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Last week Sapp Design Associates’s  Library Design team was invited to St. Louis to participate in the Library Journal’s  “Design Institute”. This highly acclaimed library design event  brought together leading architectural firms in library design and over 100 library directors from across the country. The Design Institute’s focus was to address the challenges libraries face in reconfiguring their spaces to accommodate changing user needs such as ebooks and other digital resources expand and lifelong learning and literacy, which is ever more critical today.  Designers Jim Stufflebeam, Eric Street, and Lisa Drew-Alton from SDA were part of several panel discussions, as well as design workshops.

A key feature of the Design Institute allows for library directors to submit specific design challenges. These challenges are then narrowed down and paired with an architectural firm by the Library Journal. Each architectural team works collaboratively with their group through various interactive exercises to explore, solve, and present new ideas on the challenge given.

Our Design Challenge: Brentwood Public Library

SDA was partnered with Vicki Woods, Director of the Brentwood Public Library, which is part of the Municipal Library Consortium that serves portions of St. Louis County, Missouri.  Brentwood is a small, well used suburban library, nestled in the basement of the City Hall, which is a dilapidated 75-year old building that is partially vacant.  The building has several grade changes, but only three stories.  It has too many stacks and not enough collaboration space (meeting & study rooms), seating areas, and office / workroom space.  The library is trying to decide whether to renovate the existing structure or build a new facility.

The design challenge focused on the process of how to make this kind of decision.  SDA led discussions looking at the library’s requirements for space and programming, the needs of the community, demographics of the city and the patron’s.  The discussions then explored limitations of the existing building and site as well as various funding options that are available.  It also weighed the advantages and disadvantages of renovating verse building a new structure and how those decisions might affect the ability to provide 21st century destination library services.

At the end of the session, participants left with tools and ideas on how to make the necessary decisions that will engage their communities to better serve their library districts.