December 29, 2009
Inspired by the form of a tree leaf, the architects presented the schematic design for a new 16,000-square-foot library set in Beth Schmidt Park to the Elon, North Carolina community at a Town Hall meeting on November 30.
In today’s American economy, trips to the shopping mall are way down, but trips to the local library are way up. The public library has become the new lifestyle destination of choice – and it’s free. Public libraries are able to offer the combined experiences and products of a Barnes & Noble, Starbucks, Apple Store, and much more for less money. Patrons discover that the library is not just a place to check out books, but a place to check out what is happening in their community and in the world. Today’s libraries are club houses for the whole family, a department store for learning, and a private retreat. They are places to meet friends and neighbors.
Elon’s plans for a public library will offer all of this with the added attraction of a park setting. The library is within an extension of Beth Schmidt Park, the town’s recreational living room that features a playground, a frisbee golf course, nature trails, and a Japanese garden. The library will enhance and complement the activities of the park. Parents will have a short walk from the playground to story time.
The design of the library takes its cues from the nearby forest and open field site. “The giant leaf-shaped roof helps the library to both blend in and stand out,” says Henry Myerberg of HMA2 architects, the library’s design architect. “Like a park within a park, the library rests on a garden terrace that fronts an open lawn, as a designated town green.”
Inside, the library feels like an open-air pavilion with flexible spaces for group meetings, quiet study, working on-line, browsing books, and enjoying the view. The center of the library is a user-friendly technology hub for computers, printers and projectors. Public lounge chairs face a fireplace and overlook the green outside. A café and children’s area extend onto a back terrace with a mini amphitheater for storytelling and performances. A meeting room has seating for 100. Yes, there are still plenty of books, “but some spaces for books will eventually become spaces for people as growing parts of the collections become commonly accessed on digital readers,” explains Myerberg.
This trend toward digital media continues to prompt changes in the way libraries relate to the communities they serve. The architects of Elon’s public library are sensitive to this continuing evolution. Working with HMA2 architects, North Carolina-based Jenkins•Peer Architects is providing local project management. Principal Benjamin Benson describes the team’s approach as “a thoughtful balance between design that meets today’s needs and flexible space that easily adapts to the library’s changing needs.”
About Collaborating Architects HMA2 and Jenkins•Peer
The collaborating architects for the project are HMA2 architects and Jenkins•Peer Architects. HMA2 is a New York based architectural firm that specializes in the planning and design of public, school and academic libraries throughout America and parts of Asia. Founding Principal Henry Myerberg is directing the design of the Elon Public Library. Jenkins•Peer is a Charlotte, NC architectural firm with extensive experience in commercial, institutional, and library projects throughout the Carolinas. The firm has completed several projects for Elon University, including the McMichael Science Center. Principal Benjamin Benson is directing the management and execution of this project. Visit www.hma2.com and www.jenkinspeer.com for additional information.