Can you read a map? Can you find your way back out of a building that you are visiting for the first time?
Wayfinding is not a skill all of us possess to the same degree. For instance, I 'see' a building in 3-D; I know that restrooms are usually placed in a building's core - find the elevator - find the restroom. It's a snap. For me.
Not everyone has this training or 'view'. We all navigate through the streets and corridors of our days in whatever manner that serves us well and gets us to that important meeting, the elevator, the restroom - the exit!
I am a strong advocate for a clear architectural design that allows the occupants to navigate through a building easily and safely. I believe that good design is simple and logical design.
It seems cognitive scientist, Laura Carlson at the University of Notre Dame can back up my 'instinctual' practice with cold hard fact. Laura Carlson, Notre Dame I love it when that happens! She is "figuring out how we can stay un-lost" ...(when we figure out how to get where we want to go.)
WIRED magazine WIRED.com has a short piece about her work (April 2011, pg.38) written by Katherine Gammon. Check it out. Ms. Carlson points to various strategies we can use to find our way through our built environment. We form pictures in our minds of the building and our route or we use a mental bird's eye view. We navigate by paying attention to objects so we can use them to retrace our steps. We 'fix' images of objects or intersections in our minds so that we can construct our mind's eye map.
This quote from her work best sums up my approach to design. I thank her for it. "If you see handwritten signs pointing you to an exit, that's a good indicator that it's not a well designed building."
When you are designing your library renovation or addition, keep this in mind. Ask your designer how easily your patrons can find what they are looking for in your library.