When it's time to renovate your library, one aspect that can easily become a low priority - or be altogether overlooked - is your choice of flooring. However, flooring can significantly impact the health and wellness of everyone using your library - from young elementary school children to loyal library staff. Additionally, it makes a large contribution to the visual impact of the library and how welcoming the environment is to students and visitors.
Look for these four must-have traits to select library carpet that is at once functional and beautiful:
1) Acoustic Benefits
Libraries are often utilized as second learning spaces in schools, so acoustics are equally as important as they are in the classroom. Moreover, unlike small classrooms, libraries are typically designed as a large, open space, which allows sound from group discussions and heavy foot traffic to reverberate throughout the room, unobstructed by walls or dividers.
It's essential to consider the acoustic properties of your carpet before making a final decision. There are three different types of commercial carpet tiles, which vary in noise reduction properties:
- Hardback carpet absorbs more sound than hard flooring, but other carpet constructions are more effective at reducing noise.
- Closed cell cushion-backed carpet significantly improves sound absorption over hardback carpet.
- Open cell cushion-backed carpet offers the best in sound absorption.
2) Antimicrobial Qualities
Antimicrobial flooring is of particular importance for elementary school and community libraries that host events for mothers and small children, when people will be sitting and playing on the floor. In all libraries, staff will also spend a lot of time crouching down to restock low shelves.
When selecting new library carpet, it's essential to look for carpet that has an antimicrobial treatment as a standard feature, such as Milliken's AlphaSan. Antimicrobial treatments protect against bacteria and other microbes - and can work to prevent mold and mildew growing on the surface of your carpet tiles.
3) Mold and Mildew Prevention
While antimicrobial treatments like AlphaSan will protect the surface of your library carpet, they aren't designed to prevent mold and mildew from growing underneath the carpet tiles.
In libraries this is a concern: Anyone who's ever walked into a musty-smelling library full of old books is actually smelling mold. Books provide a welcome food source for mold spores, and with the addition of any moisture, these spores can flourish.
Many mold infestations begin under the flooring and out of sight. Since moisture vapor travels through the concrete subfloor from the ground outside, it can become trapped underneath some impermeable flooring. With merely a slight change in temperature, the vapor condenses into liquid water and creates the moist environment where mold thrives. Mold is then able to spread throughout the building - and in worst cases, it can move into the HVAC system and be spread through the ventilation system.
Fortunately, you can select carpet that helps prevent mold growth. Not all carpet traps moisture vapor: Carpet tiles with open cell cushion backing allow the vapor to escape through the carpet tile and wick away at the tile seams - evaporating naturally without becoming damaging liquid water.
4) Welcoming Aesthetics
While it's important to assess the practicalities of different types of carpet, it's equally important to consider their aesthetics. You want to create a welcoming environment that is attractive to library patrons, and your choice of flooring has a significant visual impact on the library as a whole.
With an ever-increasing range of color and pattern options to select from, you can find floor covering that fits your desired aesthetic while meeting all of your practical requirements.