Shelves, furniture and fittings


Specialist library shelving is designed to be fit for purpose and is tested for resilience and life expectancy.   It is generally reasonably priced (with wooden shelves marginally more expensive than metal) and, if properly designed, can make maximum use of all spaces by varying shelf widths and by providing corner units etc. Specialist shelving is far better than non-specialist units or shelving  designed for the home or office market, and   DIY shelving is not recommended  – for safety reasons as well as practicality.

Shelving may be either wall-mounted or freestanding. The standard height for a primary school is 1200mm, with a maximum of 1500mm.    This will provide three shelves per bay. One of these should be a front facing display shelf. Individual shelves should be 25cm-30cm deep. Shelving must be adjustable and should include a back-edge support and an integral shelf-guiding channel.  Book supports are also needed to stop the books from falling over.



These are specialist units for the display of picture books or larger format information books.   They can either be free-standing or fixed to the shelving.   They can be fixed or mobile and are available in plain wood, colours or with attachments in a variety of designs (e.g. bus, animal etc).   Some incorporate seating. (see library supplier catalogues).

Book spinners

These are individual units for the storage and display of paperbacks and picture books.   They are available in a variety of colours and heights and are good for book promotion and display. Very popular with children!

Also think about Magazine racks, CD stands, listening areas


Chairs and tables

It is worth investing in a complete set of matching furniture for the library. This can be sourced from the school’s main supplier or from a specialist company. Ideally the library furniture should be different from that used in the rest of the school to create the sense of the specialist space but at the very minimum it should be matching. The library is used by all ages and sizes of pupils in the school and it is worth remembering that little children can sit on big chairs but big children (and staff) cannot sit for long periods on small chairs. Consider the need of children and staff who may use wheelchairs, and the best table heights for them.


A number of library suppliers produce specialist carpets for the library with appropriate book or alphabet related designs for example.   These brighten the space and can work as a space for the children to sit if there is not enough space for other furnishings.

Comfortable seating

Children love the sense of the library as a cosy space to sit and read. Though the library is often not big enough to fit large pieces of furniture, it is worth thinking of ways in which this can be created.   Some specialist suppliers have soft benches or small sofas – and it is worth remembering that furniture without arms allows more people to use it at one time. There are specialist bean bags and floor cushions or simple small mats, all of which create a sense of a specialist space.

Iconic pieces of furniture

It is worth considering buying one or two really special items of furniture for the library, especially when budgets are small as this will give the space a sense of character