Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Library Construction: Notes from the Field & Designing for the Future

10:45-12:00 Library Construction: Notes From the Field & Designing for the Future

Carol Mahoney, Director of the Greenwich Library, Greenwich, CT began discussing her notes from the field. She encourages librarians to stay in the field. Do not depend on the ‘experts’ to do the job. The library building project from concept to completion depends on the librarians’ input. There needs to be a common ground for understanding needs of the library. Who understands the library better than the library staff. Carol stresses the importance of befriending the community. Make the Clerk of Works/Project Manager and other members of the community, such as the Fire Chief, your best friends.

Carol stresses the importance of creating a library building plan and considering important features in the plan.

Carol suggests that a director, and librarians, should learn how to read architectural plans. Consider elements such as acoustics in the library, ADA issues, bathrooms (how many and where should they be located). Building committees should be well informed and libraries should develop a good relationship with building inspectors. Other elements to consider include custodial closets, deliveries (do you want all deliveries rolling on the new carpet?), ergonomics, furnishings (can you move the tables and chairs with ease?). Have the landscaping as part of the project. Have a professional photographer take interior and exterior shots of the library before it gets ruined. The library should also start thinking about signage early and do not allow staff areas to be reduced as you will regret it later. Equipment closets should be on every floor with air vents in the door. Main computer rooms should be air-conditioned with very good ventilation. It is a great motivator to take staff and others on tours when the building is complete.

As Carol exclaims, “Make it work, right from the beginning!”

Leslie Morrissey, Library Director of Falmouth Public Library
Leslie completed construction of the Falmouth Public Library ten years after its inception. Leslie reminds the audience that the construction funding is the equivalent of a political campaign. Town meetings are important in beginning the funding process. Tours for Selectmen and Town Administration, attend precinct meetings, prepare attractive handouts, enlist positive speakers, and be prepared for questions. Leslie also encourages libraries to hit the ballot box through campaign committees, lawn signs, phone campaigns, local cable TV shows, presentations at community events and letters to the editor.

Ms. Morrissey cautions the audience not to go it alone. Have Friends and Trustees help with political campaigns. Have them help with organizing fund raising drives. Establish or employee the assistance of a Building Committee and the Town Administration, the latter for managing finances and the support of project publicity. Seek the input of the library staff and take them through the construction project periodically.

When the project is under way, hire a professional mover and remember that you have a project manager and architect to help with the process and assist in the library’s interests. Leslie showed some photos of the new library.

Check out some photos of FPL here: Falmouth Public Library, Photos

Architect J. Stewart Roberts of the newly named Johnson Roberts Associates
Pros and Cons of renovations and additions
Serving the community and saving a part of the community
Maintain the historic identity of the library/community

Renovations is not necessarily less expensive than building new
Renovations and additions may result in less efficient and larger plan than new construction—and possibly more costly
Newer buildings can be more difficult to renovate than older buildings
Difficult to provide barrier free access, HVAC systems may not be as efficient, hiding mechanical systems may not be as efficient.
There are, however, many cases of successful renovations and additions. The Springfield, MA 16 acres branch library is an example of a successful addition, merging a power plant feel with a Victorian home concept.
New projects provide an opportunity for better use of energy and green technologies. The cons of new construction include what to do with the old building.
Whether to renovate/add or build a new comes down to how efficient the library is in planning and considering its needs and options.

Charlie Van Voorhis, Principal, Durland Van Voorhis Architects
“Designing for the future, connecting to the past. How to connect to the past?”

Putting the past to work
Problems to solve:
Space constraints, modern mechanical systems, lighting and power distribution, accessibility improvements, future growth, generating political support, coping with technological change, managing costs.

Understand building organization, form/shape, proportion, circulation, and scale. Charlie invites us to understand what we are dealing with in order to make informed decisions about appropriate ways to proceed. By and large renovation is cheaper than a new building. With proper planning and consideration, the old and the new can be merged into a beautiful union. Sometimes older buildings have a great sense of space and can be great for reading rooms, but they might not work for staffing needs. Features such as a circulation desk can be merged with new renovation design to suggest and point to the new design while maintaining its historic identity.
When considering whether to construct a new building it should be decided how the use of space is employed in current and future plans. It is also possible to reuse features of the old library such as some fixtures or windows, or even furniture, when investing in the future while maintaining the identity of the past.

Charlie reiterates that utilizing the past while looking toward the future depends greatly on meshing the past with the old with what works for you and the library, engaging the community in identity but considering the needs of the building and the future.

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