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Designing Better Libraries by steven j bell is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

Creating a Better Library Experience…For the Birds

We like our feathered friends. Unfortunately, many of our library buildings have a notorious track record when it comes to giving birds a bad library experience. In fact, it’s the worst experience they can have. Our buildings, with their many over-sized windows, kill the birds. There’s an experience we need to improve.

An Internet search will yield quite a few articles about libraries and birds colliding with the windows. Here’s one about my library building. Paley Library is recognized as one of the most dangerous buildings on the Temple University campus for birds because of the trees surrounding the building and the extremely large main level windows. Many of the birds don’t stand a chance.

While plate glass is invisible to birds, they do see the reflections of trees, the sky and other elements that make them think they’ve got clear sailing ahead. They may even see interior plants through the glass. It’s not uncommon to find dead birds around our library perimeter. Even those birds that appear to just be stunned and fly off often die later from brain injuries.

Over the years the University has tried different strategies as deterrents. Unfortunately, attaching plastic hawk figures to the library’s exterior and putting a few bird decals on the windows has made minimal difference. In 2012, a new strategy was devised. Students at our Tyler School of Art participated in a competition to design a more effective solution. The result was a new type of stencil to apply to windows that proved more effective in repelling the birds before they made contact. The winning designs appeared to improve on past solutions, and they also added attractive window graphics to the building.

The good news is that we are finally beginning to install these decals on windows around the Paley Library. Installers added these bird-repelling decals to a small segment of the buildings windows. The photo below gives you an idea of what the window looks like after the decals are installed.

birddecal

I believe that representatives of the local Audubon Society occasionally do counts of dead birds found around campus buildings. This may help us to determine if the decals are reducing the bird fatalities. We still have many windows in our building that are a threat to the birds. I hope that we are just at the start of an initiative to install more window stencils in the library, and that we can decrease the number of deaths from bird-window collisions.

When we talk about the impact of library design on the quality of the experience, we typically think in terms of our human community members. Seeing the decals installed reminded me that our facilities and their design also affects the animal life in our community. This is just part of the larger challenge of creating sustainable, environmentally-friendly buildings. Let’s be thinking about how our buildings, and the experiences they deliver, can be designed to minimize collateral damage.

No solution has yet proven to be 100 percent effective in ending all fatal bird strikes, but perhaps this new style of window decal will help to decrease the numbers of birds that meet an untimely death because of our libraries.

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