Revitalizing Public Libraries for Community Learning

By Haleigh Loughridge

We often talk about designing schools to be the centers of communities as a way to promote lifelong learning. But even when designed for community use, increased security measures and limited available hours can affect schools’ accessibility to the public.

The case for libraries

Libraries offer the resources, opportunities and accessibility needed to create a hub for community learning. But in an era where people can download a novel directly to their Kindles, or find the answer to virtually any question on their phones, libraries are refocusing their efforts to create a place for the public to gather, share and learn.

Recently, the Auglaize County Public Library in Wapakoneta, Ohio, funded a renovation project to overcome the physical challenges of a late 1960’s design. Though the library offered vibrant programs, the building was limited by the existing layout, inadequate lighting, too little space for meetings and a lack of separation for age-specific areas. Auglaize County Public Libraries partnered with Fanning Howey to create a new hub for community learning at their central branch.

The Auglaize County Public Library project reimagined dated, nonfunctional facilities to attract new patrons.

Bringing the space to life

To revitalize the library, our team knew first and foremost we needed to create an exciting, inspirational space where the community wanted to spend time. To draw people in, the design added exterior lettering, updated the building’s concrete awnings and created a street-side outdoor patio to make the building inviting from the street.

Once inside, bright colors, fresh carpeting and flexible furniture created an exciting new atmosphere. Large windows were added to two sides of the building to bring natural light into the space and offer views of downtown Wapakoneta. Accent lighting highlights different areas of the library and provides visual interest throughout.

Our team reimagined the interiors to create a fresh, exciting environment including a centralized media collection separating the children’s library from an adjacent space for teens.

Welcoming all ages

A goal of the project was to create specific destinations for adults, teens and children. The new children’s section features a space for storytime, an early literacy room for toddlers and a play wall where kids can climb, explore and discover nooks for reading. A variety of fun seating options encourages kids to choose where and how they spend their time to make for a memorable library experience.

The play wall is a favorite destination for children with cozy spots for individual reading.

Study spaces for teens, along with small and large group meeting rooms for adult patrons, are all complete with flexible seating to support a variety of activities. With the addition of these new spaces, the library can now offer multiple programs at the same time—something that wasn’t possible in the former space. The library can host a book club in the community café, a computer class in a large new conference room and a children’s program in the event room, all at the same time.

A highlight of the project was converting an attached bookmobile garage into a new community café area where adults can read, conduct small meetings and enjoy coffee with direct access to the new outdoor patio overlooking the historic Auglaize County Courthouse. An adjacent space was developed as a drive-thru book pick-up/drop-off window, which is particularly helpful serving senior citizens and busy families.

The café offers a comfortable and contemporary atmosphere for meetings, reading, chatting or enjoying a coffee.

Revitalizing public libraries as contemporary hubs for learning builds stronger communities, encourages lifelong learning and helps libraries turn a new page. The Central Library of Auglaize County Public District Library System is now a place where local groups, clubs and people of all ages gather to learn, share, connect and explore.

“The response from the community has been wonderful,” says Beth Steiner, Director of Auglaize County Public District Library System. “Attendance and foot traffic is definitely increasing. We’ve even had groups from outside of our county set up tours to see the new space!”