Take a peek inside soon-to-open expanded Lawrence Public Library

Terra cotta siding and large corner windows provide a dramatic new look to the Lawrence Public Library.

From the prominently displayed 55-inch flat screen TVs with video-game consoles to the drums and electric guitar in the basement recording studio, Lawrence’s new library is going to have a new feel.

Don’t worry, it also will have books.

Key dates

The library will close its temporary location at Seventh and New Hampshire streets on July 9 to begin the process of moving to its permanent location at Seventh and Vermont streets.

The library will reopen on Vermont Street on July 26. The library is in the process of planning for a grand opening celebration to be held that day, including closing a portion of Vermont Street in front of the library to accommodate a street party event.

On June 26, about 600 library patrons will get a sneak peek at the library as part of a fundraiser that is planned for the evening. Plans call for a portion of Vermont Street to be closed to accommodate a “Sneak Peek Party.” Library director Brad Allen said the library sent out notification of the event to 1,300 library donors. Allen said the 600 available spaces for the event sold out quickly.

Soon enough, you’ll all get to see it for yourselves. The expanded Lawrence Public Library is scheduled to reopen in its renovated home at Seventh and Vermont streets on July 26.

“We can’t wait,” said Library director Brad Allen during a tour of the facility. “This is a gift the town gave itself. I really mean that. It will be a great space.”

Here’s a look at some of what you’ll find inside:

• Visible through the windows facing the Vermont Street sidewalk will be an expanded “Teen Zone.” It will feature three large, flat-screen televisions that can be used for video games and other activities. More than a dozen computers dedicated to teen use also will be in the department, in addition to youth-oriented books, a craft table and dedicated areas carved out for homework.

The youth area will be visible to almost anyone walking or driving by the library on Vermont Street. That was by design, said Sean Zaudke, the project architect with Lawrence-based Gould Evans.

“Imagine seeing that image of a library from the sidewalk,” Zaudke said. “It is going to be cool.”

• In the basement will be a recording studio, video editing bays and a room with special lighting to do small-scale video work.

“We think Lawrence being the type of town that it is, will be very excited about this,” Allen said.

The area will include three editing bays with high-powered Macintosh computers equipped with audio and video software. The area also will feature a separate control room that looks onto a soundproof room that can be used to record anything from an oral family history to a music album. Another room will be equipped to better handle video projects.

As part of the program, Allen said the library likely will have an electric guitar, a drum set and some amplifiers so that bands don’t have to bring all their instruments to the library in order to record.

Allen said he advocated for the recording space in the library because he believes a core function of a library is to help people unlock their creativity. He said many libraries are adopting that philosophy by having 3-D printers and other pieces of unique technology.

“But I don’t know of another library in the country that will have a recording studio to this level,” Allen said.

• The “Fiction Loop” will provide an all new feel for the library’s fiction collection. The area features more than 100 linear feet of ash bookcases built into the wall, much like you would find in the library of a private home. The bookcases will be much nearer eye level than the traditional library “stacks.” Seating areas will be interspersed throughout the fiction area. Allen said the design is meant to make the collection more accessible to patrons and to promote the “serendipity” that occurs when readers can easily browse through a collection.

• Patrons will be greeted by a coffee counter and bakery case that will be near the main entrance of the building, which is off Vermont Street. The coffee bar will overlook the plaza area between the library and the parking garage. In the winter, the coffee bar will overlook a temporary ice skating rink that is slated for the plaza area.

• The entire lobby will be lined with planks of tongue-and-groove ash paneling. Off the lobby will be an auditorium that can seat 160 people, up from the 90-seat auditorium in the old space. The auditorium also has been designed so large doors can be opened to allow seating to flow into the lobby, if needed for larger events. A grand piano donated to the library by a patron also will be stored in the auditorium.

• The children’s area will be about twice as large as at its old location. In addition to a large collection of children’s books, the area will include small rooms where a parent and child can go for some quiet reading. On the more visual side, there will be multiple “cubby boxes,” large playhouselike objects with bright colors and “liquid resistant flooring” that are designed for toddlers to crawl around and explore. The area also will feature its own “Readers Theater,” which will be used for story time and other such events. The children’s area, much like the Teen Zone, will be pretty visible from the exterior of the building. Large portions of the children zone are visible from the windows that overlook the corner of Seventh and Vermont streets.

• The lower level of the library will have much more natural light than it once did. Builders have cut a 20-by-40 foot opening that looks down into the lower level. Hanging from the ceiling above the opening will be a commissioned piece of multicolored glass artwork. The entire building will feature natural light. Zaudke said the building will have about 50, 18-inch skylights.

• The lower level also will house an expanded computer lab, plus three meeting rooms that can each house about 25 people. The rooms will be wired for high-tech presentations and will include approximately 80-inch flat-screen monitors. The main floor of the library also will have several mini-meeting rooms. The main floor will have glassed-cubed spaces that can accommodate about four people each. These rooms will have approximately 40-inch flat-screen monitors that people can hook up to their laptops or other devices.

• Two large open seating areas for reading will be located on the main floor, next to the large banks of windows that overlook adjacent Watson Park and Old West Lawrence. The reading areas are near the fiction and nonfiction areas.

“I think we all should be proud of what the library is going to be,” Allen said. “We’re excited about so many things, but we really think we’ll be able to do a lot more value-added stuff that we just haven’t been able to do in the past.”