From the President of RUSA: Revisiting Library as Place: Balancing Space Planning Priorities by Focusing on Core Purpose

Anne M. Houston


My library's new book shelf recently featured a striking new book edited by Manuela Roth, Library architecture + design,1 which includes color photos of new library spaces from around the world. I'm sure that other librarians share my enthusiasm about the design of library buildings and find pleasure in looking at library spaces while analyzing the design choices made in constructing new or reconstructing old libraries. We have a longstanding tradition of library spaces being beautiful as well as utilitarian, as evidenced by many websites featuring "most beautiful libraries in the world" (just Google this phrase for several Internet lists). We want libraries to fill our aesthetic desires perhaps because we spend so much time in them. Libraries are places to come and linger, and so we expect them to have spaces that are nice to look at as well as functional. The grand reading room is one manifestation of this, where users work intently at wood tables in a classically designed space, as is the colorful, happy children's room which conveys to children the joy of reading. In both cases, the design encourages the activity done in the room. For librarians, a successful space combines the beautiful with the functional: we enjoy architectural excellence but also seeing the choices made by architects and other librarians for how space will be utilized to meet user needs and fulfill the library's mission to its community.

Full Text:



Manuela Roth, Masterpeices: Library Architecture + Design, updated and rev. ed. (Salenstein, Switzerland: Braun, 2015).

For one excellent description of how a library has redefined its space, see Charlie Bennett et al., “Reimagining the Georgia Tech Library,” 2014,

Scott Bennett and Council on Library and Information Resources, eds., Library as Place: Rethinking Roles, Rethinking Space, CLIR, pub 129 (Washington, DC: Council on Library and Information Resources, 2005),

James C. Collins and Jerry I. Porras, “Building Your Company’s Vision,” Harvard Business Review (September–October 1996),

Scott Doorley and Scott Witthoft, Make Space: How to Set the Stage for Creative Collaboration (Hoboken, NJ: Wiley, 2012).



  • There are currently no refbacks.

ALA Privacy Policy

© 2021 RUSA