Skip to Main Content

Library Buildings & Design

Sources and tips for researching the design of libraries and some important precedents.

Designing a Library

Rem Koolhaus' Seattle Public Library

Image from alexabboud  on flickr

Brainstorming Search Terms

When doing research on a building, type of architecture, method of construction, or concept, the best way to begin is by brainstorming keywords and concepts about your topic.

-Building Name - both the official name and any nicknames

-Architect's Name

-Building Type -(library, libraries are often part of educational facilities or community centers)

-Style -brutalism, bauhaus, beaux arts

-Construction Methods or Materials - curtain wall, steel, concrete

-Location -material on "great homes of Illinois," "Modern US buildings"

-Date -useful if there might be confusion between buildings or if the building has been renovated or expanded

Narrowing the Topic

Based on your findings in books and reference sources, you'll want to narrow down your topic so that you can focus on a few main points. A few ways to do this are:

-Look at the terms used by authors of general works

-Look for the main concepts or issues mentioned in general sources

-Look at citations in general sources (the bibliography at the end of a reference article) or for mentions of experts in the field

Searching using your Keyword Bank

Research is like a treasure hunt or solving a mystery.

We have to try to combine the right terms in the right place to find the information we need.

How should you combine search terms to find what you are looking for?


Broad Search

Search for information using the single most important term related to your topic. Use this type of search when looking for basic background information.


Specific Search

Search for information by combining key concepts using the words you have brainstormed. Each concept/word should be separated by the word "AND". Use this kind of search when looking for specific evidence related to your claim/thesis.


Getting Too Many Irrelevant Results?

Add more search terms for narrower results.


Getting Too Few Relevant Results?

Change, switch out, or remove some search terms for more accurate or broader results.

Brainstorm Keywords


Building a bank of keywords will make the rest of your research much simpler.

1. Gather background information, which will give you some key words to start with, and make your research a little easier.

2. Brainstorm other search terms: think of synonyms, or more technical terms, or official language vs. colloquial language

3. Think of some narrower search terms to get even more specific and some broader words in case you aren't finding much.

4. Think about what ideas and terms are related to your subject that might also be helpful.


Even when you've got a good keyword bank started, keep adding to it!

If you find a good article or book, look at the data record to see what other terms and subjects are used to describe it.

Remember that with library resources especially, it pays to search smart:

use AND in between search terms to group them together

use OR for more results

use NOT if you want to exempt a word from your results

use quotation marks "_" to isolate phrases

use the wildcard * to get all versions of a word

  Report a Problem with this Page