Flexible Design for the Small, Modern Library

As community libraries change to meet the evolving needs of their communities, the spaces that support their work need to evolve as well. That was the message of “Flexible Design for the Small, Modern Library,” a presentation to the Pennsylvania Library Association (PaLA) that GBBN’s Amanda Markovic and Jenny Worley, Director of the Baldwin Burrough Public Library (BBPL), recently delivered . Here are some highlights:

  • Flexible Design: Meeting all BBPL’s needs in a 5,000 SF community center was no easy task. BBPL needed a space that would not only accommodate its collections, computers, and tech, but it needed a variety of seating types and dedicated spaces for children and teens. By using a clean, simple material palette and movable bookshelves, we were able to delineate different zones while enabling library staff to easily reconfigure the space for larger programs (e.g., Trivia Fundraisers, Al Amazing Events, Moms’ Night Out, etc.).
  • Changing with the Community: Whether reconfigured to host an event or to allow for social distancing during a pandemic, flexible library design enables libraries to meet the changing needs of their communities, ensuring their success into the future.
  • Welcoming Spaces: Once a gymnasium, the main space at BBPL is one large volume with a high ceiling and exposed trusses. With minimal demolition, the design kept this volume intact to create an airy, light-filled space. Partial-height, movable shelving effectively defines different spaces within the larger space, allowing intimacy without confinement and enabling parents to keep an eye on their children without having to be right next to them.
  • Adaptive Reuse is Sustainable: Prior to the renovation, the brutalist community center was functional, but foreboding. Small interventions—bringing warmth to the exterior by highlighting the window openings with wood, for instance—create a more welcoming presence. With a large stock of existing, underused buildings like this, one of the best things we can do is reuse them.

Want to learn more? Watch Amanda and Jenny’s presentation here.

For more on our community library work, check out our case studies for Baldwin Burrough Public Library, Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh, East Liberty, or Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh, Knoxville. Or read Amanda’s insights, “Novel Strategies for a Novel Virus: Designing Resilient Libraries for a Pos-COVID World” or “Information Center or Community Center: The Next Generation of Libraries Must be Both.”