Guidelines for buildings and spaces

Last updated:  28 March 2024

G3. Library buildings


To provide a physical facility which will serve the identified needs of the community. The building should be attractive, designed for efficiency and sustainability, flexible and functional.

To provide libraries that are convenient and accessible to the public.


Library buildings and service points should conform with the provisions of People places: a guide for public library buildings in NSW which is a comprehensive guide to the planning and management of library buildings. 

See also guidelines on Joint-Use Libraries [link]

Minimum recommended library size

The State Library has developed tools to calculate the minimum recommended library size based on the catchment population to be serviced. The table below provides a summary, however see People places for a more comprehensive guide.  

Note that these sizes do not take into account non-resident workforce, central library activities or the range of spaces and services required in a contemporary library building.

Population servicedMinimum recommended library size in square metres *
Under 2,750190

Points to consider

Suitable accommodation is essential to the success of a public library.

An experienced librarian and a qualified architect should work cooperatively from the beginning of a public library building project to its completion. If a qualified librarian is not available, the advice of the State Library of NSW should be sought. The State Library is available to work with all NSW councils on library building projects and improvements.

Co-location is a significant trend in NSW, bringing a range of community, commercial or government functions into one complex. A co-located library has its own distinct space within a wider complex or set of buildings. It may share a foyer, meeting rooms and amenities with other tenants, however the public library functions are managed separately to the other functions within the complex.

Joint use public libraries are rare in NSW, however consideration of a joint-use approach in some circumstances has merit. A joint-use library is one in which two or more distinct groups of users are served in the same library premises, the governance of which is collaboratively agreed between two or more separate authorities. Examples include a joint public/school library, or a joint public /TAFE /University Library.

G4. Mobile libraries


To provide a public library service via a specially designed and equipped vehicle to those people who cannot reach a normal branch or central library.


Access is provided to a representative range of the library’s services and collections within the mobile library, including access to library technology.

The mobile library’s schedule and opening hours are appropriate for customers and locations.

Sites are chosen and reviewed according to criteria developed by the library service with reference to published guidelines.

Mobile library stops are signposted or advertised at each location.

Mobile library size and vehicle type is appropriate for the services and outreach programs delivered from it, and for the access constraints of the locations it services.

Mobile library is designed and configured for ease of access and satisfies relevant occupational health and safety requirements.

Mobile library drivers are appropriately licensed for the type of vehicle employed

Mobile library drivers/staff are knowledgeable about the library’s collections, services and procedures, and occupational health and safety requirements.

Staff numbers are sufficient to meet demand at high activity stops.

Sufficient numbers of backup staff, qualified to drive the vehicle and experienced in library service delivery, are available to maintain continuity of service.

Mobile library staff participate in training and professional development programs.

Mobile library vehicle is maintained and replaced according to a planned schedule.

See also