Taking libraries beyond the book
Firm plays a big role
in creating facilities
to suit communities

By gloria stravelli
Staff Writer

Taking libraries beyond the book
Firm plays a big role
in creating facilities
to suit communities
By gloria stravelli
Staff Writer

JERRY WOLKOWITZ Susan Quick and Susan Globus of the Red Bank interior design firm Globus Design Associates look over plans for a redesign of the Red Bank Public Library.JERRY WOLKOWITZ Susan Quick and Susan Globus of the Red Bank interior design firm Globus Design Associates look over plans for a redesign of the Red Bank Public Library.

No longer mere repositories of book collections, the role of libraries has expanded in response to changes in technology and society, according to Susan Globus, whose Red Bank firm specializes in interior design of libraries.

"One of the reasons we love designing libraries is that they are cafés, concert halls, nursery schools, craft centers, instructional classes, community centers for social functions, study areas," explained Globus, founder of Globus Design Associates, White Street. "Libraries are wonderful places."

"I enjoy designing them because they are so many different design projects rolled into one," continued Globus, who has done design work for some 50 libraries nationwide.

"We are known for libraries," she said. "Although we do different design projects, they’re a nice specialty because they encompass all those uses."

At the South Plainfield library, Globus Design Associates incorporated a railroad theme that fits with the town’s history.At the South Plainfield library, Globus Design Associates incorporated a railroad theme that fits with the town’s history.

Globus, principal in Globus Design Associates, and her associate, Susan Quick, vice president, comprise what is the only interior design firm in the state (and perhaps the nation) focused on library design, and their work has garnered awards from professional bodies including the American Library Association.

Among the firm’s local projects is a recently completed feasibility study for redesign of the Red Bank Public Library. The redesign would bring the library into compliance with the federal Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and rearrange the interior space to make collections more accessible, increase the number of computers and expand public space.

For the J.W. Ross Cultural Center library in Sea Bright, the firm recently completed a redesign proposal that uses an awning to define a children’s area in the one-room space.

The firm also did a feasibility study for the proposed expansion of the Little Silver Library that would reconfigure the entrance, furnishings and children’s area and provide space for computers.

Globus, a Fair Haven resident, also redesigned the interior of Rumson’s Forrestdale School library to provide room for doubling the number of computers and created separate spaces so different classes could use the library at the same time.

Globus’ business was founded while she juggled the demands of nurturing her daughter and a start-up.

"It’s the classic kitchen-table story," she said, explaining that after earning a graduate degree in interior design and working for a design firm in North Jersey, she decided to strike out on her own.

Her love of libraries helped land her firm’s first commercial contract.

"I actually started the company in 1988 with a contract for the interior design of a branch library in Ocean County," she said.

Through a casual conversation, Globus learned the Ocean County Library System was planning an expansion of the Point Pleasant branch and she convinced the library director to give her the contract for the building "finishes" – that is, selecting the colors and furniture.

Since Globus views interior design as driven by how a space is to be used, she did more than pick colors and carpeting for the branch.

"I took the floor plans back to my kitchen table and redrafted them," she said. "Then I called the library director and said, ‘I know you didn’t hire me for this, but …’

"I saved them enough money to pay for my contract with the redesign funds," she recounted, "so they awarded me three more contracts and expanded the scope of my services."

Word spread through the close-knit library community.

"Recommendations started coming in, and there I was with a library practice," she said.

As the firm took on projects at a wide range of libraries, including academic, public, museum and special library facilities, Globus moved her practice from her home in Fair Haven, first to an office on Route 35, then to offices on White Street 10 years ago.

A member of the New Jersey Board of the American Society of Interior Designers, Globus said the scope of the design portion of each project varies and often begins at inception.

"We don’t just design; we’re part of a building team. So when we study interior design today, we need to know all the applicable building codes, compliance requirements for the ADA, technical aspects of lighting, etc.

"Interior design is anything on the inside, and our work depends on the scope of services," she continued. "We may do space planning, design a wall partition, or a ceiling plan that places lighting down to the switches, types of bulbs and wattage."

Design services include selecting and specifying furnishings for staff areas, circulation desks, children’s rooms and Globus frequently custom-designs furniture like reference desks and display stands for library customers that reflect the character of the community. Designs include a wooden installation in a South Jersey library reminiscent of a dock, with rowboats for children to climb into and read, as well as a reference desk in the form of a locomotive for a library in a town where rail lines historically intersected.

Work on some projects involves defining the facility’s mission, she said.

The firm’s wide-ranging portfolio includes a lead role in the strategic planning process for the redesign of the library at the 92nd Street Y in New York, a popular venue for arts programs, and the archive at Cleveland’s Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

"We can assist clients so that when they say, ‘We want a library, but we don’t know what it can be,’ " Globus noted, "they become very clear about what the facility should be."

According to Globus, technology has been a major impetus for change at libraries. "For three years, we did nothing but reconfigure space to make room for computers," she said. "Technology was coming. They were asking, ‘What do we do?’ "

Computer classrooms are increasingly being planned in library spaces, she noted, and demographic changes are shaping their design as well.

"People who don’t have computers are flocking to libraries," she said, "and as the demographics of communities change, due to population influx and shifting populations, libraries are being responsive to those communities.

"Libraries have truly become community centers," she added. "People are using them for a variety of reasons. When computers first came into use, librarians debated whether they would still be in business. They have found patrons need help in navigating resources so the need has become greater."

Libraries are also changing their approach to building circulation.

"Libraries are starting to think of themselves as being in competition with retail booksellers," Globus said, "so they’re trying some of the techniques that make people comfortable and make them want to linger. They’re paying attention to interior design and giving people amenities like cafés."

A successful library design plan does more than enable staff to work efficiently and comfortably and increase library circulation, she explained.

"We want to make a public space that is a welcoming space, a space that is not intimidating, where it’s easy for patrons to find what they need quickly. It should be a space where they can easily fulfill the reason they came in, and that can be anything from listening to a concert, taking a computer lesson, sitting quietly and reading a magazine, to meeting a neighbor for a cup of coffee. There are so many different reasons because so many different things are going on today in a library."