Removing Library Stacks? Where to Start…

In part II of our Library Stacks Removal Series, we take a step back to examine what makes these projects possible: support. Research continues to reinforce librarians’ beliefs that they need digital resources in response to user demand. As flexibility and mobility within community spaces continues to become more popular, the librarian’s task becomes adapting spaces to fit ambiguous 21st century needs.

So, how does one update to a flex space despite seemingly endless obstacles, such as shrinking budgets mixed with growing student populations? In this segment, we focus on important aspects including where to start, who to involve, what creates a well-designed renovation outreach campaign, and tips for those looking to gain support for updating a space.

Identifying the Problem

Ed O’Neill, Director of Sales and Business Development for the East Coast, works with clients everyday who are looking to renovate an existing space. We talked with O’Neill as he discussed how librarians often have a vision but identifying the source of funding can sometimes eclipse the need to garner support from the community and decision makers, first.

O’Neill points to AGATI’s collaboraton with Kennesaw State University as a prime example. Dr. David Evans, Dean and Assistant Vice President of Library Services at Kennesaw, lead the charge to re-tool a space that was not being utilized to its fullest by students.

“The university library was doing well as a technologies resource for students and staff, but the building itself was fading into the background,” he said.

After studying the space and potential renovations, Dr. Evans and his staff recognized one variable that could work in their favor – stacks removal. A ten year study of circulation indicated there was a large number of books that never circulated or circulated less then ten times. As a result, Dr. Evans proposed creating a repository for this material on the edge of campus. Once books where removed to the repository, staff created plans for a flex space.

Support and Outreach

Dr. Evans points out that the journey toward re-conceptualizing a space is long and gaining support from fellow staff members is invaluable. He involved his librarians in the process, got their feedback and shared progress along the way.

In addition to internal support, Dr. Evans looked to the campus community. He wanted to make the library an integral community space on campus, and his strategy lead him to consider another native brand – Coca Cola. Recognizing that people were familiar and comfortable with the brand, Dr. Evans set out to achieve the same for his library: a space that was comfortable and familiar to the Kennesaw community. A survey was sent out to the Kennesaw student community, gaining valuable feedback along with 5,000 responses in favor of updating the space.


Kennesaw State University Before and After

Kennesaw State Sturgis Library [Before and After]

Time for a Plan

Support for a project gains momentum, and O’Neill says that momentum only advances a project when paired with a plan. He talks about how plans often result in collaboration between the library and outside resources who can provide tools and visual aids.

“Researching your library usage, understanding the challenges patrons and staff face, and reaching out to manufacturers and designers for ideas and suggestions are vital to creating the best plan of action for your new flex space,” he said.

In the case of Kennesaw State, Dr. Evans and his staff compiled a 20 year study of the library. He was able to show how as costs and needs of the library increased, the funding remained stagnant. He then collaborated with campus planning and facilities managers, along with manufacturers and designers to help produce space plans and renderings of furniture examples that would enable him to illustrate his plan to campus decision makers.

Kennesaw State University Space Plan

Kennesaw State Sturgis Library [Floor Plan]

These space plans and renderings are often the key to creating support from major decision makers in the project process. The difference between presenting a checklist of ideas as opposed to a visual rendering of how the space could potentially look is too often underestimated. By including visual elements, the plans for the space become more tangible to those not as directly involved.

Much like educational organizations, public libraries often must tap into community needs to formulate a plan. Annette Armstrong, Library Director of Green Hills Public Library in Palos Hills, IL, discussed her approach to addressing a larger Library Board. She researched the library’s usage statistics to provide a clear understanding of what circulated well, what was left on the shelves, and where people spent the most time in the space. Armstrong’s project, like the Kennesaw project, maintained momentum due to community support of the project and its goals, as her main objective was to implement new technologies and remove low circulation materials, creating a larger flex area for patrons and providing updated resources.

Green Hills Public Library Power Bar

Green Hills Public Library

Circle Back and then Present

O’Neill suggests that after you’ve gathered your research, the next best step is to gain momentum once more from your staff and patrons, this time with new plans and visuals for them to see. By doing this, librarians are able to continue moving ahead with support from those who use the space, making the next step in the process much easier.

Both Armstrong and Dr. Evans presented their projects to their respective boards, showing them specific budget numbers, project costs, and visual elements. Their projects were able to gain priority, receive the funds from the year-end budget, all with positive response from the boards and community.

Looking Ahead…

Dr. Evans and Armstrong took it upon themselves to research their facilities to create the best possible updates to suit their patrons’ evolving needs. Their experiences have left them with words of wisdom for those looking to update.

Dr. Evans recommends being persistent, patient and pursuing the attention of the top decision makers in the university to provide a complete and well-researched proposal. He highlights the importance of being specific with budget numbers and incorporating visual aids in the presentation.

Armstrong’s advice for those in the public library field looking to renovate is to budget wisely and eliminate the excess materials from a space. By making investments that will be useful to the community, not only today but in the future, she says that you can utilize a newly opened flex space to its fullest.

In the case of both Dr. Evans and Armstrong, gaining great support from their library communities was key to seeing successful library renovations. Their hard work paid off and resulted in the creation of innovative spaces that can be reinvented time and time again.

This is part 2 of AGATI’s four part “Stacks Removal” Series. We hope you enjoyed it and welcome your feedback! We invite you to join the AGATI community for occasional updates by signing up for our newsletter below.