2. Before You Start

After completing this section, you will be able to:

  • Map out capacity in various areas, e.g. space, partnerships, technology acquisition, technology use, staffing
  • Reflect on the unique capacity of your library in these areas

Libraries come in a wide variety of shapes and sizes, all with different staffing, community partnerships, and technology funds. These aspects of capacity are unique to every library, as are the needs that they address. One way to understand and assess the capacity of a library is to map it out. You may have already looked at mapping communities outside the library in the Community Mapping module. In this module, we will be using the same skill to map your library’s capacity internally. Here is an example:

Imagine a library in an urban residential area just outside of a large city. It is a midsize library, and serves a population of about 16,000. It has a medium sized meeting room for library programs, and two study rooms. As well as having open seating areas for reading and studying, the library uses roughly half of its open space to make room for 38 computers. Like most libraries, it relies on knowledgeable staff and strong community partnerships. Many of these community partnerships help to fund new technology acquisitions, since the library’s tech budget is split across the system to which it belongs. The library employs two adult services librarians, a children’s librarian, and a teen librarian. Also on staff are five library associates and a large base of twenty rotating volunteers.

How would you map this library?

Take a moment to create a visual representation of this midsize library in terms of the 5 different capacity areas: space, partnerships, technology acquisition, technology use, and staffing.

While everyone has a visual learning style that works best for them, capacity maps should be clear and easily understandable. This allows you to share your capacity map and capacity assessment easily with others.

Mapping a mid-size library

One way to make a clear map is to put the information you have into a table, with each column covering one aspect of your library’s capacity. Let’s see what this looks like using our example library:

Meeting roomAdult Services (2)38 ComputersNeighborhood Association 1
Study rooms (2)Children's LibrarianSmall tech budgetNeighborhood Association 2
Open seatingTeen LibrarianCommunity School
Library Associate (5)
Volunteers (20)


In the next section, you will learn how to self-assess your library's capacity in detail. Before you do, take a few minutes to reflect on your library's capacity. What does your library’s capacity look like in the areas of space, staff, technology, and partnerships? In what ways is it different from the midsize library example? It what ways is it different?