Intentional design creates space for community
by Carrie Steinweg
LANSING, Ill. (March 2018) – If it’s been a while since you’ve been inside the Lansing Public Library, you’ll notice distinct changes once you walk in the door. A major renovation project costing about $1 million was completed early last year. The interior has a new look—including innovative carpet installation on the upper level—and more resources are available to patrons.
Some highlights of the renovations include study rooms, a quiet room, a business/audio-visual area, and a stage area. “We were also able to give our teens a small room just for them with some gaming,” said Library Director Debbie Albrecht.
Planning and saving
Planning for the project began in 2015, and work was done with minimal disruption to the public—the building closed for only two days during construction. “The staff was fabulous at adapting to temporary spaces along the way,” said Albrecht. “The last piece of this project will be installed in the next few months—new signage for the entire building.”
All of the work was done without a need to increase taxes to fund it, said Albrecht. “The project cost about $1 million from funds we have been able to save over the last several years,” she said. “We are well aware of how much in taxes folks are asked to pay, and we try to be fiscally responsible with all our tax dollars. Our goal is to provide a great collection of materials, wonderful customer service, and dependable access to information for all ages in a warm, comfortable, patron-friendly building. We aim to fill all the needs of our community and pledge to adapt as needed.”
Designing and remodeling
Studio GC from Chicago worked with library staff to design the space. “Rick McCarthy and Darren Schretter (formerly of Dewberry Architects) worked with us when we remodeled the outside of the building,” said Albrecht. “We also used the services of Independent Construction Services, Inc. Norm and Dan Eallonardo have been indispensable for their assistance as owner’s reps and acting as project managers.”
Remodeling to the lower level included all new furniture, painting, and redesigning of the space. More seating areas were added, which Albrecht said disperses youths across a larger space and helps with noise. Work to the lower level was limited due to HVAC problems and a need for the system to be replaced in the near future. Albrecht is hoping that project can be tackled in the next three to five years.
The library building opened in 1976 and Albrecht was happy to be able to modernize it. “We added study rooms, and converted the board room to the Quiet Room and the old reference area to a large open space with easily moveable furniture to serve a multitude of uses—from study, reading, and group activities to full blown stage productions. We now have a proper space for concerts. We have even added some stage lighting,” she explained. “We brought all of the audio/visual materials onto the floor so patrons can browse our collection. We have all the laptops, hotspots, fax, scanner and copiers in one area with staff to assist you. We have added self-checkout stations for those who prefer to do it themselves.“
The absence of a large front desk is the first adjustment patrons will likely notice. “We downsized our desk areas to make them friendlier. We do not want desks to be a barrier to service,” said Albrecht. “We also were able to provide our staff with off desk work space where they can work on projects. So when staff is on the floor they are devoted to those in the building.”
Feedback has been very positive, according to Albrecht. She said the number one requested item in the past has been study rooms. There are now spaces enclosed in glass just off the center atrium with screens to allow for patrons to spread out or for groups to hold small meetings. These rooms are available by reservation to Lansing card holders.
Libraries have evolved from the days when patrons were expected to work in silence, but for those looking for that traditional quiet experience, they can utilize the “Quiet Room.” The space that was once used only for occasional board meetings and book discussions is now used daily by patrons.
The stage area is an improvement that was added in response to popular monthly concerts held at the library. The new stage area has portable furniture that can be moved to accommodate larger crowds and can also be used for community forums and other events with seating for about 150.
More changes planned
- This spring the front entry will be redone.
- Concrete repairs will be done as well as narrowing of the sidewalks.
- More plantings will be added toward the curb.
- Stairs will be removed and a ramp installed.
- Benches and lounge chairs will be added on the front grass areas.
- Lighting will be replaced in the front of the building.
- Stairs in the back parking lot will be repaired.
- The large planter boxes will be removed from the courtyard, and more seating will be added.