April 19, 2018

Lawrence Public Library | New Landmark Libraries 2015 Winner


Wrapping up the Old

Lawrence Public Library | Kansas
ARCHITECT: Gould Evans


OPENED: 2014
COST: $13 million, plus $6 million for an adjoining parking garage and civic plaza/library lawn
GOAL: LEED Silver Certification

The Lawrence Public Library, KS, knows how to put a new twist on an old idea. Instead of tearing down or cobbling together an addition to its dark 1970s building, it encapsulated the entire existing structure inside a gleaming new one.

In turn, the inspirational space did the same thing for its patron services. The renovation preserved and even enhanced the library’s core focus on reading, wrapping it in appealing innovations that encompass a broader vision of literacy. Modern features such as a recording studio, performance auditorium, and teen gaming equipment happily coexist with colorful, welcoming shelves and ample space for quiet reading.

“This beautiful new public space embraces a changing reality,” writes Library Director Brad Allen, “yet undoubtedly will stand the test of time.”

As they considered options for expansion, its staff and community ran up against an interesting challenge: there was no obvious place to put an addition. Each side of the building faces a unique aspect of the community. Downtown sits directly to the east, with residential neighborhoods to the west. North leads to the post office, south to a park. By skipping the traditional added wing on a single side and instead enveloping the old building with the new construction, the new glass walls on all sides improve the facility’s connections to all its neighbors. They provide sunny vistas for patrons inside and entice passersby with glimpses of children reading, teens gaming, or friends sipping coffee in the café. Outside, the structure physically connects to its neighbors with a park, plaza, and amphitheater. These provide a perfect spot for community and library events, outdoor reading, or just walking through on the way downtown. There is even an ice rink during the holiday season.


The interior spaces also reflect this dedication to strong community connections. Traditional reference desks gave way to mobile service points that make staff more accessible. The automatic RFID sorter, instead of being hidden away in a staff-only service area, is on display. The new atrium features the work of a local glass artist.

The building also contributes to the community through its energy-efficient design, which reduced its overall energy consumption despite increasing its size, aiming for Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design (LEED) Silver ­certification.

Constructed with community input and designed to respond to local priorities, the transformed building faces its patrons at every opportunity. The creative and unique addition strikes the perfect balance between old and new patrons and priorities. “The space is beautiful and truly seems to have come about as a result of the needs of its users,” one judge noted. No wonder visits have jumped by 64 percent and new cards by 28 percent since its opening. “I’m probably going to come to the library a lot more now,” says 14-year-old patron Jalen Atkinson.—­Audrey Barbakoff

This article was published in Library Journal. Subscribe today and save up to 35% off the regular subscription rate.

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.