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Building square footage question

Page history last edited by Kim Miller 8 years, 9 months ago

June 8, 2015


Scott Dermont (IA)


I have a non-annual survey question for the state library staff out there.  I had a director call me today asking about how square footage should be calculated for a new building. They have had several space consultants give opinions, but the architect has decided to ignore that advice and check with other states to see what their standards are. We think that the architect has checked with state libraries to come up with these numbers. I’m guessing that the numbers are either coming from some kind of state standards program, or from some kind of space needs assessment offered by the states.


The problem is that the numbers found cover a ridiculously large range. The range that the library’s architect found from at least 4 different states ranged from .6 to 1.5 square feet per capita. This means that the library in question could range from 7,000 to 18,000 square feet. The space consultants that the library hired gave a range closer to 20,000 to 24,000.


So the question is, what formula are other states using when determining the appropriate number of square footage for a new public library? Do you take into account if a library is part of a larger system or consortium when figuring the number? Also, do you use the city population, or the service population when figuring these numbers?


Thank you for whatever help you can give.



Michael Golrick (LA)


In Louisiana, the standards are a publication of the Louisiana Library Association’s Public Library Section. They are available here: http://llaonline.org/fp/files/pubs/pl/publicstandards2010.pdf


They were last revised in 2010 by a committee which included a number of experienced public library directors.


For most of the standards there are categories: Basic, Enhance, Comprehensive.


Facilities is the last standard and it is:





The minimum standard for facility size is one (1) square foot per capita.

The enhanced standard for facility size is one and one-quarter (1.25) square feet per capita.


I believe that the standard, for the state is meant to be for the library, as a whole. For most of the public libraries in Louisiana, that means the parish (county).


Maybe that helps.


Oh, and there is a page on the Wiki which has links to all of the state standards:




Cecilie Maynor (TN)


In the Tennessee Library Standards Manual it states that the library space should be at least 2,500 square feet or 0.5 feet per capita, whichever is greater.


That is the only guideline I could find.



Jamie McCanless (WI)


We have an aging publication here for estimating different types of library spaces. It’s online at http://pld.dpi.wi.gov/pld_wis_lib and includes an interactive space needs worksheet.



Joe Hamlin (MI)


We don’t have a specific legal square footage in Michigan.   However, libraries can apply for our voluntary program called the Quality Services Audit Checklist (QSAC) to promote their library and we do have square footage requirements there.  We base square footage on class size for our Enhanced and Excellent QSAC levels.


Population Served           

Class 1: 3,999 or less       .7 sqft per capita

Class 2: 4,000-6,999        .7 sqft per capita

Class 3: 7,000-11,999      .6 sqft per capita

Class 4: 12,000-25,999    .5 sqft per capita

Class 5: 26,000-49,999    .5 sqft per capita

Class 6: 50,000+                .4 sqft per capita


We also have lighting and technology requirements but the program is voluntary.  The measures for the three levels can be found at https://www.michigan.gov/libraryofmichigan/0,2351,7-160-18668_69405_45510---,00.html  


Hope this is helpful,



Annie Norman (DE Chief Officer)


In Delaware, our goal is 1 SF per capita statewide which is aligned with service area population.

Libraries should be a minimum of 10,000 SF.



Kathy Sheppard (SC)


South Carolina’s standard (revised in 2010) for public library facilities is 1.25 sq ft per capita.  The revision committee and the State Library have had a hard time defending this generous recommendation for space planning.  It was, I believe, based on a sort-of average of all the state standards we could find plus considerations such as patron paraphernalia, flexible furnishings, and changing services to meet changing patron needs.  I would be surprised if architects are paying much attention to this standard.  I think they simply look at what the library system is prepared to spend, and give them as much building as they can for the money.



Robert Jones (IL)


.6 sq. feet per capita here in Illinois.




See: 711 Square Footage of Outlet


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