For as long as I can remember, libraries have been furnished by companies such as TMC, Palmieri Furniture, Worden, Brodart, Agati, Jasper Library, Gaylord, Texwood, Library Bureau, Bretford. Why do I bring this up? These companies have been very loyal to the library community in the United States by attending all the shows such as ALA, ACRL, PLA, as well as supporting their dealers and representatives with local shows. The cost to the above companies is hundreds of thousands of dollars a year collectively. Unfortunately in this day and age design firms are making the decision as to what furniture is going to be used on a particular project. Design firms typically are not familiar with the above mentioned companies. The reason for this is that most architect and design firms do maybe one or two libraries in their business life cycle. Design firms typically turn to who they are familiar with, and that is often times office furniture manufacturers. Keeping the argument simple, library furniture manufacturers engineered their furniture to have a 30 plus year life cycle. Office furniture is typically engineered to last 10 years if used by one person for 8 hours a day. Although these products are excellent at what they are intended to be used for, the abuse of the library setting is starting to show they just are not built for it. Of equal importance is it not the right thing to support the companies who have spent millions of dollars over the years in support of the library community.
As a dealer, J. P. Jay Associates has both library and office furniture at our disposal to provide our clients, we however will pass on the designers who want us to supply office furniture for their library project, in our experience it has not held up nearly as well as a qualified library furniture does. I am seeing office furniture failing in the library environment in as little as 3 years and I do not know many libraries who can afford to replace their furniture every couple of years. Again I state that is it not the quality of the furniture but the application in which the furniture is being used. It is like using a pair of scissors to cut your grass. It could be done however the abuse to the scissors would break them before the lawn is cut.
If the library community wants to continue to enjoy quality library furniture as well as continuing to see library furniture manufacturers at various shows, then please give your designer a list of acceptable suppliers when hiring them. The simplest way is to give them a list of vendors showing at the summer ALA convention. One last point, all the above manufacturers have realized that modern designs are what todays designers want and everyone of them has responded accordingly so you as a library give up nothing in design by asking that the above companies be supported. Just see some of them below.