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Readers: Library Renovation A Good Investment

Last week readers indicated in the poll the millions spent renovating the Central Library was a good investment. The results are at the very end but I want to show you some areas where the library has changed. I was fortunate to tour the library with the AIA St. Louis last week, many photos below.

The library  reopens to the public on Sunday December 9, 2012 so you can see in person then.

ABOVE: Main facade of the Central Library by Cass Gilbert

First we need to understand how the central library was designed. From the sidewalk it appears to be a solid mass, but that is not the case.

ABOVE: Central Library undergoing renovation as viewed from the roof of the Park Pacific, May 2011
ABOVE: The grand hall is in the center with connections to all four outer sides/wings. The stacks wing on the north side was very a modern  contrast to the rest of the building in 1912.

So now you know how the building is organized around the grand hall, let’s head inside.

ABOVE: The lower level entry under the prominent south entrance is no longer open.
ABOVE: The north facade prior to renovation, the stacks aren’t visible through the frosted glass.
ABOVE: Now the stacks and atrium are visible to everyone.
ABOVE: Looking east we can see the new Locust Street entry to the library with the Shell Building in the background
ABOVE: Waller McGuire, director of the St. Louis Pubic Library, heads back to his office across 14th Street. A water feature divides the sidewalk from the entry.
ABOVE: Looking out from the new glass entry vestibule.
ABOVE: The atrium in the former stacks area is a very modern and welcoming area.
ABOVE: The glass wall behind the Locust St circulation desk was made from the old glass floors in the 7-story stacks area
ABOVE: An information board explains the changes to the central stacks area
ABOVE: One photo gives you a before glimpse of the stacks with the glass floor walkways. This area was never open to the general public.
ABOVE: Looking up we can see the stacks on upper levels
ABOVE: This space will now face a cafe, not all furniture had arrived yet
ABOVE: Adjacent to the cafe is a room for book club meetings
ABOVE: And self checkout is now an option
ABOVE: New public space was created in the once-dark basement level
ABOVE: This auditorium was created where the former coal storage room was located
ABOVE: The children’s area is in the same spot as before but new activity areas added and the old outside entrance is just an emergency exit
ABOVE: The Stedman Architectural Library is unchanged, it is still by appointment only.
ABOVE: The 3rd floor Carnegie Room is one of several meeting rooms in the library.
ABOVE: From the 3rd floor you can see the gap between the outer wings and grand hall (right)
ABOVE: The stacks remain in the stacks section of the building but by using movable shelves they occupy less space.
ABOiVE: The staff lounge has a great view of Lucas Park located across Locust St.

Still here? Below are the poll results:

Q: $70 Million To Renovate The Central Library A Good Investment?

  1. Yes 113 [73.38%]
  2. No 17 [11.04%]
  3. Maybe 13 [8.44%]
  4. Unsure/No Opinion 10 [6.49%]
  5. Other  “too much money but needed some renovation”: 1 [0.65%]

I was nervous about changing the library, the impact of so much money could’ve been a bad thing. In the end I think we’ve made a great investment for the next 100 years. St. Louisans in 2112 can decide what to do next.

— Steve Patterson

  • Looks beautiful.

  • RyleyinSTL

    Above the general face-lift/upkeep/restoration (which was greatly needed), the revision of the stacks and the return of the 3rd floor to pubic space, are the big stories. This is a project for which STL can truly be proud.

  • Terence D

    Very cool. Thanks, Steve.

  • Michael

    Can’t wait to see it. Yay water feature!

  • The state of the public library (and its usefulness) says just as much about civic attitudes toward education as the state of schools and universities. Money well worth it. I’m excited about the recent improvement of St. Louis Public Schools and this investment in education for all ages.

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