Indiana State Library, Indianapolis
ARCHITECT: HBM Architects
THE CHALLENGE When it comes to points of service for library users, the Indiana State Library (ISL) in Indianapolis suffers from too much of a good thing. Just as too many cooks can spoil a broth, too many service points leave patrons confused about where to look for help. ISL associate director of public services Connie Bruder came to the Design Institute looking for a way to provide more and better service in fewer locations and increase the library’s interactivity while also making better use of underperforming spaces like the building’s beautiful but poorly exploited Great Hall.
THE BRAINSTORM The conversation began with ways to centralize library services, which most brainstorming teams did by eliminating service points, moving from a half dozen staffed desks to two or three more strategically positioned desks. Not only would that ease patron anxiety about where to go for help, it would also free up staffers to roam the floor, interacting with researchers and student groups and introducing them to what the library has to offer. Challenge attendees were also invited to think more broadly about the design of the library and how its layout could be made more interactive and appealing, placing Post-It notes and markers on blueprints to suggest redesigns of the space. One major point of consensus? The idea of “flipping” the library’s entrances, making the current secondary entryway—which offers easy access to the Great Hall—the primary point of entry. In addition to making the space more accessible, challenge attendees considered ways to make it more of a draw, from hosting library exhibits there to renting it out as an occasional event space. In addition to redesigns to the building interior suggested during the sessions, HBM’s Dan Meehan (standing below, middle) stressed that bringing in new patrons was not just a matter of making the interior more user-friendly and suggested that the ISL would be well served by reaching outside of the library. Arranging for amenities like a coffee shop or food carts near the entrance could help more effectively bring in pedestrians, tourists, and employees from local institutions like the Capitol building.
Brentwood Public Library, Missouri
ARCHITECT: Sapp Design Architects
THE CHALLENGE Brentwood Public Library came to the Design Institute facing a tough choice that many librarians will recognize—whether to renovate an existing building or start from scratch. Serving a population of 8,000 in the suburbs of St. Louis, the library—which shares space with the town’s city hall—is a landmark in the community, but Director Vicki Woods questions whether it can serve the needs of that community effectively anymore. Despite a rehab just over a decade ago, the space lacks the flexibility that patrons require. “We are losing people because they have nowhere to sit,” Woods told the session attendees.
THE BRAINSTORM While the Brentwood library’s current space is inadequate for the town’s needs, the library has the luxury of a variety of other options to explore and a lot of potential, along with more than a few obstacles. Though the current space is inadequate to keep up with community demand, the shared building gives the library some options to grow without moving, such as working with partners to repurpose the fire engine bays housed there for meeting spaces or holding collections. An analysis by Sapp Design Architects shows that even after such solutions, space would remain an issue and that while a new building may be more expensive than a retrofit—estimates showed a renovation running $2.7 million, while a new building came in at around $3.5 million—renovating the existing structure might not be able to meet all the library’s needs, like private areas where the noise from teen patrons can be abated and meeting space for community groups. The community’s connection to the building and the government services it had long hosted also remain very strong, suggesting that a new building that took cues from the collaborative, multiagency nature of the old one could be the best solution, retaining the community spirit of the old building while updating the facilities for modern use. That solution also has the added benefit of bringing multiple stakeholders into the fold ensuring that leaders from a variety of organizations would be on the same page.
Pinney Branch, Madison Public Library, Wisconsin
ARCHITECT: OPN Architects
THE CHALLENGE The Pinney Branch of Madison Public Library (MPL) is exploring the possibility of picking up stakes and moving a few blocks down the road to a new mixed-use space that the library would share with a new location of the popular Willy Street Co-op community grocery. Architects from OPN used maps of the site and Idea Boxes containing blocks of varying sizes and colors to let brainstorming teams build the library and food co-op of their dreams, with the hope of sending MPL librarians home with new ideas, as well as taking a few home to their own libraries.
THE BRAINSTORM During the challenge session, brainstormers used sets of blocks to explore the various elements that could make a collocation between the library and food co-op a successful cornerstone of the community. The site of the new proposed library, on a 27-acre parcel of land slated for mixed-use development, gave would-be designers lots of room to play with features that would draw in users and provide value to the community beyond just the library and the co-op. Ideas ranged from providing a venue for local musicians to hosting an orchard that would, naturally, produce “Pinney Pears.” To ensure that patrons of all stripes could get to and around the facility, challenge attendees proposed an enclosed parking structure in which people could safely leave strollers and bikes. Thoughts also turned to how the co-op and library could serve one another’s missions, and proposals relating to food security and nutrition loomed large, from hosting a community food pantry and teaching kitchen to tailoring collection development at the new branch to include specialized sections on subjects like gardening, cooking, and sustainability.
Joplin Public Library. Missouri
THE CHALLENGE Collocation was on the plate of the Joplin Public Library, which, as with many other municipal buildings, was destroyed by the deadly tornadoes that devastated Joplin, MO, in 2011. The new library, funded by a federal grant, will be housed in a multipurpose building that will also be home to a roommate that may seem incongruous with a library: a multiscreen, first-run movie theater. The challenge session looked at addressing the obstacles that could arise from this collocation, while also exploring opportunities.
THE BRAINSTORM MSR’s Jack Poling (standing, below right) kicked off the session by leading a discussion of the major concerns of modern library design—such as security, flexibility of use, and the ability to adapt to new technologies—which change the calculus of library design. After all, a tablet takes up much less storage space than a desktop computer. Getting down to the brass tacks of devising the Joplin library introduced some obstacles, such as how to light the space. Since the library will be situated underneath the theater complex, skylights are out of the picture. Instead, designers suggested new technologies
like light tubes, which combine reflective surfaces and light-emitting diodes (LEDs) to deliver daylight to spaces that otherwise wouldn’t get much. The floor also got some attention, with participants recommending an increasingly popular raised floor concept that could allow easier future upgrades to the library’s tech infrastructure.
Curtis Laws Wilson Library, Missouri University of Science & Technology, Rolla
THE CHALLENGE The Curtis Laws Wilson (CLW) Library at Missouri University (MOU S&T) is strapped for money but must implement a learning commons in support of a campus strategic plan. With that goal front and center, the library has already begun to convert the first floor by phasing in elements and creating more student-centered space to support both experiential and collaborative learning. Among the pieces already in place are a café and an IT walk-in center, enabled in part by a print reference collection cut down by three-quarters. A major impediment to the conversion is that staff are currently situated on the first floor.
THE BRAINSTORM MOU S&T’s historical roots as a mining school means that there are a lot of museum-like collections that are very much a part of the institution and can be used to create a sense of place, necessary to build awareness and funding for the library’s transformation, said Arcturis’s Meera Jain (above, second from l.). With the majority of funding still to come, the group focused on defining the learning commons—a flexible, adaptable space for services and resources for students and faculty—and the components needed. The suggestions ranged from the simple, like tables on casters, different kinds of seating (including some with storage space), and movable whiteboards, to digital displays, spaces for 3-D printers, a media lab, and lots of power outlets for laptops and other devices. CLW library director Tracy Primich had visions of bringing in the writing center and peer-to-peer tutoring, as well. The key to change, all agreed, is repurposing staff space by moving staff to the second floor, along with the library classroom; eliminating/combining the service desks (ILL, circulation, and reference); and moving the public service area now situated in the center of the library to one side, with workstations and other student-centered activities in that space. The result: a public floor for student use.