Modernize your branch with these 5 simple library ideas

illustration shows people in a modern and comfortable library

As community hubs, libraries are constantly changing to reflect the needs of their patrons. We’ve written at length about how libraries must evolve to keep up with these changing needs, but we understand that tackling all these changes can feel overwhelming. So we’ve identified a number of small, easy library ideas that will swiftly modernize library spaces without requiring major investments and planning. 

While drastic changes can feel daunting, these bite-sized suggestions for library spaces, collections and programs empower you to improve distinct aspects of the library one at a time. Get the ball rolling by reading about some immediate quick fixes that take your patrons’ needs into account and get your library thinking more progressively. 

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1. Re-evaluate existing spaces

When you first enter a library, it should feel warm and inviting. Adding a little color, rearranging the seating and upgrading old carpets can work wonders in changing the ambiance. If the carpets do need updating or replacing, this is also a chance to revisit the layout of shelving and seating areas — both simple ways to improve library spaces. 

The environment should be bright and spacious, with shelving that is easy to navigate and free of obstacles or cluttered layouts. Innovative library spaces might include a new display that changes weekly, but simply decluttering shelves can help refresh a first impression. 

three students seat on a couch in a library reading a book

While you’re at it, consider how much space is devoted to children and young adult areas compared to adult areas, as well as which areas are saved for technology and digital resources, staff use. Knowing where to get help also facilitates a smooth library experience for patrons. A clearly marked help desk, or materials on display and good signage are easy steps to ensure this. Meanwhile, having wall plugs and USBs handy is important for patrons using mobile phones, tablets and laptops. 

There should be areas for group collaboration — which could contain white boards, chalkboard walls, puzzles or games — but also individual contemplative spaces for students focusing on assignments or as a workspace for those who can’t work from home. If budget permits, an investment into ergonomic chairs and standing or adjustable desks will make the spaces more comfortable.

2. Refresh and diversify collections

As you declutter shelves, it might be time to revisit your collections. Removing books that haven’t been taken out in decades will leave the potential for more creative and appealing displays, including popular new books and award-winning or up-and-coming authors. 

bookshelf with books organized by colors

Replacing unwanted books with more diverse collections should also be prioritized. While certain parts of history and points of views are at the center of our education system, highlighting Indigenous and marginalized voices is a crucial role that libraries play in the fight for anti-racism.

3. Reshape library programming

Before you start making broader changes, use questionnaires or surveys to get input from real stakeholders and community members. The ideal library services for adults in the 21st century might look different depending on the branch. After all, libraries are now community hubs, not just establishments to collect print resources and sit in silence.  

a hand up in the aire holds three books-1

Perhaps, certain branches will have demand for writing groups or technology info sessions, while others will have younger patrons who would prefer art and science demonstrations and areas for building lego or drawing and brainstorming with whiteboard walls.

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4. Reconsider late penalties 

Some libraries, such as the Vancouver Public Library, have decided to reduce or eliminate late fees altogether in an effort to remove barriers to library access. While library fines are a deterrent to returning books late and are often considered to be nominal amounts, they can create situations in which poorer patrons or children worry about fines so much that they are driven away from borrowing books. 

In 2019, the American Library Association adopted a resolution that monetary fines represent social inequity and don’t serve the core mission of the library. This isn’t to say that lost, damaged or stolen books lead to no repercussions, but programs such as “Food for Fines” — where patrons can exchange canned food donations for fine forgiveness — have been implemented by libraries across Canada and the US to address late fees and help the community.


5. Digitize resources

By obtaining digital copies of books or resources, libraries are able to ensure that their services are accessible to patrons whenever and wherever. By providing access to databases and online news or articles, libraries can make a variety of reliable, current and trustworthy information readily available.  

man sits in front of a computer in a library

Implementing a tool like PressReader for libraries is a simple way to modernize content access overnight and makes quality journalism from a variety of global publications accessible to all patrons. And decluttering doesn’t need to end with your physical shelves. Ensuring that your library website is welcoming, functional, up to date and easy to navigate offers a crucial first point of contact. 

Providing research assistance through online sessions or virtual office hours is also another way to ensure that patrons can navigate the full offerings of the library whether or not they’re accessing the branch in person.  

Consider modernizing one small space at a time and prioritizing projects, such as surveying your patrons on new programs or adding a new digital resource. The whole library doesn’t need to be re-imagined at once. It takes time to shift from a collection-centric institution to a people-centric service. 

Find out more about PressReader for libraries and download our report about the Future of Libraries to learn about the evolving role of libraries and technology in information literacy, democracy and education. 

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