Public libraries are changing rapidly, from being “keepers of content” to “creators of content,” according to Denver architect Dennis Humphries, whose firm, Humphries Poli, has designed more than 60 libraries.
In a presentation at city hall Monday evening, Humphries showcased some of the unique features in modern libraries, and emphasized the importance of local contributions to library design. “We have done 64 libraries and none are alike. They are unique to their own community,” he said.
The presentation to the Chadron Library Board and public was the first of three from firms shortlisted for work on a renovation/expansion project at the Chadron Public Library. The Chadron Library Foundation and Library Board have been contemplating improvements to the 1912 Carnegie Library building for several years.
“We have been working for this moment for many years. This feels like a tipping point for us,” Library Board member Drew Petersen said in opening remarks Monday.
Humphries noted that the existing library building is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, but also pointed out some of the shortcomings of the structure, including the lack of handicapped access. His firm’s resume includes work on five Carnegie library buildings, as well as many conversions of other structures into libraries, Humphries said.
In designing a library buildilng, an important goal is to bring the community into the library, said Humphries, offering examples of introducing a signature street lamp into one library, and use of fireplaces as focal points for reading areas in several others.
The concept of libraries as ‘maker spaces’, where people create content and even objects, is an important trend as well, according to Humphries. Libraries now incorporate 3D printers, and space for activities such as sewing, putting together computers, sound recording, displaying art and musical performances, he said. “Now libraries are creators of content,” he said. “It (maker spaces) is what we see happening in libraries.”
A second presentation, by Geiger Architects of Rapid City, S.D., took place Tuesday evening. The third firm vying for the project, BVH of Lincoln, will present Thursday evening at 6 p.m. at City Hall.