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St. Louis Central Public Library: A Library Repurposing Showcase

When a library as famous and well visited as the St. Louis Central Library (St Louis, MO) undergoes a massive renovation, great care and consideration must go into the planning process. The iconic building was constructed in 1912 based on the Italian Renaissance style and was frequently visited by people from all over the world. But the historic majesty of the structure could not make up for the lack of modern amenities necessary for a library to thrive in the 21st century.

There were several challenges that needed to be addressed as the planning began. There was an absence of technology integration in the building, as well as a lack of communal spaces for patrons to use for study and collaboration. Areas that have become essential to a library’s success as a community resource, like computer labs, ten spaces and even meeting rooms, were missing from St. Louis Central.

stlouis_central_library_sideview

With so many challenges to overcome, the St. Louis Central Library integrated many different shelving solutions into their renovation project in order to open up space for repurposing and create a sleek, modern appearance in the historic building.

Static Spacesaver cantilever shelving was used throughout the public access areas of the library for easy browsing by patrons. Cantilever shelving is the most common system used in libraries, due to the on-site reconfigurability, but several custom features were also integrated into the final design of the various shelving units throughout the main library.

LED lighting was installed onto the Spacesaver cantilever-shelving units throughout many areas of the library, including the fine arts, science and technology and rare books rooms. This required a special base for the cantilever units onto which the vertical lighting fixtures could be affixed. These fixtures not only look like a part of the shelving (painted in the same finish) but are used to light the aisles, in lieu of adding any additional room lighting that might detract from the historic chandeliers and ornate ceilings. The LED lighting is also extremely energy efficient, and lower in cost to operate than traditional florescent bulbs.

inside_stlouis_central library

Custom glass end panels were used in the areas with LED lighting integrated into the shelving. The glass panels are subsequently illuminated – making the stacks look almost like works of art themselves, and create a design feature unique to the St. Louis Central Library.

Special red, acrylic end panels were used on the cantilever-shelving units in the showcase space on the main level of the library called “the center for the reader.”

Glass end panels were also installed on the cantilever shelving used in the media room. Because these cantilever shelves were designed with pullout drawers to store disks and other media like DVDs, no lighting was integrated.

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In the children’s area, cantilever shelving was outfitted with a custom base, wrapped in solid surface and then placed on heavy-duty casters so that the area is completely reconfigurable on the fly by the library staff.

The use of Spacesaver mechanical assist high-density mobile shelving enabled the library to consolidate the collection from their seven-tiered central system onto just three interior mezzanine-like floors, plus the basement level of the library. Not only does the new stack space meet fire and seismic codes, it is brighter and easier to navigate.

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The high-density mobile storage used throughout the library also helped open up existing spaces for new functions. There is now a teen room, which incorporates study areas, lounge seating, and even a small theater-like TV viewing area. The library also added a café, a book club meeting room, and a studio for movie, music and video game access.

Download the St. Louis Public Library Case Study here to learn more!

Download the St. Louis Public Library Project Lookbook here to see more areas of this beautiful library!