Post-Occupancy Evaluation

By Robinson, Charles W. | Library Administrator's Digest, March 2005 | Go to article overview
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Post-Occupancy Evaluation

Robinson, Charles W., Library Administrator's Digest

I had never heard the term "post-occupancy evaluation," or POE before I read an article by Jeffery A. Lackney and Paul Zajfen in the Winter 2005 issue Library Administration and Management. Which just shows how clueless I am in this area, since there's been at least one book on the subject and people tell me that these two authors have given really good programs on the subject at library conferences.

Well, now I know what POE is, and it is apparent to me that I've been doing it all my professional life, although certainly in a sloppy, unorganized way. You probably do it too, although I'm sure more efficiently. Not only have I evaluated all the library buildings I have been closely involved in during the planning and building processes in my library system, but, like you, I have had opinions about libraries I have visited. Generally speaking, I have not been very happy with the buildings I "built," even though, truthfully, I can blame some of the failings on the architects. Of course, I generally picked the architect.

In the article the authors evaluated three libraries: a public-college library in Palm Desert, California, a branch library in Flushing, Queens Borough, NY, and the newish Salt Lake City central library. Here's part of the "Conclusions" paragraph:

"These three case studies demonstrate the application of POE to increasing scales of projects, each with its own contexts and constraints. Despite these clear differences in scope and scale, several, identifiable themes have emerged regarding the programming and design process, environmental conditions, service functionality, and the accommodation of customer needs from which all future library projects can learn.

"At a general level, the three case studies illustrate the need for today's public library to balance a variety of facets in the planning and design process. They must project an appropriate and intended image of the public library to the community, one that balances both progressive and traditional notions of what a library is. They must address the growing and changing needs of customers, without sacrificing the functional needs and requirements of the library staff; take full advantage of the benefits of natural daylight without creating heat gains, glare, or damage to book collections; and create a spatial openness that provides not only views and enjoyment, but also supports successful orientation, navigation and supervisability. They must meet new community demands for a more socially informal library, while not alienating the more traditional culture of quiet study that must coexist with this new customer culture."

Well, that's all very well, but specifically, what do they mean? Re-reading the article, and adding what I have learned from my own experience, I would pay attention to the following (not necessarily what the authors would recommend, though):

Don't get too modern for the public to swallow for the exterior of the building. Although I don't know myself what that means. So far the really, really modern Seattle Public Library has had good reviews, at least from architects. It would be interesting to hear what the users say on a POE after a couple of years.

Provide really good signage. It's my experience in looking at many libraries that few really provide enough signage. Of course, there are still going to be people that don't read signs.

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