Secondary School LRC Planning

The Library Resource Centre is a key learning environment within the school.

This Active Solution will help schools to create an inspiring library area- whether from new, or re-furbished.


Start your library planning with a ‘wish list’ or mind map of the areas and facilities that have been identified by all user groups.

Specification for the size of a secondary school LRC

Guidance for the total area of learning resources is given in Building Bulletin 98:

The LRC may include group rooms adjacent to the library, provided they are ‘spaces used for learning but not timetabled for lessons’.

Layout and design

The entrance area should welcome readers in; ensure there is a clear route to the counter
Plan your counter so that it gives good sightlines around the whole library
Plan for a lockable bag store, adjacent to the entrance.


Think about the different learning styles of library users; some students will prefer more relaxed areas for study, others a more formal and quiet area.  What will be included?

  • Fiction - graphic novels – magazines
  • Information books and miscellany – reference section - revision guides
  • Careers resources – space for discussion
  • ICT: Students need to be able to use books and ICT together. Many libraries will have a mix of pc’s and laptops, so furnishing and layout needs to accommodate more flexible use. An interactive whiteboard is an advantage for teaching larger groups and for library induction lessons.
  • Reprographics
  • Small group study areas where teaching and learning can take place without disturbance
  • Library counter
  • Office/workroom for staff

Light and heating

Lighting affects behaviour: bright lighting is used in outlets where the user is encouraged to leave quickly! It may be possible to plan contrasting lighting in different zones.

  • Ensure that light falls on shelving and doesn’t cast books into shadow – directional/spot lighting might be the answer.
  • Although natural light is important, bright sunlight fades books and obscures computer screens. Vertical blinds are more versatile than curtains, allowing you to adjust the light from outside for different conditions.
  • Ensure there is good ventilation, especially where pc’s are all grouped together.
  • Don’t put shelves in front of radiators – it might be possible to have a radiator moved.


Do you want to use colours to differentiate between zones?

The balance between colour and neutrals for walls and furnishings will depend on lighting. Primary colours absorb light, and should not be a dominant shade.

Soft furnishings can add brighter colour to a neutral palette.

Planning the zones


Calculate how much shelving you will need for the future. Now may be the time to evaluate usage and have a good weed. How much research is done online? What is the balance between fiction and non-fiction usage?

The School Library Association recommends a minimum of 10 resources per student.[1]

Purpose built library shelving comes in a variety of heights, widths and colours, with a wide range of accessories for media shelving and display.  It may be your biggest expense but is worth it, even if you have to phase in purchase over several years.

See list of Library furnishing suppliers

The School Library Association recommends that the maximum height for wall shelving units (either wall-mounted or single-sided) should be 1800mm. and for island units 1500mm. – but think about the sight-lines in your library layout.

  • Width between and in front of shelving units should be a minimum of 1 metre.  Ensure that wheelchair users can move around the library comfortably.
  • Include display and storage for magazines, pamphlets, multi-media etc.


  • Think about varying shapes when planning the furnishing layout– curves as well as straight lines.
  • Students like bean bags but they are difficult to store. Consider stools, sofas or soft chairs instead.
  • Rectangular tables are more flexible to re-arrange than round tables. Ensure that students have enough table space to lay out their work and use laptops.
  • Wall-mounted benching is an alternative for pc’s and laptops; add bar stools or computer chairs depending on height.
  • The whole area should be carpeted.

Library counter

The library counter can be custom built to suit your requirements, either by purchasing modular units or consulting a local joinery firm.

  • Vary the height of the units: enquiry/issue desk should be low, not a barrier, and enable access for wheelchair users.
  • Allow space to accommodate a PC, printer and telephone.
  • Lockable storage may need to be incorporated in the counter space for laptops and media equipment.
  • Lockable filing drawer for frequently used documents.
  • Shelf space for reservations and work in progress.                                      

Study spaces

The School Library Association recommends that the library should be able to seat at least 10% of the school’s population at any one time.  As a minimum, there should be space for one class, with access for individual students to work or browse.

Plan the grouping of tables and chairs so that it is possible for students to work collaboratively without disturbing other users. Ideally, you should be able to to re-configure the study area for specific purposes:

  • a revision area with study guides shelved nearby
  • use a screen to provide flexible space for teaching small groups.


  • Guiding is an essential aid to independent learning.
  • Plan the Dewey and alphabetical sequences before putting all the books on the shelves, to ensure that students can follow the arrangement easily.
  • Requirements for canopy headers will vary with the make of shelving. SLS can advise.
  • School Library Service can supply sets of shelf label guiding with acrylic label holders.
  • Suspended signs or guiding on the end panels of each bay can also be produced by library suppliers – at a cost!

Display and promotion

  • What do you need to promote?
    • Library stock - make reading visible!
    • Students’ work
    • Library guidance on using the LRC and finding specific resources; this may change throughout the year e.g. revision guides/careers
    • Events
  • What space is available?
  • Noticeboards
  • Display areas within shelving
  • End panels
  • Display units

Promoting the library in other parts of the school:

  • ensure that directional signs to the library are in place throughout the school.
  • is there any display space in other communal areas that you can use?
  • make sure that the library page can be accessed via the VLE.


You can find more information in the following:

  • Barrett Lynn and Douglas Jonathan. The CILIP guidelines for secondary school libraries. 2014. 9781856049696 £44.95 £35.96 to CILIP members.
  • CILIP School Libraries Group. Designed for learning: school libraries.
  • Dubber G. and Lemaire K. Visionary spaces: designing and planning a secondary school library. School Library Association. 2007
  • Lemaire K. and Duncan S. Everything in its place; managing electronic and physical resources in the school library. School Library Association 2014


Library furnishing suppliers

Library security systems

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