October 23, 2014

Powerful Partnerships: Shared Sites | Library by Design

By Marta Murvosh

Libraries have long shared acreage with other organizations as part of a civic campus, but today’s partnerships provide more than a convenient location for government services.

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Rifle Library l Garfield County Public Library District l Rifle, CO

Seeking to develop a walkable, livable downtown on a limited budget, Matt Sturgeon, Rifle assistant city manager, approached the Garfield County Public Library District (GCPLD) about finding a site in the commercial core for the replacement of the tiny Rifle Library.

The library-owned land in downtown was too small, and the city had an adjacent parcel. Together, the two agencies could maximize their land, says Amelia Shelley, GCPLD executive director. As a result, the library, city, and its Downtown Development Authority agreed to a complicated land swap. They closed a road and built a $10 million library and a much-needed two-level parking structure, paid for with a $1.7 million state grant, Sturgeon says. Since the library opened in 2010, the downtown has attracted a multiplex theater, and this summer the community will dedicate a ten-mile trail near the library, he says.

“It’s not enough to build a library,” Sturgeon says. “Everything we do is because dollars are so limited. We just push the envelope as much as we can. Understand that to do that, we have to work with as many people as we can.”

Funded mainly by a 2006 bond measure, the library will eventually share an elevator, stairs, restroom, and entryway with a future city hall. The library paid for a larger computer server and boiler rooms in anticipation of that addition, Shelley says.

The library’s cozy indoor and outdoor seating near windows and on patios and a second-story terrace offers views of the rugged mountains, red cliffs, and blue skies of this small Western Colorado community, says Bruce ­Flynn, library design principal at Barker Rinker Seacat, the building’s architect. Inside, brightly colored, technology-friendly spaces allow for different types of use and collaboration. A historic stained-glass window commemorates Theodore Roosevelt’s visits to Rifle. The library and current city hall share a plant-lined plaza featuring Wi-Fi.

“The library is kind of the last best place where you can accommodate all members of the community across cultures, across socioeconomic boundaries, across the generations,” Flynn says. “We are huge believers in the library as the heart of the community.”


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North Beach Library l San Francisco Public Library

The North Beach Library has long shared a site with the Joe DiMaggio Playground, but the relationship has been less than ideal. A disagreement over land prices in the 1950s resulted in the existing library coming to rest on top of a tennis court, says Julie Christensen, government liaison for the Friends of Joe DiMaggio Playground.

Plans are now under way to replace the aging branch with a $14.5 million building on the triangular parcel bordered by Columbus Avenue and Lombard and Mason Streets—the library’s original location planned 60 years ago. “Obviously, we’re correcting a wound. It was a mistake to develop a library on a park in the 1950s,” Christensen says.

The library will be triangular, and each point will feature two levels of windows, offering three separate reading areas for children, teens, and adults, says architect Marsha Maytum, principal at Leddy Maytum Stacy Architects, San Francisco. Each point will showcase views of a few of San Francisco’s iconic sites—Coit Tower, the Transamerica Pyramid, and the spires of Saint Peter and Saint Paul Church—Maytum says.

Solar panels and angled clerestory windows to draw natural light will make the building greener, says Mindy Linetzky, the Department of Public Works City and County of San Francisco administrator who oversaw the $106 million bond measure to construct or renovate 24 libraries. North Beach is the last of these projects.

The city also plans to close the short section of Mason Street between the new library and the playground in hopes of restructuring the playground, which features a pool; basketball, tennis, and bocce ball courts; and two small baseball fields. Changes include relocating the children’s play area from near a bus stop to a central spot, making it safer, Christensen says. A retaining wall will be removed and the site graded to improve pedestrian flow, Maytum says. The city and playground Friends group is seeking grants to fund the $5 million needed to update the space.

Improving both the library and the playground will serve the neighborhood’s rich blend of ethnicities, generations, and socioeconomic extremes. “This allows the library to step up its programming efforts and cater to those distinct groups,” Christensen says. “It is our Lions Club, our bowling club. It’s the place where our neighborhood really comes together”


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Main Library l East Baton Rouge Parish Library l LA

The search for a new site for East Baton Rouge Parish Library’s Main Library in Independence Park has deepened an existing partnership with the Recreation and Park Commission for the Parish of East Baton Rouge (BREC), which owns the park.

Construction started this winter on a $43.5 million project, which includes the new library, its outdoor Internet Plaza and gardens, and a cybercafé, which BREC is building. With the library’s planned 120 computers, both agencies will serve the needs of Louisianans who lack access to high-speed technology, says Mary Stein, interim codirector and assistant library director over administration and manager of the Main Library. Already librarians are brainstorming how they can “buddy up” with their parks partners to commingle and enhance programs for both park and library users once doors open in early 2014. “If they are here, we want them to use the whole of the park,” Stein says. “Ideally, you could spend a whole day here.”

Partnering makes sense for the library district. While it is a separate political entity from the park and parish, it is required to have approval of the Baton Rouge mayor and council for grant applications, budgets, and even the payment of authors and performers. “There are a lot of cooks in that kitchen,” Stein says. Partnerships with the park, which answers to its board, can mean streamlining some of that approval process.

Determining a location for the library at Independence Park that would not disturb established gardens was difficult. The resulting long, skinny site has southern exposure that offered a challenge to architect Denelle Wrightson, director of library architecture at Dewberry in Dallas. Library users will be bathed in natural light but kept cool when Southern temperatures soar in public areas on the north side. Back-of-shop functions will be on the south side, Stein says. A stained-glass window in the children’s area both depicts swarming purple martin swallows and filters the view of the shipping yard. On the roof, a terrace offers a place to read or enjoy the park.

Park staff can open airport-sized bathrooms after hours, and chair storage has inside and outside access so that both agencies can use the furnishings, Stein says. The gardens surrounding the library will be upgraded as well, Wrightson says, and the park district will maintain them. “They are using the library as a catalyst to create these other public spaces for the community, including a courtyard and reading gardens and terraces in the park.”


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