A Guide to Library Shelving

Books are valuable resources within schools, libraries, and even homes. It is important to keep them protected and organized while allowing visitor’s access to the vast number of books that a library can stock. This can be accomplished by using the proper library shelving of which there are a variety of options. The following is a guide to using the best library shelving materials, design and placement.


Naturally, prior to purchasing shelving, you must calculate the amount of space to ensure the units fit vertically and horizontally. This can be accomplished by calculating the area of the room then the footprint size of the shelving units you would like to add. There are standard library shelving guidelines that are available to aid in your calculation.


The next step is to find inspiration for your shelving units. A productive option is to visit newly remodeled libraries to see how they have executed shelving within their space. Also, there are multiple shelving suppliers available who have a variety of styles and designs in inventory that can suit your needs. Simply reach out to them for more information on specific designs.


The planning phase is critical to determine the type of shelving system you want. There are wall-mounted, free-standing and roll-away options. Each provides storage for different types of books and media. When planning, it is helpful to consider the following:

  • Will face-out displays attract readers?
  • Does the shelving system work with comfortable seating?
  • Is the shelving easily navigable?
  • Will the shelving contribute to the library aesthetics?


Books are heavy, especially reference books. Therefore, it is important to have the right materials for the job to ensure the shelving remains robust for many years.

Powder-coated metal shelves some of the best shelves available as they provide extensive support and do not emit any natural gasses which can damage books.

Melamine-coated wood shelves the next best option because they seal the gasses thus protecting the books. One downside is the internal particle board can sag.

Wood shelves a decent option but wood is naturally acidic which could be an issue with paperbacks. Balsa, basswood, birch, beech, mahogany, poplar and exterior-grade plywood contain less acid. Steer clear of cedar, cypress, redwood, oak, pine, hickory and fir as they have significantly more acid. If you are set on wood, make sure to use shelf liners or a sealant.

Many are surprised by the amount of work that goes into library shelving but it is important to ensure the books are protected from the natural aspects of the material. Therefore, it is critical to find a reputable supplier who will work with you to find the right solution.





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