Creating Private Spaces

The design of a library space can hinder or enhance privacy. Most staff are locked into the physical space they have, but a lot can be done with furniture to make the library inviting and also give the maximum amount of privacy to your users. Everyone should have spaces where they can look at information without a passerby seeing what they’re reading or typing.

Many users depend on the library for access to a computer. From students in school to the public in branches, our users deserve privacy when using a computer. Adults may be filling out sensitive documents that contain Social Security numbers or credit cards. Children may be seeking out information on personal health or gender identity. College students may be exploring deep research on topics that might seem dangerous or offensive to the casual passerby. 
It doesn’t matter why a user accesses a library computer, we are responsible for upholding that user’s right to privacy.

Creating private spaces can feel tricky when libraries also need to consider the safety of their users. Library workers often want to be able to see all corners of the library, especially where children and teens hang out. Situating furniture so that staff can surveil users denies them the right to privacy. Simple furniture moves can often allow for both privacy and safety. 


If your library has the financial means, purchase privacy screens for all computer terminals and provide laptops for more private browsing. Having headphones available for use or purchase is another way to provide a more private experience. 


Walk around your library.

Can you identify any spaces where there are opportunities to create more privacy? Consider setting up chairs so that a book cover would face the wall or so that a laptop screen could be hidden from people walking down an aisle.

What about your computer setup?

Where are the computers located? Can someone use a computer without another person seeing their screen? If it’s possible for you to move furniture, try arranging desks so that the screens are not facing out toward public spaces.

Does your library have privacy screens available for users?

Dig around your library to see if privacy screens are available and where they are located. If you have some available, how would users access them? Create signage or come up with a creative solution that lets users know they’re available. 

Download the Floor Layout PDF to map out potential changes to your library’s space. 

Download Floor Layout PDF