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Architects & Contractors

Opening the Book brings a new approach to interior library design which harmonises the interior layout with the shapes and volumes of the architecture. We work to maximise architectural features and play to the strengths of the building. Our research on people flow supports the creation of discovery layouts which ensure that the whole space is dynamic and well-used.

We work with Design Teams to integrate interior design into the RIBA Plan of Work. Our knowledge of library operational requirements is invaluable at the planning stage and we are also flexible in adapting designs, for example, to M & E constraints. As consultants, we have supplied feasibility studies to plan libraries in new build spaces and to adapt other buildings to house libraries. And when it comes to installation, you can rely on our team for superb project management, manufacture and fitting – every one of our library projects has been delivered on time and on budget.

Discovery layouts

These comparisons use exactly the same number of bookcases, study desks and soft seats in the traditional layout and the Opening the Book discovery layout. There is no loss of capacity – just a big increase in appeal and engagement.

Opening the Book discovery layout

Traditional layout

Opening the Book high school discovery layout

High school traditional layout

Traditional and discovery: the differences

Traditional layout

Discovery layout

  • Regimented rows can look intimidating
  • Tempting first impression
  • Customer journey is short and functional
  • Customer journey is varied and interesting
  • Straight rows offer no enticement
  • Curves create browsing spaces and draw people forward
  • Book stacks are dense while desks are boring, no encouragement to explore
  • Open and inviting layout - no dead ends or corridors
  • Books are hidden and appeal only to the 25% purposive users rather than the 75% impulsive
  • Integrate shelving and social areas so books are in the eyeline wherever you sit
  • Traditional desks reinforce impression of a formal environment
  • Curved desks are less formal than a classroom
  • Problem of noise in the open desk area as people speak louder to be heard over neighbours
  • Noise is reduced as desks are split up plus bookcases absorb sound
  • No differentiation – everything is uniform
  • Easy to zone for different ages/activities
  • Open social areas are busy while shelving areas are empty and dead
  • Every part of the space gets visited and used


Curved shelving – public library

Curved shelving – high school library

Straight shelving – public library

Straight shelving – high school library

Example layout visualisations

Case study

Southwater One library design case study for architects

Southwater One

Opening the Book was first appointed by Mace to work with the architects, structural engineers, project managers, landscape architects, mechanical and electrical designers at Stages A-E of the planned new building. We provided a key interface with the client, Telford & Wrekin Council, and were able to interpret the needs of different stakeholders in the building to the design team. We provided the full FFE specification for the tender.

Following a full tender process, we were appointed by Morgan Sindall to deliver the library and customer services installation. Further adaptations to designs were needed, as the M & E thermal modelling required substantial changes. Opening the Book played a vital role in discussions between M & E engineers, project managers, Morgan Sindall and the client to smooth the way for these alterations.

Once on site, our fitting team made excellent relationships with other contractors and we worked well to joint deadlines. Southwater One opened on time and has been an outstanding success for everyone involved.

View case study

Planning a project?

Opening the Book provides library design and layout services, project management and complete library installations.