts!

Welcome back to the Agati Video Podcast, a space where Joe Agati, COO & Director of Design here at Agati Furniture, hosts conversations with designers, architects, and difference-makers to bring inspiration and education to your work.

“Everybody you talk to has a library story. Everybody has this emotional connection to a library in their life, especially when they’re younger.” – Chris Noll

Today we have such an engaging conversation with Chris Noll, a founding partner of Noll & Tam, a California-based architecture firm.

Chris loves libraries and working with librarians. He is actively involved with the California Library Association (CLA) and the American Library Association (ALA). He feels that libraries carry the weight of history and represent the best ideals of democracy, freedom, and independent thinking. Chris finds that the best solutions are usually based upon a diversity of opinions and is skilled at distilling ideas to identify a core vision that ties everything together.

In this episode, Chris shares his perspective on the unique value libraries bring to a community, why he respects librarians, advice on power and flexibility in today’s spaces, the unique challenges he and his team have faced working on historic Carnegie libraries, the importance of listening, and more.

This is one you don’t want to miss!




  • “Libraries are constantly evolving.”
  • “I deeply respect librarians. They are adapting to new things and new technology all the time.”
  • “We see fewer books today but wider resources.”
  • “Any time you build a space, you really want to make sure it’s worth doing… Once you build it, it’s there.”
  • “We’re now designing for more space around people. That’s a good thing.”
  • “Everybody you talk to has a library story. Everybody has this emotional connection to a library in their life, especially when they’re younger.”
  • “Budget is always one of the biggest challenges for any project.”
  • “Great ideas come from everywhere.”

Our Key Takeaways:

1) Libraries have changed a lot in recent years, but that doesn’t take away from the meaningful place they have in a community. It is so clear that Chris is passionate about the role a library can play in a community, from providing equitable access to resources to supporting critical thinking to providing space for people to launch new initiatives. Libraries matter.

2) Flexibility in a public space can be a tricky business. We really appreciated Chris’s acknowledgement of the important of having specificity in the purpose of a space, without losing the ability to adjust a space as time goes on. There’s a lot to think about (power, air circulation, cost, accessibility, layout, etc.), but taking the time to intentionally design your space allows for truly meaningful interaction from your community for years to come.

3) Listen. This was such a great final encouragement from Chris. No matter your role, whether you’re working in a library, a design firm, or anything else, listening to your clients or community is so important. This is how innovation happens and this is how something meaningful is developed. Like Chris said, “Great ideas come from everywhere.”

Subscribe to the Agati Video Podcast

To ensure you don’t miss future conversation we share on the Agati Video Podcast, be sure to subscribe over on YouTube, Apple Podcasts, or Spotify! We’ll also be sharing each new episode via email, and you can get that delivered straight to your inbox by using the form below: