Engaging Design

Creating Libraries for Modern Users

by Emy Nelson Decker and Seth M. Porter


Learn how to design your library so as to make it attractive and practical.

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Cover image for Engaging Design

October 2018

Libraries Unlimited

Pages 159
Volumes 1
Size 6 1/8x9 1/4
Topics Educational Technology and Instructional Design/General
  Librarian's Instructional Role/Information Needs and Behavior Practices

This book demonstrates how aesthetics, design elements, and visual literacy can be implemented in the library to enhance spaces, programs, services, instruction, and outreach so that your library will appeal to all users.

Libraries have come to accept that they must rethink how they appeal to users, and harnessing the power of design can be a powerful means for addressing the changing needs of the community. Decker and Porter introduce "engaging design"—an umbrella term that incorporates multiple design frameworks with a focus on a three-prong approach: aesthetics, design thinking, and service design. These frameworks can be used to guide design choices that will aid in teaching and engaging current and potential library users.

In the course of a lively and interesting narrative, Engaging Design introduces basic concepts of aesthetics and good design and explores examples of its successful uses in the academic, public, and special library. It provides simple steps for implementing subtle, but powerful, techniques to improve instruction, human-computer interaction, e-learning, public services spaces, wayfinding signage, and all manner of library programs, events, and services. In addition, the authors recommend easy-to-implement best practices that will help librarians to enhance library-goers' experience. Library administrators will also look to this book for assistance in best addressing the needs of the modern library user.


  • Clearly explains how to recognize, understand, and interpret basic design techniques
  • Teaches librarians how to attract and target their efforts towards specific groups of library users
  • Outlines principles of good design in instruction programs, space planning and design tasks, outreach initiatives, and other library programs and activities
  • Offers easy-to-follow steps to good design for wayfinding, instruction, and library usage
Author Info

Emy Nelson Decker is NextGen public services manager at Georgia Tech Library. She holds an MLIS from Valdosta State University and an MA in art history from the University of Chicago. In addition to presenting in venues such as the American Library Association and the Association of College & Research Libraries, she has published numerous journal articles and book chapters. She is coeditor of the Handbook of Research on Disaster Management and Contingency Planning in Modern Libraries.

Seth Porter is the head of Stokes Library for the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs at Princeton University. Porter holds an MLIS from San Jose State University and an MA in public affairs/policy from The University of Alabama in Huntsville and is currently pursuing doctoral work. His research interests are innovation in higher education, education policy, accreditation and assessment, instructional design, information literacy, and the relationship of interdisciplinary metrics and processes within higher education.



"An additional purchase for librarians curious about library design."Library Journal

"Harnessing the power of design is one important aspect in meeting the changing needs of a community...The knowledge shared in this book will be valuable to those embarking on building a new facility or remodeling an existing library [and] to those interested in creating a continuous cycle of improvement for spaces, services, and programs. This book is highly recommended for all types and size of libraries."Public Library Quarterly


"Emy Nelson Decker and Seth M. Porter have shown us how to design a complete library atmosphere that serves the needs of diverse groups of users and anticipates growth and change in teaching, learning, and technology. They have managed to articulate complex aspects of design in physical spaces, library services, and instruction and present them in a way that is innovative, creative, and easily digestible for library staff, administrators, and instructors. Engaging Design: Creating Libraries for Modern Users is an essential resource for those looking for aesthetic guidance in designing welcoming, usable, multi-modal library facilities and intuitive library services."—Mandy Mastrovita, Digital Projects Librarian, Digital Library of Georgia

"Without overwhelming the reader, Emy Nelson Decker and Seth M. Porter have written an incredibly helpful book on library space design. Its content is refreshing and considers numerous aspects of physical and virtual library space design. Readers will find this book very timely."—Elizabeth G. McClenney, Director of the Library, Roanoke College

"Engaging Design: Creating Libraries for Modern Users is a timely book that discusses key aspects of what the authors term 'engaging design'—employing concepts such as aesthetics and visual literacy to enhance library spaces, programs, instruction, and outreach. The authors present several thought-provoking chapters that demonstrate how to incorporate these elements into daily library practices. The information presented in this book is concise and well organized. It would be an excellent resource for any library professional who desires to incorporate the power and importance of aesthetics, good design, design thinking, and visual literacy into their library program."—David P. Moore, Director, M. Louis Salmon Library, University of Alabama in Huntsville

"Decker and Porter's book is a must read for interior designers, architects, engineers, construction planners, and librarians who are in the process of or thinking about redesigning library spaces. I have redesigned three libraries in my career, and I wish I had had their book to guide my processes. Their concept of engaging design is easily understood, as it speaks to our ethos in academic libraries of seeking input from others to create a continuous cycle of improvement for spaces, programs, and services. The systematic action plans and points to consider that are distributed throughout the book make you stop and think about how to apply the concepts presented in your own projects. Librarians engaged in public services, instruction, outreach, IT, and systems will benefit from studying this book and applying concepts learned. Library deans and directors should make this book a must read for their staff and campus constituents before embarking on a collaborative project to make the university library more responsive to faculty teaching, research, and student learning in terms of their space needs at the library."—Lisandra R. Carmichael, PhD, Interim Dean of Library, University of North Florida

"Engaging Design offers practical tips for transforming your library using design theory to examine spaces, services, instruction, and marketing of libraries to users. It would be perfect for any library thinking about renovations, enhancing instruction, or embedding engaging design in library services."—Meris Mandernach Longmeier, Head of Research Services, The Ohio State University Libraries

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