We have updated our cookie policy to reflect recent changes in the UK/EU law concerning the use of cookies and tracking technologies. We use cookies on this website (including the page you are currently viewing) to ensure that the site functions smoothly and to help us understand how we can improve it. If you continue without changing your settings, you are agreeing to receive all cookies from the SLA website.

or view our cookie policy to find out more

Show Menu | Show Sidebar (Login/Search)

Design Guidelines for a Secondary School Library


The location of the Learning Resource Centre (LRC), its size and its environment are crucial in ensuring its effective use by students and staff. Library location also speaks volumes about the status given to the library as a whole school resource. If it is one of the first things both visitors and school staff and pupils see on entering the school it can reinforce the message that independent learning and reading are given a high profile.

The SLA recommends that the use of the LRC to support learning and teaching should be planned within a framework of whole-school, cross-curricular delivery of the curriculum. The learning resources provided within the LRC will be in many formats to ensure that the curriculum is fully supported and that multiple learning styles are accomodated. Careful planning of the layout of the LRC and the arrangement of the resources will help staff and students to make the best use of all types of stock and information, but it is vitally important that the LRC has enough space to take this into account.

Location and size of the LRC

The SLA recommends that the LRC should be in a central location with an entrance that is as accessible as possible to all students and staff, including any users with mobility difficulties. You will need to consult both the 1995 and 2005 Disability Discrimination Acts when planning any changes to the LRC.

Building Bulletin 103 recommends at least one library or learning resource centre (LRC) with a total area of at least 9 square metres plus 0.05square metres for every primary pupil place and 0.12square metres for every secondary pupil place. The SLA regard these recommendations as the minimum area possible for an effective library.

The Chartered Insitute of Library and Information Professionals (CILIP) Space Guidelines give recommendations of the amount of space to allow for school populations in the typical secondary school age range of 11 years to 16 years. The second column shows the suggested area to allow if you are including a sixth form study area.

CILIP Space Guidelines, 2014
Number of
Minimum accommodation
in square metres
Additional space for 6th form in square metres
600 225 50 students = 72.5
800 275 100 students = 95
1000 325 150 students = 117.5
1200 375 200 students = 140
1400 425 250 students = 162.5
1600 475 300 students = 185
1800 525 350 students = 207.5
2000 575 400 students = 230

Source: the CILIP guidelines for secondary school libraries, 2014

In addition, the SLA recommends that 10% of the school population or a whole class (whichever is the greater number) should be able to be seated within the LRC at any one time. This is the recommended minimum space needed to effectively carry out the functions of the LRC as a support for learning and teaching.


The Education Funding Agency, the DFE’s delivery agency for funding and compliance, have developed baseline designs for schools. These demonstrate good practice and show what can be achieved within the set cost and area allowances. The details of the baseline designs are set out, together with associated drawings and technical analyses.

For ideas and further guidance on design visit the Designing Libraries website and in particular their reference library on school design and for inspiration have a look at the gallery


For recommended levels of lighting for the LRC, the DFE have issued PSBP, Facilities Output Specification which gives details of libraries on page 36. There is also more general information about the need for natural daylight lighting in the PSBP, Baseline Designs: Daylight Strategy.


Whatever the size of the LRC, it is important that the shelving is adjustable and has integral supports as part of the system. Shelving is usually made of wood or metal and comes in a variety of colours. End panels are available in a variety of colours and fabrics. It is important not to position shelving too high for students to reach safely.

The SLA recommends the following maximum heights.

  • 1200mm for primary schools
  • 1500mm for middle schools
  • 1800mm for secondary schools (5)

Further recommended measurements for secondary schools are

  • 300mm height of the bottom shelf from the floor
  • 900mm length of individual shelves
  • 175 - 200mm depth for horizontal shelving for all stock
  • 250 mm depth for horizontal shelving for oversize stock
  • 300mm sloping shelving for display / periodicals (6)


The LRC will require a flexible layout to support the range of activities carried out in the library. Low chairs, soft seating and coffee tables allow for comfortable browsing. Small tables and appropriate height chairs for group work and a separate study area will provide the most flexible use of the SLRC. If computer access and audio materials are also to be incorporated then appropriate storage and furniture is necessary. For up to date information on suitable LRC furniture suppliers members of the SLA can access the Support page entitled Library Equipment and Furniture Suppliers.

Further Reading

Updated July 2014