3.2 Planning the layout

Before starting to arrange any furniture or equipment, it is best to draw a plan of the space available. The plan can be used to work out the most effective layout.

It is important to notice where the electric sockets are, so that computers, photocopiers and other electrical equipment can be placed near them. It is also important to find out which walls or pillars are strong enough to hold shelves.

Plenty of space needs to be allowed for shelves. The layout should ensure that:

  • maximum use is made of the space available for shelving
  • shelves are easily accessible to users
  • shelves are away from direct sunlight as much as possible.

Activities that will take place in the resource centre need to be considered. For example, if the space will be used for meetings and training, the shelving will need to be arranged in a way that allows enough space for these activities. Space also needs to be allowed for wheelchairs to move about easily.

It is worth thinking about how to make the resource centre look attractive. Plans should include some colourful floor rugs, pot plants, and posters.

3.2.1 How to measure space for shelves

To work out how much shelf space you need, first find out how many books will go on a shelf. To do this, measure the width of a shelf. Then use some books to see how many will fit (not too tightly) on one shelf. Do this four times, using different books each time. Take the average of all four totals. For example, 45 + 57 + 49 +54 = 205 ÷ 4 = about 51.

Estimate the likely size of the collection over a particular period (such as five or ten years). To do this, take the present size of the collection, estimate the number of materials to be added each year (see Section 4.1: Developing a collection policy) and add the figures together. Remember to subtract the number of books that might be discarded. Divide the estimated size of the collection by the number of books per shelf to find out how many shelves you will require.

If shelf space is limited, remember this when you develop and review the collection policy. You will need to specify carefully what subjects and materials are to be added to the collection, and ensure that older or superseded materials (materials that are out of date) are weeded out regularly. You may have to limit the length of time that a particular type of material, such as periodicals, can be kept.

3.2.2 Space for different uses

As well as space for shelves, the resource centre will need space for users, staff, training and meetings, storage, and displays.

People who use the resource centre need space to sit and read the materials. Space needs to be allowed for tables and chairs. Small tables allow more flexibility than large tables. They can be arranged separately or put together to make a larger table when required. Folding tables and chairs are convenient.

Access to a photocopier is useful. If the resource centre is very small, the photocopier could be put outside the resource centre itself, to keep the noise down. The photocopier may also need to be outside the resource centre if it is shared with other departments. However, the photocopier needs to be very close to the resource centre, so that users do not have to go far with materials that they wish to photocopy.

Resource centre staff need their own working space, either in the resource centre or in an adjoining room. Staff need desks, chairs, filing cabinets and shelves.

If the resource centre is in a room that is also used for training, staff need space in an adjoining room, so that they can continue to work when the resource centre is being used for training. If staff have a separate room, it is a good idea to situate the workspace for one or more staff near the main door of the resource centre, so that staff can see resource centre users and assist them if necessary.

Training and meetings are activities that can benefit from taking place in a resource centre, as materials that may be needed are already there. However, if the resource centre is a very busy place - for example, if it is in a training institution - meetings will distract people who are using the resource centre to study. In such cases, it is better to have a separate adjoining room for activities such as meetings, training sessions and showing videos. It is useful to include a noticeboard and table or display rack in this room, for displaying information from the resource centre that relates to the meeting or training session.

Storage space is needed for:

  • newly received materials that are waiting to be processed
  • older materials that are being repaired or withdrawn
  • back issues of periodicals, if there is no space in the main room
  • stationery and small equipment
  • expensive equipment (which needs a locked cupboard).

Display space is needed for new materials, notices and so on. A table could be used to put new materials on, slanting display shelves could be used for periodicals, and a noticeboard could be used for announcements (see Section 3.3.2: Display equipment).