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Library Lighting

Libraries are multi-functional spaces used by different individuals and groups within a community. They provide the resources for quiet, private study, or reading for pleasure, as well as often hosting activities such as a reading club or a children’s reading group. A library therefore needs a lighting scheme that can provide a productive and comfortable atmosphere for all its users.


Front Desk

The front desk of a library is effectively the equivalent of a customer service desk. Staff will answer queries, deal with membership requests and check books in and out. As a functional workspace, a front desk needs clear illumination but the lighting should also be welcoming.

Linear profile fixtures are ideal for front desks, and can be recessed, surface-mounted or suspended depending on the ceiling height and material. A linear profile will provide ambient light, directed downwards.


Libraries usually have bookshelves arranged in aisles, so the approach to lighting books can be much the same as lighting product aisles in a retail store. Using track lighting which aims light downwards, directly onto the shelves, gives focused illumination which is preferable to a general ambient fixture. Track lighting heads can be directed to the left and right sides of an aisle giving targeted light.

Alternatively, a linear profile with an asymmetrical beam can provide targeted light, rather than a standard downward beam which puts light everywhere.

Study Desks

Lighting for study desks needs to provide clear and direct illumination, along the same lines as a work desk in an office. Lighting should be designed so that the person sitting at the desk does not block the light, creating shadows. This can be avoided by hanging lighting at the correct height, choosing the correct beam angle and also the appropriate lumen output.

Things To Consider

Circuits And Dimming

In a multi functional space such as a library, it is particularly useful to create separate circuits of lighting, so that lights can be dimmed and controlled in groups. For example, one group might cover study desks, and another the front desk area. A dedicated children’s section of the library could be another area to control separately.

Having separate controls allows the light level to be adjusted as is appropriate for that specific area, time of day and the amount of natural light available. For example, late in the evening it may not be necessary to have a children’s area brightly lit, but study desks could still be fully utilised.

Ceiling Height & Type

Library Lights For High Ceiling

The height of the ceiling, as well as the ceiling material, are important considerations when designing any lighting scheme.

Track lighting and linear profiles can be recessed, surface mounted or suspended. Surface mounting is perhaps the most common and offers simple installation. Recessing track or linear profiles can be more complex and isn’t suitable for all ceiling surfaces, for example concrete, but it keeps the ceiling clear and uncluttered so is popular in minimal, architectural spaces. Suspending lighting is helpful where high ceilings mean that the light level needs to be lowered.


Minimising maintenance requirements reduces both costs and any disruption. For this reason, LED fixtures are recommended as the long lifespan means that replacements are needed infrequently. LEDs also offer an excellent quality of light, and are highly energy efficient helping keep overhead costs low.

Colour Temperature

The colour temperature of light is measured in Kelvin (K). A colour temperature of around 3000K produces a warm light, similar to fire or candle light, and creates a more relaxed, inviting atmosphere. A cool white colour temperature is around 5000K, and this gives clear and bright white light, close to natural daylight.

The best colour temperature for use in a library is a matter of preference. A warm colour temperature will create a welcoming ambience, and is comfortable for the eyes. However, a cooler temperature can be best for focused work, and aids concentration.

Linear Profile Lights

These long, rectangular LED light fittings are available in a variety of lengths and depths. They can be used in many different settings and have a simple, architectural design. They provide an even distribution of light across their length. Linear profiles can be surface mounted, recessed or suspended. 

Track Lighting

Track lighting is extremely flexible and can be customised to suit the setting. Track is available in various lengths, and joiners can be used to create systems of any dimensions. Track lighting heads can be positioned along the track to direct light wherever it is needed, with a variety of beam angles and lumen outputs available. Track can be surface mounted, recessed or suspended.

Simon Mundine

LED World Director

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