5 Design Challenges from NYC | Design Institute NYC 2022

At LJ’s 2022 Design Institute in New York City, held at the New York Public Library's Stavros Niarchos Foundation Library on June 9, five libraries in Pennsylvania, Oklahoma, Illinois, Connecticut, and New Jersey enlisted architects and attendees to brainstorm on upcoming library design challenges.

Bloomsburg Public Library, PA

ARCHITECT  l HMA2 Architects

THE CHALLENGE An amalgamation of a 1925 neoclassical building and 1996 addition, the 2,715 square foot Bloomsburg Public Library, PA, strives to do more with its existing footprint. The historic high-ceilinged space isn’t designed to serve its youth audiences. A castle element takes up much of the children’s area and cramps teen space into the adult section. Instead, the library envisions a colorful, inviting, and inclusive place of discovery for teens, tweens, and children. A recently repurposed room offers a “literacy through technology” classroom with gaming computers. How might this space be transformed to support young learners?

THE BRAINSTORM The upstairs, which originally comprised the entire library and is now the children’s library, still has elegant bones. But, says director Lydia Kegler (above, middle photo, r.), the space doesn’t work. The castle serves as the children’s librarian’s desk, which is too cramped, has bad sightlines, and entices kids to play where they shouldn’t. “It’s a big space, but...we don’t have enough space for collection for kids over 8–10, and where do I put my teens?” asked Kegler. The library board’s property committee spoke of other challenges: ducts and bookcases block windows, while a ramp to connect the new addition cuts up the space. Much space was devoted to a local historical society, moving out soon. HMA2 architects Henry Myerberg (above, r.) , principal and founder, and Christine Sheridan walked attendees through possibilities to achieve the library’s goals within the original footprint, since there is no room to expand. The key insight: use a raised floor to level the addition with the original building, eliminating the need for a ramp and creating more space and better traffic flow and sight lines. The raised floor can hold air conditioning to replace ducts. This will allow development of the needed teen space, while the former tenanted area can be turned into program and meeting rooms, allowing the library to offer space to other community organizations. A children’s program room with moveable walls or doors can make the space usable between programs.—Meredith Schwartz


Moore Public Library, OK

ARCHITECT  l HBM Architects

THE CHALLENGE The Moore Public Library serves a suburban community near Oklahoma City. Currently 33,000 square feet, the library wants to incorporate conference and more meeting spaces and a separate after-hours entrance. Expanding the library’s footprint by 20,000 square feet would enable these spaces to serve the in-person and virtual needs of small businesses, educators, and health care providers. Dedicated areas for STEAM learning and maker spaces would serve the youthful, growing population.

THE BRAINSTORM The library will be the newest addition to Moore’s Central Park, which also features an amphitheater, aquatic center, pavilion that hosts weekly farmers’ markets and other events, and recreation center. The library already has a presence in the park via a story walk and a soon-to-be-installed solar bench with charging stations and Wi-Fi. Branch Manager Phil Clark (above, l. photo, r. ) said the library wants the new branch to engage with the park and neighboring amenities through adjacent outdoor spaces and related programs, and to have meeting and event spaces that appeal to groups such as the Chamber of Commerce.

Peter Bolek and Abbie Probst from HBM Architects (above, middle photo, l.-c.) led the participants in a discussion of where the library should best be sited. The group initially proposed a site on a hill near the amphitheater, for visibility and views, but decided a location on the opposite side of the park near existing parking lots might be more practical. Library officials were unenthusiastic regarding attendees’ proposals for a café, noting that the library has had difficulty finding reliable food service vendors. Ideas that were well received included a children’s area with visibility to parents walking the park’s high-traffic paths—possibly including an enclosed exterior area—as well as an entry corridor separating off an area for after-hours events, with security gates to close off the rest of the branch.—Matt Enis


North Riverside Public Library, IL

ARCHITECT  l  StudioGC Architecture

THE CHALLENGE The North Riverside Public Library building draws inspiration from Frank Lloyd Wright. Unfortunately, the children’s area is in the basement, and there is very little flow to the 6,500 square foot space because of where offices and storerooms are placed. To better serve the needs of the community of 7,400 residents, including a growing population of Latinx families, the library would like to reconfigure that space to reduce access to adults unaccompanied by children and improve overall flow. Library Director Natalie Starosta (above, middle photo) also would like to make the space brighter, and bring more of the outside in.

THE BRAINSTORM Architects Richard McCarthy and Darren Schretter (above, r.) from StudioGC architecture+interiors discussed the challenges the space presented. By relocating the youth services office and storage areas, they created space that flowed better. By reducing the size of the story room, it was possible to eke out storage, a historical room, and a maker space. With space created by relocating a workroom and storage, the architects moved two small group study rooms into the spaces flanking the mechanical room. Combining the workroom and the youth services office allowed McCarthy and Schretter to create a Baby Garden, while unused outside space became a sunken garden. Adjacent to the opened-up outdoor area, a meeting and craft room adjoined the main children’s space, flanked by a preteen homework and small group room. A light well would help brighten the entire main area. Reconfiguring the stacks allows room for an area dedicated to young children and enhanced by manipulatives. The main area will be opened up and freshened with new furniture. The revamped space is more conducive to a variety of programs, including outdoors. Participants agreed that the reconfiguration was much more efficient and welcoming.—Jeanne Marie Ryan


Russell Library, Middletown, CT

ARCHITECT  l Tappé Architects

THE CHALLENGE The Russell Library in Middletown, CT, is a patchwork of several buildings, including an 1834 church, 1930 expansion, an annexation of a former bank in 1965, and another addition in 1972. Sightlines are poor, the flow and layout make wayfinding difficult, many spaces are not Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)–compliant, the mechanicals are all at their end of life, and some floors were not designed to withstand the weight of library books. The library aims to strengthen community, create a safe and welcoming destination, foster a thriving economic ecosystem, and promote a lifelong love of learning through a 60,000 square foot facility with a highly visible and accessible entrance, two floors for public service, ample daylight and open views, and outdoor space. Options include renovating, rebuilding on the existing site, or building on one of three nearby sites.

THE BRAINSTORM Architect Jeff Hoover (above, l. photo, r.)  handed out four aerial maps: the current library complex; the Riverfront, a 2.5-acre parking lot located next to City Hall with an underground entry to the riverfront; the Arcade, a 1.5-acre parking lot located in the heart of downtown, next to the police department and the courthouse; and Jackson Corrugated, a 9-acre former industrial site where future residential and commercial development is planned. Attendees were split into four groups and given stickers representing the square footage and design needs of the new library. Each group worked to envision and lay out potential libraries while balancing each site’s assets and limitations. While no clear winner among the alternate sites emerged, it was apparent that the current location was the least attractive option.—Kiera Parrott


Taylor Memorial Library, Hackettstown, NJ


THE CHALLENGE At the heart of Centenary University’s campus, the 4,000 square foot Taylor Memorial Library has not changed much since 1954. The infrastructure and building program need to be updated to serve 1,400 residential students, faculty, and staff. Library leaders seek a space that supports the mission of the library to “cultivate curiosity and creativity,” with spaces that reflect users’ changing needs, and much-needed updates to accessibility, as well as electrical, heating, and cooling systems. They also need better active learning and wellness spaces, plus room for partners.

THE BRAINSTORM Library Director Susan Van Alstyne (above, middle photo, r.) shared a brief history of the university and asked: How might the library connect with students who began their studies remotely owing to COVID? Architect Jim Kovach, associate principal, VMDO (avove r.), led participants through activities he used to gather information from Van Alstyne’s colleagues about how they’d like to see the library transformed. They first asked participants to share what they love about their library. Kovach shared “before” photos juxtaposed with current ones so participants could surface challenges by completing sentences starting with “I like…”, “I wish…”, and “I wonder…” Taylor Memorial Library staff liked the natural lighting, resources provided to students, and working with fellow staff members. They wished for a 24-hour study space, digital scholar lab, better lighting, and energy efficient windows. They wondered how to entice students to come back after a long separation. Kovach’s own wishlist included an elevator, more room for students, new flooring, a refreshed interior environment, replaced single pane windows, added outlets and charging solutions, and a digital humanities lab.

The presentation concluded with a floor plan and 3-D model addressing the staff’s vision. It includes moving stacks into the annex, turning the reading room and mezzanine into student work space, adding small group rooms to the lobby that are open 24 hours, rooftop gardens, a new wellness center, and a meditation garden.—Davis Erin Anderson

Photos by Kevin Henegan

For more on LJ’s Design Institute NYC, see the day’s overview at Learning Live.

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