Design Considerations for School Library Media Centers

As an integral part of the total school program, the library media facility should be centrally located and easily accessible from all instructional areas of the school. Consider locating the library media center as close as possible to the follow areas:

  • As many classrooms and instructional areas as possible, to permit easy and flexible access for small groups and individual students
  • The study hall, to permit easy entry and return of students
  • A computer lab, to permit access to additional computers and peripheral equipment
  • The teacher workroom, to encourage teachers to use the center and to put equipment and resources within easy reach
  • The outside, to permit easy delivery of materials and after-hours access.


Flexibility in design is essential to allow multiple activities and to accommodate future curriculum and technological changes. The design should provide for clear supervision while recognizing efficient flow of traffic, to minimize disturbances. Control of exits is important; the minimum number of exits required for safety and smooth traffic flow is recommended.

The library media center is an active, learning center and should be able to accommodate multiple instructional activities at the same time. Specific areas of the library would include a: reference area,

  • booktalking/storytelling area,
  • computer/technology area,
  • instructional/classroom area,
  • quiet study/recreational reading area,
  • a multimedia production area,
  • storage/processing workroom.
It is also good to have at least one conference room and a small office where privacy can be assured. Bulletin board and display cases, important to the educational and public relations activities of the library media program, should be placed strategically within the LMC where they are easily viewed and not blocked by shelves.

Communication Networks


A separate telephone line is essential to the effective operation of today’s school library media center. The telephone should be accessible from the circulation and office areas.

Television distribution

Many districts provide a well equipped television production studio or cable or satellite distribution system in at least one school building in the district for originating distance learning instruction. The design and installation of these systems should be completed in consultation with local cable company representatives and those who specialize in these areas in order to acquire a system which meets the needs of the individual school or district program. Essential items to be considered include location of the “head end” of a distribution system, the location of cable/satellite jacks and drops, and any special features, such as a media retrieval system.

Data Network

The use of networked and wireless computers has made the planning and design of data networks an integral part of library facility design. It is essential to consider the amount, type, size of data and the speed and amount of bandwidth required for transmission. The LMC should provide enough data drops and wireless access points for student access to network research, telecommunications, circulation desk, printers and online catalog stations. Additional drops and access points would include those necessary for such areas as multimedia production, office, and workrooms. Sufficient data jacks, along with both electrical outlets and phone jacks, must be installed for present, as well as future needs.

Electrical Design

The electrical design of a library facility must be an integral and early part of the planning. The number of electrical outlets installed must be sufficient to meet present, as well as future needs. Ample outlets should be included in all workspace areas, the circulation area, instructional areas in which equipment will be used, and in storage, production and processing work areas.

Even though outlets may not be used in certain areas at present, it is smart to install more outlets than you think you’ll need. Consider special items that may require electricity, such as a security gate system or workspaces with built-in counters that need outlets above the counter. The number of outlets must be sufficient to allow equipment to be plugged directly into an outlet, rather than relying on the use of outlet strips or extension cords. Make sure that switches and electrical controls located on walls are conveniently located, but take care that they are not placed in an area where they may hidden by shelving installed at a later date.


Acoustical treatments are a vital element in any library media facility design. Carpeting the library media center with static free, high quality commercial grade carpeting will help eliminate the noise that originates at floor level. Acoustical vinyl or tile flooring is recommended for media production and project areas, and for equipment and storage areas. A library is intended to support a great deal of movement and using sound absorbent materials on ceilings and walls will also help control sound.

ADA Guidelines

Compliance with ADA guidelines is required for any new or remodeled school library facility. The LMS should work closely with the architect and adaptive technology teachers/consultants to make appropriate design decisions for accommodating the needs of disable users. Physical access, adaptive technologies and alternative information formats are the primary issues to consider.

Size Recommendations

A general rule of thumb is that the library media center requires approximately 6 square feet for each student enrolled in the school. Six square feet is a general guideline – a starting point for planning and evaluation.
  • Circulation (300-400 sq. ft.)
  • General reading/browsing/listening/viewing area (student pop. X 10% X 40 sq. ft./per student); includes central room plus book shelves, reference, computers, periodicals, and AV software
  • Group instruction (700 sq. ft.)
  • Multimedia production/storage (500-700 sq. ft.)
  • Processing/work room/office (500-700 sq. ft.)

Shelving Calculations per 3 ft. shelves:

  • Picture/thin: 20 books per foot / 60 books per shelf
  • Standard size: 10 books per foot / 30 books per shelf
  • Reference books: 6 books per foot / 18 books per shelf
  • Periodicals: 1 per foot for display purposes

To calculate how many linear feet of shelving are required for a collection, take the total number of volumes and divide by the number of books per foot. For example, a primary collection of 5,000 volumes consisting of picture and thin books would require a total of 250 linear feet of shelving. Remember—shelves should only be two-thirds full. To allow for this, multiply the number of linear feet required by 1.33. Example: 250 x 1.33=332.5 or 333 linear feet of shelving.

For questions about this information, contact Nancy Anderson (608) 224-5383