November 19, 2017

Thinking Big in Big Sky Country | Design Institute Design Challenges | Library by Design, Fall 2016

TREASURED WISDOM The Design Institute’s (DI) Treasure State debut gathered attendees from around the country—and even outside it. Montana’s Bozeman Public Library (top) hosted the day’s events, while its mutipurpose room (middle) served as DI central for panels and more. Bozeman PL director Susan Gregory (bottom l.) welcomed the crowd as attendees signed up for the challenges (bottom r.). Photos by Kevin Henegan

TREASURED WISDOM The Design Institute’s (DI) Treasure State debut gathered attendees from around the country—and even outside it. Montana’s Bozeman Public Library (top) hosted the day’s events, while its mutipurpose room (middle) served as DI central for panels and more. Bozeman PL director Susan Gregory (bottom l.) welcomed the crowd as attendees signed up for the challenges (bottom r.). Photos by Kevin Henegan

Susan F. Gregory , director of the Bozeman Public Library, MT, welcomed attendees of LJ’s Design Institute (DI) to the Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design (LEED) Silver-certified building this May. Opened in 2006, the facility is at once both warmly rustic, clearly inspired by its spectacular mountain setting, and right on trend with the best of national library design. It offers open sight lines, a lofty roof with metal accents, lots of glass (balanced by plenty of wood), hands-on tech, and spaces for people inside and out, making it the perfect setting for attendees to plan the right library for their own communities.

The big picture

The crowd in Bozeman’s sun-filled multipurpose room got right down to business, tracking trends in library building, renovating, and retrofitting under the expert guidance of architect sponsors Mindy Sorg, associate, OPN Architects; Jeff Davis, principal, Architectural Nexus; Dennis Humphries, principal, Humphries Poli Architects; ­Kevin Blalock, principal, Blalock and Partners; and Traci Lesneski, principal, MSR.

Sponsors involved in morning networking included (clockwise from top l.) Dennis Humphries (r.) from Humphries Poli Architects, Stacey Schneider  from DEMCO Interiors, Jeff Peden (l.) and Chris Lee (r.) from Anode, and Gary Kirk from Tech Logic. Photos by Kevin Henegan

Sponsors involved in morning networking included (clockwise from top l.) Dennis Humphries (r.) from Humphries Poli Architects, Stacey Schneider from DEMCO Interiors, Jeff Peden (l.) and Chris Lee (r.) from Anode, and Gary Kirk from Tech Logic. Photos by Kevin Henegan

(l.-r.) OPN Architects’ Mindy Sorg kicked off the panel on trends in building and renovation; those offering innovative examples included (l.–r.) Jeff Davis from Architectural Nexus, Dennis Humphries, Kevin Blalock from Blalock and Partners, and Traci Lesneski from MSR. Photos by Kevin Henegan

(l.-r.) OPN Architects’ Mindy Sorg kicked off the panel on trends in building and renovation; those offering innovative examples included (l.–r.) Jeff Davis from Architectural Nexus, Dennis Humphries, Kevin Blalock from Blalock and Partners, and Traci Lesneski from MSR. Photos by Kevin Henegan

Sorg took the lead with a focus on the future of patrons, e.g., spaces for children. Among her top topics: a unique threshold to engage children immediately; browsability at kid scale and from a seat on the floor; interactive and collaborative play, such as a puppet theater, carved out of shelving; and a variety of furniture that offers areas to explore as well as sitting comfort.

Next, Davis highlighted three connected trends: digital connection, such as Idaho’s Meridian Library District’s unBound, a 2,800 square foot downtown space where patrons can access the newest technology; connecting to the library surroundings by opening up sight lines so patrons and passersby can see all the way to the back, such as at the Glendale Branch Library in Salt Lake City; and connecting to the community via outreach. Again offering the example of Salt Lake City, Davis said the library put out blocks for patrons to design their own library space. The result? “They never had so many people show up on opening day before. [If the library engages the community], people will vote for it and tell their friends to vote for it.”

Humphries’s take was more contrarian, targeting alternatives to libraries for locations that can’t afford to build, whether it’s community gardens or collocation; a reemphasis on the printed book and concomitant backlash against bookless libraries; and repurposing existing buildings that weren’t originally constructed as libraries to minimize environmental impact and still get big space for big new services.

Blalock focused on designing for changing demographics among library users, including creating opportunities for multigenerational interaction and for the same spaces to be used throughout the day by a variety of patrons from various demographics for different purposes at different levels of technology. Blalock also touched upon the importance of exterior spaces to staff and patrons alike and the value of giving libraries a civic presence that renders them community icons, something he said “has nothing to do with size and everything to do with the quality of the space,” making visiting the library a memorable experience.

Lesneski emphasized the need to design for health and wellness for both staff and the public, whether that’s via sit-to-stand desks, fun stairs that encourage users who can to take them instead of the elevator, or pressuring vendors to choose healthy materials. Even the Internet of Things can come into play here, she said, such as chairs that tell patrons how long they’ve been sitting. Continuing the theme to a larger scale, she urged design that is not just sustainable but actually helps restore the environment, such as green roofs and wind turbines. Beyond health concerns, Lesneski spurred attendees to “be singular. Be special. Create a fluid experience for users—eat, drink, play, learn.” As an example, she cited the city of Missoula MT, where hopes are to bring the children’s museum, science museum, and public access TV under the same roof as the library.

(l.-r.) During the breakout challenges, Blalock evaluated possible solutions for Montana’s ImagineIF Libraries’ new building, while Erin Meneely (pointing) from Washington’s Mid-Columbia Libraries discussed renovation plans with OPN’s Bradd Brown  (r.). Photos by Kevin Henegan

(l.-r.) During the breakout challenges, Blalock evaluated possible solutions for Montana’s ImagineIF Libraries’ new building, while Erin Meneely (pointing) from Washington’s Mid-Columbia Libraries discussed renovation plans with OPN’s Bradd Brown(r.). Photos by Kevin Henegan

Among former trends that have become the new normal panelists cited interactivity, self-checkout, mobile and smaller circulation desks, sustainable design, and community buy-in. None of these have lessened in importance, they said; rather, they’re now taken for granted. As for next steps to watch that are still too new to be a trend are satellite branches, which were raised by more than one panelist, whether in affordable housing, at airports, or on the ground floor of public/private partnership developments. Beyond literally branching out, Sorg cited services directed at groups with specific needs, such as patrons on the autism spectrum, and Humphries floated a tighter digital/physical tie-in with library marketing and materials, saying, “How about a QR code? Download a book and the last page is how to get to the library.”

Sweating the small stuff

After the hands-on practice of the challenge sessions (see p. 14–15) and a lunch outing to Bozeman PL’s predecessor facility, now repurposed as the city hall, attendees left the big picture and got down to brass tacks. Architects addressed the nitty-gritty details that can make or break a project on a panel covering budgeting and controlling costs, working with an architect, and what architects wish libraries would ask. Blalock, Davis, and Humphries returned, joined by Bradd Brown, principal, OPN Architects, and Jack Poling, principal, MSR. Jo Guidice, director of the Dallas Public Library, moderated.

Poling and Brown concurred that a clear vision for what the library wants from the project, the community’s aspirations, and what resources are available on the part of the library leadership is key to success: some aspire to maximize size and others the quality of the customer experience. “Oftentimes it is not the most expensive library that is the most beautiful,” said Brown, “it is the one with the strongest big idea.”

Davis and Blalock homed in on the collaboration between architect and library (and sometimes contractor), and Humphries emphasized communication, which can particularly be a barrier when each uses their non­overlapping professional terminology.

Clockwise from top l.: OPN’s Bradd Brown broke down the nuts and bolts of what it really costs to build or renovate a library during the Insider’s Guide to Budgeting panel; rounding out the day were the new Speed Sessions/Think Tanks, at which attendees essentially played musical chairs as they moved around the room for personalized face time with sponsors including MSR, Humphries Poli, and Anode. Photos by Kevin Henegan

Clockwise from top l.: OPN’s Bradd Brown broke down the nuts and bolts of what it really costs to build or renovate a library during the Insider’s Guide to Budgeting panel; rounding out the day were the new Speed Sessions/Think Tanks, at which attendees essentially played musical chairs as they moved around the room for personalized face time with sponsors including MSR, Humphries Poli, and Anode. Photos by Kevin Henegan

When it comes to cost, Brown advised not fixating on—and definitely not publishing—the initial number, since changing parameters can alter it and the media and public are likely to view all revisions in light of the initial estimate. For those who have to cut costs, Humphries advised controlling square feet, and Blalock said projects can usually save five to 20 percent without compromising functionality and still look intentional by changing interior finishes. Davis added that bringing the contractor onto the job early can help dig into costs. Davis advised not “forc[ing] an architect and a contractor together; let them choose. Even better, see if they have worked together before—and check those references!”

Rounding out the day, attendees were given an opportunity to probe further into the specifics of their own dilemmas at the Speed Sessions/Think Tank. A first for the DI, it offered a chance to interact in small groups with architects and product vendors from Anode, Architectural Nexus, Blalock and Partners, DEMCO Interiors, Humphries Poli Architects, MSR, OPN Architects, and Tech Logic. Attending library leaders were encouraged to bring their own plans, site maps, and photos, and the rising hum in the room spoke to high excitement at the prospect of taking home new perspectives and innovative solutions to their unique needs.


Design Challenges


Fort Vancouver Regional Library WA
ARCHITECT: Humphries Poli Architects

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THE CHALLENGE The Fort Vancouver Regional Library is gearing up to replace its current 2,000 square foot facility with a new building and is considering three potential sites. The first, a block off Main Street, is the preferred location. Another is on Main Street, but parking is uncertain. The third is part of a larger multiuse building project on Main Street; the library would own the ground floor.

The library hopes to construct a single-story, 12,000–14,000 square foot space to accommodate community and meeting rooms, areas for all age groups, comfortable zones for seating and work, and, if possible, a drive-up book return.

The overall vision is a library for the City of Washougal that will serve the current and future needs of the community, anticipating population growth as well as changes in technology.

THE BRAINSTORM The area is growing quickly, with many commuters to nearby Portland, OR. The feel is at once “fresh, exciting, and high tech” and “homey and warm,” library staff shared, and most residents are married with kids or seniors. To break the ice, architect Dennis Humphries (above, l.) and his team had each table of attendees play “go fish” with custom cards that detailed aspects of the neighborhood. After that, “role storming” led to each group adopting the persona of a celebrity and using that as a lens, ranging from Lewis and Clark to Russell Wilson to Walt Disney. Finally, groups used different kinds of candy to allocate space in the prospective locations to a variety of needed library services.—Meredith Schwartz


ImagineIF Libraries Kalispell, MT
ARCHITECT: Blalock & Partners

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THE CHALLENGE The team from ImagineIF arrived with a high level goal—to brainstorm the best use of a site for a 50,000-plus square foot headquarters library for this system serving Flathead County, MT. Director Kim Crowley (above, ctr.) described a distinct state of readiness, with six years of organizational transition behind them and a facilities master plan in hand that calls for, yes, more space—about twice as much as is currently in operation. Among the projects envisioned, with a site selected but funding not yet in place, is a new central facility to help anchor a developing city core area. The site, along a railroad track reclaimed for biking and a walking trail, offers many possible directions in its L-shaped configuration.

THE BRAINSTORM Noting the value of a library as a catalyst for renewal of an area, Kevin Blalock (above, r.), of Blalock & Partners, oriented the group to the site and divided participants into three groups to get hands-on with blow-up images of the site as it is now and tools to overlay mock-ups of the building footprint and key service points. Digging right in, the teams focused on ways to connect indoor and outdoor spaces (a barn door was suggested); orient away from the street and toward the green space and possibly a community garden; and incorporate a mezzanine level to take in potential mountain views—with a rooftop garden, which, Crowley noted, “would be awesome.” Blalock closed by noting that Crowley is in the enviable position of having more lot than she needs and pointed to the vast potential of partnering to make the most of it to complement county and city needs.—Rebecca T. Miller


Lewis & Clark Library Helena MT
ARCHITECT: MSR

 ljx1610902lbddichallenge4b

THE CHALLENGE The Lewis & Clark Library recently reviewed and updated its 2012 strategic plan, resulting in new staff work flow, combining and cross-training positions. Now the library needs a functional building to accommodate those changes, making for better, more accessible service to its customers. One big challenge is that when people enter, instead of being greeted by friendly staff, they are met with a “fortress” of an information desk. Additionally, the 1976-era “open area library” creates other problems: the mezzanine is noisy with no natural places to gather; there is no security to speak of—patrons can and do accidentally walk into staff areas, which are cubicle-like and cramped for circulation/book cart needs; all power and data come from structural columns that no longer adequately serve technology needs; and the children’s room entrance needs updating.

THE BRAINSTORM Jack Poling and Traci Lesneski of MSR stated the goal: to brainstorm ways to reconfigure space for new combined desks and services and to update the library’s look and feel. Participants rotated among three stations, using building blocks to consider how the library could be laid out, testing different ideas using modules for the interior format, and thinking about how to implement the new service model. First, Poling and Lesneski suggested taking a step back—don’t just think about “the desk” but “what is the character of the library?” It has a very “Montana feel,” with nice light, but staff find it hard to designate space with no walls. It is set up to move people along, losing teaching opportunities. One solution could be the bookstore model of specialty pods, departments, or “distributed points of service,” coupled with sit-to-stand public service desks, allowing for greater flexibility when working with customers. The breakout groups also asked tough questions:

If you move the big desk, what is the end goal? What is the vision?

Be careful when trying to fix one thing—sometimes it’s too hard without tackling the bigger picture, so designers need to think broadly. “Why do we want a desk (or do we)?” Participants suggested that a desk is more welcoming but could reduce staff function. Takeaways included make a case for need, hire people to guide you through the process, and have fun!—Paula K. Beswick


Mid-Columbia Libraries Kennewick, WA
ARCHITECT: OPN Architects

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THE CHALLENGE Mid-Columbia Libraries (MCL) faces a daunting task: remodeling its largest branch, Kennewick, a 33,000 square foot facility. Though the tech center is relatively new, the rest of the library is nearly 20 years old and not conducive to browsing, collaborative work, people needing to power their own devices, and other features patrons routinely expect today. Despite having lots of space, the library is not user-friendly. MCL executive director Kyle Cox (below) and his team want to change that. Among the issues to be addressed are the oddly shaped triangular lobby with massive columns that cuts down on usable space, a concrete river pathway that doesn’t contribute to wayfinding but does add to the already untenable noise in the library, a “monstrous” information desk, and poor lighting.

THE BRAINSTORM Deftly drawing alternatives on a huge sketch pad, OPN’s Bradd Brown (bottom photo, l.) suggested creating a more open building by moving the entry closer to the front, eliminating the huge info desk and wasted lobby space, and using the current river pathway (sans concrete to ameliorate noise) as a guideline for a walking path through the collection and the areas beyond. While the library has a robust digital collection, Cox doesn’t want to reduce Kennewick’s print collection, since the other branches are much smaller. Other ideas included more varied seating environments like a laptop bar; adult fiction and children’s room enclosed in glass to enhance openness and give visual cues; a café, commons, staff picks, and self-check in the lobby; and outdoor programming. The group debated where to put the children’s and meeting rooms and whether to keep the tech center near the front, or move it to the back of the building; Cox preferred the latter, which “reinforces [all the] materials” the library has to offer. Whatever the outcome, the goal is to create a more open library experience. “We want a place where people want to be,” said Cox.—Francine Fialkoff


Spokane Public Library WA
ARCHITECT: Architectural Nexus

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THE CHALLENGE The Spokane Public Library (SPL) has not seen any modernization since it was built nearly 25 years ago. The building has three floors, one of which encompasses mainly underused staff space and back of house functions. The structure has great potential, and the city is in the midst of a revitalization that could include SPL. The library hopes to reach its full potential and become a dynamic 21st-century destination with a sustainable service model.

THE BRAINSTORM Jeff Davis from Architectural Nexus (above, ctr.; below, ctr.) organized the attendees into three groups, each tackling one floor of the library. Each drew out ideas on tracing paper on top of the original designs and talked through ways to maximize the potential of the space and its location, bearing in mind budget constraints. After a brief brainstorm, the participant groups presented their ideas to the full body, followed by discussion. Jason Johnson (below, r.), downtown branch manager, who attended along with Executive Director Andrew Chanse (below, l.), shared context about the building’s history and how the neighborhood is trending. Ultimately, the consensus was that staff space needed to decrease exponentially; public space needed to be much more open and flexible; and shifting the orientation to the current back of the facility would increase visibility and invite new users. Specific suggestions included the addition of a coffee shop or collaboration space, media studios, and a computer express area on the first floor; a grand staircase to connect the first and second floors and a single point of service on the second floor; a double-height loft effect near the windows on the third floor by opening up to the second floor and adding a laptop bar with a view, glassed-in labs to control noise, open seating in the center, and exposed pipes in the ceiling.—Jo Guidice

Challenge photos by Kevin Henegan

The Sponsors

Special thanks to our sponsors for their generous support of and participation in LJ’s Design Institute

ARCHITECTS

Architectural Nexus
Jeff Davis, Principal
jdavis@archnexus.com; 916-443-5911
www.archnexus.com

Blalock and Partners
Kevin Blalock, Principal
kevinb@blalockandpartners.com; 801-532-4940
www.blalockandpartners.com

Humphries Poli Architects
Dennis Humphries, Principal
dhumphries@hparch.com; 303-607-0040
www.hparch.com

MSR
Traci Lesneski, Principal
traci@msrdesign.com; 612-359-3238
www.msrdesign.com

OPN Architects
Carly Weber, Marketing Director
cweber@opnarchitects.com; 319-363-6018
www.opnarchitects.com

VENDORS

Anode
Jeff Peden, Director of Sales & Marketing
jpeden@anode.com; 615-742-1490
www.anode.com

DEMCO Interiors
Donna Longo, Director of Customer Marketing
donnal@demco.com; 608-245-5300
www.demco.com

Tech Logic
Paul Ridgeway, Director of Marketing
pridgeway@tech-logic.com; 612-237-7991
www.tech-logic.com

PARTNER

Bozeman Public Library
Susan Gregory, Director
sgregory@bozeman.net; 406-582-2401
bozemanlibrary.org

This article was published in Library Journal's September 15, 2016 issue. Subscribe today and save up to 35% off the regular subscription rate.

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What is Design Thinking?
From space planning, redesigning services and staffing, to developing more user-centric approaches, design thinking can help you problem-solve through ingenuity and creativity, and better understand and serve your patrons. Our introductory online workshop, Demystifying Design Thinking is designed for library professionals who want to take a fresh approach to tackling their library’s challenges through human-centered design.