Performance Driven, Poetically Crafted Architecture

How Libraries Are Becoming More Relevant Than Ever

October 10, 2018
by Don McKay

Our diverse and global portfolio has equipped us with an in-depth understanding of technological, cultural, and societal change. With this knowledge, we create architecture that supports and empowers libraries to continue to be epicenters for lifelong learning both today and in the future. Here’s how we think libraries are becoming more relevant than ever.

Empower Content Creation

There is a general cultural and educational shift away from content consumption towards content creation. Libraries can provide the resources and technology to empower both individuals and communities to join the growing “maker movement.”

User-generated content has the potential to fuel business growth, revitalize neighborhoods, increase awareness for important causes, and help further technological innovation.

At the new Fountaindale Public Library, a dedicated digital media production studio provides sound isolation recording booths and technology-rich collaborative meeting rooms. Video recording studios surround a computer lab featuring professional production software. Prosumer-grade musical instruments and microphones, video cameras, and studio lighting are available to anyone with a library card.

Support Individualized User-Experience

In a time of unprecedented personalization, there has been an increasing need for individualized user experiences. Library patrons have come to expect a range of environments for different types of individual and group activities. For example, varied, movable furnishings enable staff and end-users alike to adapt physical environments to rapidly changing needs at a moment’s notice.

This need for flexibility is also supported via technology, including wireless internet access, personal device charging stations, and even mobile apps that can provide assistance to patrons during their visit. Furthermore, as digital badging continues to grow and labor economies evolve, libraries have the opportunity to create spaces that support new types of lifelong learning for a highly diverse population.

Warren-Newport Township Library ©Mark Ballogg

Integrated Design Process

Libraries are increasingly challenged to obtain capital funding to address their evolving needs. This is exacerbated by space needs studies which do account for cost and funding capacity. Overcoming this requires an integrated programming-design process that includes the alignment of the project scope, design, budget, and finance options with a community’s ability to fund a project.

In this difficult referendum environment, a combination of state and local grants, private fundraising, and self-funding are increasingly part of the solution. The DeKalb Public Library employed all these approaches for a new addition and renovation. This required early alignment of the budget and design with the financial realities, assistance in pursuing multiple grants, presentations to local governmental bodies and financial institutions, the development of fundraising materials, and meetings with potential donors.

For libraries that choose to pursue referendums, such as the Fountaindale Public Library, developing community buy-in through a public design process is key. This requires a coordinated effort involving library supporters from the community at-large, the library board, and staff and the design team.

Other libraries, such as the Warren-Newport Public Library, take a self-funding approach, where the size of the project is driven by the library’s funding capabilities. We worked closely with the library to identify key service improvements that then drove the project scope, design, and budget.

DeKalb Public Library. ©Mark Ballogg