Add Square-Footage to Your Library by Rethinking Your Outdoor Space

Summer vacation is often a busy season for libraries. With concerts, movie nights and reading programs, they fill with members of the community. One way to add usable square-footage to your existing building is to rethink your outdoor spaces.

A well-designed, library outdoor space provides an opportunity for larger gatherings, because you’re not constrained by the size of a meeting room. They can offer a number of options when designed for flexibility and comfort.

To do this, we recommend that libraries begin by including these five elements in their plans.

  1. Incorporating seating into the landscape. This provides patrons with a place to read or socialize outside.

  2. Plan for electrical requirements, like lighting and A/V needs.

  3. Use durable, safe surfaces. Consider hardscapes or rubber materials that provide traction and cushion to accommodate visitors of all ages.

  4. Add plenty of shade structures.

  5. Plant native trees and shrubs to create a sense of place.

In addition to these items, it’s important to consider how comfortable a space will be. This will be a critical factor in how often it is used. Shade is one of the first considerations, particularly in the Midwest. Shrubbery can help absorb some of the heat in the warmer months and help to block less appealing views. Be sure to add a variety of seating options and arrangements, creating spaces for solitude or socialization. Along with being attractive, water features can also provide a sense of cooling, as well as some acoustical benefits.

The goal of these spaces is to encourage the community to gather and socialize. We recommend adding features that make the space a destination. For example, you might integrate an Instagrammable opportunity, like local artwork, a mural or a sculpture garden, to attract patrons.

With the summer season in full swing, there are a few small steps you can take right now to enhance your outdoor space.

  • Add planters with shrubbery.

  • Pick landscaping that provides visual screening and acoustical barriers.

  • Look for double duty items.

These three things can help you begin to create a welcoming destination for patrons that is pretty and smart.

Find out how we can help improve your library’s outdoor space. Email us at to learn more.

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