Performance Driven, Poetically Crafted Architecture

Sheehan Nagle Hartray Architects Unveils New St. Charles Public Library

July 15, 2021

CHICAGO — For Chicago-based Sheehan Nagle Hartray Architects (SNHA), the beginning of 2020 marked the onset of a multimillion-dollar project involving the renovation and expansion of the St. Charles Public Library (SCPL), which originated with a 1906 Carnegie Library. The project, which will be unveiled on July 17, 2021, features a progressive design approach that advances public library design and prioritizes wellness, a general design trend that has accelerated as a result of the pandemic.

The complex project unifies the original library building and two past additions and reintegrates the original Carnegie Library into daily library activities. The building’s 66,500-square-feet includes a modest addition.

Updates to the design approach involved extensive redesign of mechanical systems to enhance ventilation and indoor air quality. The new system will increase the outdoor air intake by 250% over the previous system in the library. New staff spaces and service desks can be easily adapted to social distancing requirements.

“Our team completely reimagined the St. Charles Public Library. Through changes like relocating the Library’s entry, creating an outdoor courtyard off of the underground Children’s area and transforming an existing two-story space into a grand reading room, we were able to completely renew an important but tired community resource. Working closely with the library team over the past year, we subtly adapted our design to the evolving challenges of the pandemic,” said Don McKay, AIA, principal at SNHA.

Concern for the wellness of visitors and staff extended to the selection of furnishings and finishes that people come in contact with throughout the day. All materials are easily cleanable, durable and maintainable.

SNHA’s design for the renovation and expansion project features:

  • new building entry, the location of which will integrate the original Carnegie Library into daily library activities.
  • new main stair and elevator that will improve accessibility by their location near the entry.
  • new public meeting space including a community meeting room located near the library entry, acoustically isolated individual and group study rooms, a Youth Library program room and a dedicated teen space.
  • A maker space to include 3D printing, laser cutting and etching, and an audio studio for podcast recording and music practice.
  • Additional public seating, much of which is concentrated in the new light-filled reading room.
  • A sunken courtyard that dramatically increases daylight into the Children’s area and adds a secure outdoor area for library programming.
  • Improved staff work areas designed with wellness in mind.
  • A completely re-planned site that increases parking, improves safety, adds a drive-up service window and creates landscaped site amenities.

“With an average of 1,000 people expected to visit the library every day, we needed to address the needs of a diverse range of people while keeping the ambience warm, natural and inviting. Sustainability and accessibility were essential to the design. On first glance, patrons can expect a major improvement to the technology areas, as well as upgraded reading areas that allow plenty of natural light and access to outdoor garden areas,” said Edith Craig, director, St. Charles Public Library.