Massachusetts Public Library Construction Program Blog

UX for libraries

I just finished a new book — a book that has real importance for libraries in the 21st century, especially libraries looking to redesign their space or their online presence.


The book is Useful, Usable, Desirable by Aaron Schmidt and Amanda Etches, and it seeks to demystify the concept of UX for libraries. For the many of us who don’t know what UX means (I was one until recently), it’s a hip semi-acronym for User Experience. UX is all about designing from the point of view of the user, rather than the designer, or the administrator or the accountant. It’s putting yourself in the shoes of your user — remembering what it’s like to walk in the door and not know where to go or how to do the thing you came to do.

Don’t worry. You don’t need to wear a black turtleneck and square glasses to be a designer. Whether you like it or not, every time your create a library policy, bookmark, or service, you’re making a design decision. Think of design this way: arranging elements to serve a certain purpose. Many design decisions in libraries are what we like to call unintentional design or design by default. This book will get you in the mode of making deliberate decisions. (p.7)

There are chapters on physical space, service points, policies, signage, and online presence, and the focus is to bring customer service into every aspect of library life. We have the book in the MBLC professional collection, and it’s definitely worth a read.

Another new resource for UX in libraries is Design Thinking for Libraries: A Toolkit for Patron-Centered Design. This is a set of resources by the folks who did Design Thinking for Educators, and it outlines a step-by-step process that can help you bring a whole new outlook to the way you work.

This post was written by Lauren Stara on February 23, 2015

Focus group how-to

If you are in the planning & design process and need help designing a focus group session, I just found this how-to guide that looks pretty good! It’s by Richard Krueger at the University of Minnesota, and it’s about the use of extension services, but would be easily adaptable for a library setting.

This post was written by Lauren Stara on February 20, 2015

The library maker movement

I just watched a Webjunction webinar from last July called “Making Your Space: Creators and Makers in the Library.” I have been a slow convert to the maker movement; the extreme shortage of space in many libraries pushes 3D printers (which many people seem to think are required for a makerspace) to the bottom of my priority list. In the webinar, Vermont librarians Mara Siegel and Samantha Maskell wax enthusiastic about library-sponsored making, but in a more flexible and practical way than I’ve previously heard.

Like them, I see the maker movement as a variation on programs that have been staples in public libraries for decades. Making doesn’t have to be high-tech, and it doesn’t need a dedicated space that’s wall-to-wall with electronics. It’s like any other kind of craft, activity or club.

Rather than a separate “makerspace,” we need flexible activity spaces with lots of storage for materials and supplies. A locking cart with charging slots for laptops or tablets can turn an empty room into a computer lab. If you really need a 3D printer, it can live on a wheeled cart that slides into a closet when not in use. Other kinds of equipment, like sewing machines or electronics parts, are just like the Lego and crafts supplies we’ve always used.

If your library has extra space, a dedicated activity room is great, but if you’re like most libraries, multipurpose is much more practical.

If you’d like to see the webinar I mentioned, it’s at — you must be registered with Webjunction, but there’s no charge.


This post was written by Lauren Stara on February 20, 2015

Shute opening postponed

Just in case you were planning to attend, Everett Public Library has postponed the grand reopening of their Shute Memorial branch due to weather & travel difficulties. I’ll post any updates.

This post was written by Lauren Stara on February 3, 2015

Congratulations, Reading and Everett!

We have two events this week! The Reading Public Library is holding their groundbreaking ceremony for the addition/renovation of their library this Friday, February 6 at 10 am at 64 Middlesex Avenue. The following day is the Grand Reopening of the historic Shute Memorial Library branch of the Everett Public Library, 12 noon at 781 Broadway.

Congratulations to Ruth Urell in Reading and Deborah Abraham in Everett, as well as all the staff, trustees, Friends and community members who made it happen!

This post was written by Lauren Stara on February 2, 2015

I’ve been power pinning

During this (relatively) slow time at work I’ve been spending some time gathering lots of images from Massachusetts and beyond. I’ve put together several Pinterest boards on various subtopics related to library design. If you’re in the market for ideas or just want to look at pretty pictures, go to and have fun! And if you have images that you think would be a good addition to one or more of these boards, please let me know.

This post was written by Lauren Stara on December 19, 2014

Framing our message

This is an interesting blog post about negative signage. Are you guilty?


This post was written by Lauren Stara on December 15, 2014

Off-Site Librarian

The November 15, 2014 Library Journal is out, and it’s the “Year in Architecture” issue. We are happy to report that five MPLCP projects are featured: Westwood Public Library, Boyden Library in Foxborough,  Holyoke Public Library, West Tisbury Free Public Library and the East Boston branch of Boston Public Library. Congratulations!

In the same issue is a provocative article on an “outpost” branch library in Washington state that is primarily unstaffed, supported with self-service technology and “hotline” access to a real person at the main facility. Read it here:

This post was written by Lauren Stara on November 24, 2014

2014 Library Interior Design Awards

See the LJ article here:


This post was written by Lauren Stara on November 13, 2014

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