by Lily del C. Berrios, AIA and LEED BD&C Principal, Sizemore Group
With more than four decades of experience working with libraries across the civic and higher education sectors, Sizemore Group’s leading team of architects, designers and planners have tracked evolving trends in library design.
Libraries are testing out different uses of their space to engage people and optimize the functionality of their buildings. What are the current trends that make it more attractive for people to come into libraries?
Here are some examples of how Sizemore Group is designing libraries to adapt to the evolving needs of library systems and institutions of higher education.
Mid-20th Century Architecture Revival
Many existing libraries were built in the 1950s and 60s. A current trend in library redevelopment is finding ways to honor the style and strengths of the original mid-century buildings while defining its new role in the 21st Century. Ten years ago, it may have been preferable for a building of that age to have been taken down. But today, architects are finding ways to repurpose mid-century buildings while adapting them to how libraries are used today.
For example, Sizemore Group was asked to design an addition for the KSU L.V. Johnson Library in the late 1980s that changed the original mid-century character of the building. At the time, that was desirable. But today, Sizemore Group is now circling back to restore some of the original attributes of the building’s design for the next phase of renovations. We are reactivating the original entrance by bringing it back to the early 1960s.
Studying in coffee shops is not a new trend. People enjoy working in comfortable, communal spaces with the smell of coffee in the air and ambient music in the background. But now, universities are figuring out how to bring that desirable experience into their campus libraries. Across the country, higher education institutions are adding coffee shops to their libraries to draw students and encourage them to use their facilities.
It’s no secret that students in higher education pull the occasional all-nighter to finish a paper or study for a test. In public libraries, freelancers and professionals may need a quiet place to complete a proposal or meet a deadline after offices close. A new trend in library design is that hours need to be expanded, but entire facilities don’t need to stay open through the night. To meet this challenge, architects are designing portions of a library that can remain open longer hours. Whether it’s a designated wing of a library or specific rooms connected to the building’s main entrance, architects can design a library to accommodate extended hours while preserving the safety of the rest of the building.
Fitting the Culture of a Community
Libraries and universities are exploring alternative uses for their facilities that enhance the community and celebrate the culture of a campus or city.
For example, the KSU Marietta campus has a unique culture, so the campus’ updated L.V. Johnson Library needed to accommodate the activities of their specific population. Previously Southern Polytechnic State University, the community is filled with technology experts and computer enthusiasts. To meet the interests of its population, university leaders considered rooms that encouraged teamwork, collaboration, and electronic entertainment like gaming and e-sports.
Alternatively, Wesleyan College, a private liberal arts college for women, had different ideas for their new library to meet the unique needs of their culture and community. Wesleyan was interested in the quality of the individual’s study experience, creating softer lounges and smaller rooms ideal for one-on-one instruction. They wanted the design to promote staff availability to the students. Students at Wesleyan preferred the comfort of studying in small groups versus larger group settings.
No matter the evolving trend, Sizemore Group has the experience and fresh design perspectives to meet the needs of civic and higher education clients as they pursue their dream libraries.