March 22, 2018

The Six Space Challenges Librarians and Architects Tackled at Design Institute Denver | Library by Design, Fall 2012

Sheridan Public Library, Arapahoe Library District CO
Architect Humphries Poli Architects

THE CHALLENGE Sheridan Public Library must leave its decades-long home in the local high school and construct a new building nearby. This new facility needs more room for teens as well as resources for the large Spanish-speaking and elderly constituencies, and the mandate for a “green” facility must be reconciled with a budget set at much less per square foot than is normally allotted.

THE BRAINSTORM Dennis Humphries (standing) of Humphries Poli Architects split the group into three parts and each went to the drawing board, literally, using sharpies, string, and a variety of other props to visualize three aspects of the challenge: site selection, general layout, and designing the creative space. The site group balanced ecological concerns with aesthetics; mobility issues for the elderly, who need easy access from the parking lot; and safety concerns for the heavy after-school foot traffic across the high school parking lot, where the shortest path crosses school bus routes as well as cars. It recommended a long, rectangular building with a solar-ready roof for energy efficiency but cutting the corner to set the entrance diagonally facing the main intersection. The overall library group balanced the desire for flexible space and privacy for programs that might have a stigma, such as a bankruptcy workshop, and ultimately decided to make the creative space truly the centerpiece of a largely open plan, showcasing a 3-D printer and using pods to provide privacy and quiet for patrons.—Meredith Schwartz

Omaha Public Library
Architect MS&R Ltd.

THE CHALLENGE Omaha Public Library (OPL) is the beneficiary of a master plan that will tear down a 1960s-era shopping center and turn it into a mixed-use development with stores, restaurants, college apartments for nearby University of Nebraska students—only a mile away—and a library. “We’re starting fresh in a great part of the city,” said Mary Griffin (seated), senior manager of facilities at OPL.

THE BRAINSTORM Once again, as it did in many venues at the Design Institute, discussion centered on the role of a central library and what goes into a library today. For this particular library, the expectation that University of Nebraska students will be using it even more than the current downtown library—since parking on campus is a challenge—helps focus direction. Participants who had experienced redevelopment threw in some caveats, including negotiating a beneficial lease agreement to protect against huge rent hikes and other rights and responsibilities to avoid future conflict. MS&R’s Jack Poling (bottom right) warned against putting up a building that doesn’t have a civic presence. “You can’t have a building that gets lost,” he said. His firm unveiled a new urbanist approach: the design is a small town, and the library is the town center.—Francine Fialkoff

Pikes Peak Library District Colorado Springs
Architect Barker Rinker Seacat Architecture

THE CHALLENGE Program the public spaces for a “library of the future” in a 112,000 square foot repurposed call center. Do it in a way that responds to the needs of “clusters” of users developed with OrangeBoy, a consulting firm based in Portland, OR. The project goals, according to Pikes Peak executive director Paula Miller, are dynamic and ambitious. They are looking to be that “third place” in the community, where connections are made and innovation is supported (think maker space, coined as “c-cubed” here for creative computer commons). It also should be “Ez4u” (convenient), relevant, and happening, and “all in.” Inherent in the challenge is to build in flexibility, since the clusters will change over time. No worries!

THE BRAINSTORM Work in small teams around boards dedicated to each cluster, Bruce Flynn of Barker Rinker Seacat Architecture, charged the participants. “Avatar yourself into the types from what you know in your own library.” Use Post-its® and colored pens to identify characteristics, what they might need, and potential activities in the space. The group got to work and returned vast perspective for Pikes Peak to employ, for example, entrepreneurs were described as mobile executives who want coffee and food, access to tech for video conferencing and meetings, and a Kinko’s-like capacity. The “16 apps” (12- to 18-year-olds), reported participant Aspen Walker, do not want to be cooped up, and they want to alter their space. They will ask for adult support if they trust them and will use study rooms—but maybe not for study (think gaming!). Libraries need to support variety in types of family uses and draw them into all the library has to offer with marketing that finds them where they use the library. Also, meet Miller’s goal of being a discovery zone, with a variety of spaces that embrace the library as kitchen rather than grocery store, such as meeting spaces, an AV creation café, and an impromptu stage for performance. As participant Matt Hamilton put it, “Teens love open mics!”—Rebecca T. Miller

San Antonio Public Library
Architect HBM Architects

THE CHALLENGE How to transform a mid-1990s landmark central library—though not centrally located—into a draw for residents as well as a tourist destination without impacting its architectural integrity. Immediate impediments include a dark entry that leads to the main lobby with its 100′ main circulation desk; only 40 public access computers in total on two floors (soon to increase to 64); poor, or nonexistent, signage both inside and out; and elevator access only to the fourth and fifth floors. Beyond these, specific needs include creating a new teen services department, repurposing wasted space, and expanding the small business and jobs, media, and retail spaces. One plus: the second floor will become the library for a school of arts across the street, incorporating the library’s own arts collection, and the public will have access to both the expanded arts library and gallery space.

THE BRAINSTORM In what HBM’s Dan Meehan (bottom left) calls “accelerated architecture,” participants discussed linking with civic leaders to help build up the surrounding area and what would draw San Antonians. Suggestions include a restaurant with name chef, event space (lacking in the city), the art gallery, and a grab-and-go section for a 15-minute library experience. HBM’s solution incorporates many of these elements. Most important, it creates a new entry, bypassing the dark hall, and eliminates 90 percent of the circ desk, using the area instead to pull patrons along an interior Riverwalk (to match the tourist mecca in San Antonio) with popular materials, art, and café seating by the windows. Other features: an art studio, seminar rooms and individual spaces for the business center, and a fun, lively, colorful teen space with sound, video, and editing rooms.—Francine Fialkoff

Fish Creek Branch, Calgary Public Library Alta.
Architect Holzman Moss Bottino Architecture

THE CHALLENGE The 47,000 square foot, pyramid-style Fish Creek Branch opened in 1985 and now needs a new roof and a major interior refurbishment to support 21st-century service delivery and sustainable design. Among the problems Calgary hopes to solve are an unwelcoming exterior entrance and, inside, “You can’t tell it’s a library when you come in.” The library also needs to develop an intuitive layout and better sight lines and acoustics, particularly with an eye to allowing concurrent programming.

THE BRAINSTORM Holzman Moss Bottino’s Malcoln Holzman and Patty Chen divided the group into two teams, one to focus on the library as community gathering place and the other on transliteracy. Each was given a selection of cardboard disks representing key concepts (as well as blanks to be contributed by the participants) and asked to place them on a floor-by-floor cardboard layout, to be assembled into a full model of the library. Among the conclusions reached by the group: with Calgary’s 99 percent self-checkout rate at other branches, there is no longer a need to devote space on the ground floor to a large service desk. Instead, self-check areas can coexist with program space (which could remain open after higher floors are shut down for the night) and the children’s area, following the principle of flowing from noisy to quiet zones. Teens, however, were given the top of the pyramid on the grounds that they would best appreciate its quirky look and a space all their own, and a dedicated express elevator was added to prevent noise complaints. Special features include exterior heat lamps and bicycle parking, with children’s games placed on endcaps in the adult sections to keep them busy while adults browse, thus appealing to Calgary’s diversely aged population. A “reading spa” and community storyteller were also popular concepts, as was a multifloor cutout for art display—and a rope ladder.—Meredith Schwartz

Boulder Public Library CO
Architect Dewberry Architects

THE CHALLENGE Turn a $2.45 million bond package into a redesign that makes more effective use of the main branch’s first floor. Produce more functional, inviting, and flexible spaces for multiple age groups while addressing operational issues such as acoustics, security, navigability, and accessibility. Redistribute the children’s and teen spaces with the adult fiction and media collections; add a café near the entrance that can remain open after library hours; rethink design elements such as oversized, obstructive furniture; and replace worn-out basics like carpeting, signage, and lighting.

THE BRAINSTORM Dewberry’s Denelle Wrightson and Michael Mackey presented Wordle layouts for the teen space, children’s space, and overall library, asking participants to select those they felt were most important in approaching Boulder’s design challenges. Stickers piled up on words like interactive, inviting, technology, collaborative, seating, flexible, visibility, and cool. The architects showed examples of libraries employing unconventional ideas to solve similar challenges but also looked to other industries for creative solutions, such as checkout spaces in bookstores and charging stations in airports. Wrightson and Mackey suggested using technology and changing content to keep things fresh, such as installing video walls and a digital aquarium and getting patrons involved in the process.—Elizabeth J. Allee

The Latest Trends in Library Design
Hosted in partnership with Salt Lake County Library and The City Library—at SLCo’s Viridian Center—the newest installment of our library building and design event will let you dig deep with architects, librarians, and vendors to explore building, renovating, and retrofitting spaces to better engage your community.



    i wish it would be opened up to the public spaces in context