Few libraries were untouched by the economic downturn of the 2000s. As systems began to rebound, however, a challenge was to replace the perception that they were down and out with the new reality of extended hours, replenished staff, and improved services. The strongest marketers among them also focused on the stories behind those comebacks, and information about what users could expect going forward. The Charlotte Mecklenburg Library (CML), in the city of Charlotte and County of Mecklenburg, NC, was determined not just to recover but to come back stronger than ever, to make sure its customers knew it—and to give them a chance to tell their side of the story.
Through careful programming and design strategies to preserve the essence of the original building, the 2013 renovation of the Odegaard Undergraduate Library at the University of Washington (UW) in Seattle not only meets the demand for active learning environments on campus but further catalyses it. The renovation transformed the interior from dark, decentralized, and difficult to navigate to a light-filled hub of activity and stimulus for pedagogical change.
When the James B. Hunt Jr. Library at North Carolina State University (NCSU) in Raleigh opened in 2013, it aimed to define the research library of the 21st century. In its place on the Centennial campus, sitting at the edge of a grand oval green space, the library connects two sections of campus, improves walkability, and anchors student activity across the represented disciplines.
The renovation of the Charles E. Shain Library at Connecticut College in New London builds on a strong foundation of the past to nurture a new generation of students. Through judicious deselection, the use of compact shelving, and shifting and customizing the footprint of the stacks, the library was able to produce more study and collaborative spaces and keep the collection on-site. Thoughtful repurposing and creative reorganization epitomizes this project.
The updated James Branch Cabell Library at Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU), designed by Shepley Bulfinch, took inspiration from the original midcentury modern design and used it to transform the library into a campus jewel, embracing the school’s strengths in the arts. As one judge noted, the design was “executed with a very skillful hand.” Seeking to balance historic preservation with modern needs and heighten the library’s placement in a dense urban area, the firm reinterpreted many elements of the old building.
The 2016 New Landmark Libraries highlight academic libraries that are setting the standard for both new construction and renovations. These five winners and three honorable mentions inspire by illustrating the creativity, innovation, and imagination that can spring from even the most modest budget. The trends, ideas, and methods provide inspiration for other projects and efforts, large or small.
When the library at Grand Valley State University in Allendale, MI, was built in the late 1960s, the student population was 5,000. Today that number is closer to 25,000 and the university has embraced a collaborative culture that fosters innovation. The Mary Idema Pew Library Learning and Information Commons gives students control over their environment to a degree rarely seen.
While many libraries have come up with creative rewards for staff innovation, the Birmingham Public Library (BPL) Innovative Cool Awards do double duty. The monthly award, funded and run by BPL’s ten-member Board of Trustees, is an incentive for staff to develop—and promote—engaging new programs and workshops, and also a way to connect the board with staff.
Ten libraries and museums were presented with the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) 2016 National Medal for Museum and Library Service in a ceremony at the White House on June 1. First Lady Michelle Obama joined IMLS director Kathryn K. Matthew to honor institutions from across the country for outstanding service to their communities, including one academic and four public libraries: North Carolina State University Libraries, Raleigh; Brooklyn Public Library, NY; Madison Public Library, WI; Otis Library, Norwich, CT; and Santa Ana Public Library, CA.