Core Library Facilities and Interiors Interest Group

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Purpose: Studies, evaluates, and recommends in matters relating to library furniture, equipment, and building planning for all types of libraries.

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  • 1.  Some observations on wayfinding (mostly signage) from the local library system.

    Posted May 21, 2021 10:48 AM
    Here's something on signage (and bookdrops and crosswalks) I just submitted to the Board of Trustees for the local library system (Las Vegas Clark County Library District):

        library/ on

    I'd love to get your reaction, including whether you think I'm making a mountain out of a molehill.

    I should make it clear that this effort was entirely unofficial.

    Graeme Williams
    Las Vegas Clark County Library District

  • 2.  RE: Some observations on wayfinding (mostly signage) from the local library system.

    Posted Jun 05, 2021 07:56 AM
    Edited by Marie Sorensen, AIA Jun 05, 2021 07:57 AM
    Hello Graeme,

    I  appreciate reading your analysis of wayfinding vis-a-vis architecture and site planning at libraries in your district.  It's refreshing to consider your impressions (and frustrations). A few of the points you made prompted these observations from my perspective, which is the Architect side of the design and construction project. I'm sharing these thoughts to explain why or how the designs may have resulted the way they did, not to condone them.

    The image you posted (under the question "What is this building:") with the library entrance consisting of an exterior freestanding threshold with three portals is certainly worthy of discussion. As a programmer I imagine you can appreciate the question of "gates" relative to access. This design is provocative and complex. It is meant to speak to a sophisticated audience that may be familiar with abstract art.  It  reminds me of a Rene Magritte or other surrealist painting. In fact, in its philosophical provocation, I find it to be highly plural, and to speak to the diversity of ways in which one might even enter the library in the first place. However, you are absolutely right that it could be confusing in the normal course of a person's day as they are attempting to very simply enter the library. It is Architecture as art. Yet it is a threshold and does tell me that this is in fact the entrance to the building. I'd suggest adding a long low dark gray rectangular sign (with white etched letters) on top of the stone wall to the left of the turquoise gateway that states the name of the library. This would be a respectful placement of a sign that would not detract from the artistic statement of the entrance. A dark-colored sign with a low proportion would recede from the eye and would not compete with the vertical shapes of the entrance as designed by the architect.

    Driveway entrances to a building site are sometimes prior entitlements that the professional AE (architecture and engineering) and Owner design team may determine should stay in their current location, rather than be moved. Or, their location may be determined based on traffic impact studies. The building orientation  might in turn be based on optimal orientation towards the sun (and prevailing breezes – do you have any?), particularly in such a climate-dependent area as Las Vegas. The plan you showed did appear non-optimal. Future Owner teams should have someone such as yourself as a reviewer at the Schematic Design phase to point out issues like this, in the case that the Civil Engineer is not designing for the specific wayfinding issues you're mentioning.

    Crosswalks are incredibly important, particularly on a site in an urban region like the Las Vegas metropolitan area, where site design privileges the experience of the person arriving by car, and where land values permit the construction of large surface parking lots. Crosswalks on a particular site are a detail that the Civil Engineer should be working out in conjunction with the Owner, and can be designed to be sheltered or bordered by vegetation, if budget allows. I'm sure we've all experienced good crosswalks. However, if the Owner has directed the AE design team to "maximize parking," then crosswalks may be omitted.

    Crosswalks passing over municipal streets have to be negotiated with the local public works agency or department of transportation. This process requires an investment of time that is often seen as "extra" to the primary project (presumably the construction of the building itself). AE design firms, or a project management consultant of the Owner, should be given this diplomatic task as a specific service ("additional service") as a part of the design project.

    The points you make about book drops are all important. Often, unless they are  built into the design of a building, the library orders the book drops and places them after the AE's work is done. I'd recommend that your library system find an architecture firm that it has a good relationship with and ask them for several hours of consulting work to help you select book drops and place them in locations and at heights that take into account the types of wayfinding considerations you've pointed out.

    It is very important that you're considering these issues that are critical to access. I hope these comments provoke further questions and/or can help influence your library system's future actions.


    Marie S.A. Sorensen, AIA
    Sorensen Partners | Architects + Planners, Inc.
    (917) 215-5796