City Hall

City Hall

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.

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

June 16, 2014


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."


Raymond Muñoz 4 years ago

A recording studio in the library. Love it!

Beth Ennis 4 years ago

someone was thinking outside the box, I think it is a great idea to have a recording studio! I can't wait until it opens up to get back in there.

John Graham 4 years ago

Glad our tax dollars are being wasted on all the toys for the library. Our tax dollars will also be used to replace those toys when they get broken. It will be really nice when people spill coffee and baked goods all over the books, computers and other toys. Next the library will be demanding money to replace books and toys ruined by food and drink. Too bad the library can't be a library it has to be a playhouse filled with toys. Now Lawrence can brag about being the only town it's size to have such a library as well as the overblown rec center. The city commissioners appear to be more concerned about bragging rights than wise use of our tax dollars. Way to waste our tax dollars city commissioners! No one in favor of the library's toys, the rec center, or the ice rink have any right to complain about increased property or sales taxes that will be needed to pay for all this crap.

Erin Pfannenstiel 4 years ago

We've had a food shop in Watson and Anschutz Libraries up on campus for a couple of years now and I would not say we've seen a problem with people spilling items on the books or equipment.
I'm really excited about this amazing space. This town has only recently seemed to prioritize creating great indoor options for young families during the harsh cold and hot seasons. Our library has always done a great job creating engaging spaces and programs, but the old space didn't allow room for growth. I think this is a great investment in the young people of Lawrence; get them excited about books, recording, editing, etc.
(And yes, I own my home and my property taxes went up. I'm going to get my money's worth out out of this new space, though. So will my kiddo! (And, someday... her kiddo, too?))

Dorothy Hoyt-Reed 4 years ago

Or we could pay for the extra police when our bored youth form gangs instead. Life is expensive. I prefer paying for the "toys".

John Graham 4 years ago

Your "youth gangs" are not going to be hanging out at the library. Police will still be needed and they are already asking for more money for raises as well as more officers.

Dorothy Hoyt-Reed 4 years ago

We are talking preventative measures. Turn off your computer and take your kid to the library. Teach them how to take a bus to the library. Get them involved in our city sponsored sports and arts. That's what keeps gangs from forming in the first place. You can go live in Topeka where I don't think they pay as much in taxes, but your kids have even less to do there, but I hear there are plenty of gangs for them to join.

John Graham 4 years ago

Glad to know that city libraries will end youth gangs. Did you forget that the NY public library is considered one of the world's greatest public libraries yet there is still considerable youth gang violence in NYC. Seems like your theory has a hole in it.

John Graham 4 years ago

Parents being involved with their children's lives I am sure makes a difference in whether or not they wind up in a gang. But being involved in your child's life does not require guitars, drums, amps, video games, recording studios etc at the public library or for a $25M rec center, or an ice skating rink all paid for by tax payer dollars. With all the needs that we are told Lawrence has such as a new police station, investment in the water system, road repair, etc it would seem that the tax dollars available could have been better spent than on toys that at most a limited percent of citizens will ever use. Needs v wants. Lawrence has spent a lot of money on wants, now it is telling everyone that because of the needs that must be addressed our property taxes and sales tax are going to go up. Then the same people say that Lawrence needs to be made more attractive to bring in new residents. Higher taxes in a town already noted for being one of the most expensive towns to live in KS will not make it more attractive. While some may be intrigued by the fancy rec center and library, the majority are worried about the cost of living not if the library has a recording studio.

4 years ago

I bet you're fun at parties.

James Howlette 3 years, 12 months ago

Glad we voted for this. The rec center, not so much, but the library, yes. Did I mention that we voted for this?

Randall Uhrich 4 years ago

John Graham, I disagree. There's an abundance of things a lot worse to spend tax dollars on. Congratulations to the city of Lawrence for building a such an incredible state-of-the-art facility!

Kevin Elliott 4 years ago

John graham, you can say anything you want, but that does not change countless studies that show access to books, art, theater, music and culture...including libraries, decrease crime rates and dropout rates for youth.

But like i said, you are free to say untrue things all you want, but few will respect what you have to say. Most respect honesty and facts instead.

John Graham 4 years ago

Please provide your peer reviewed studies supporting your point. Since you have so many studies to choose from it should not be hard for you to do so. What have I said that is untrue?

John Graham 4 years ago

NY, Chicago, Boston all have access to art, theater, music, and culture as well as libraries but they still have high drop out rates. I bet small towns with no appreciable art, theater, music and culture have lower drop out rates. It has to do with parent involvement in their kids' lives not whether the kid can go see a play or a concert or an art museum or a library with guitars and video games. The city should be paying for the needs of the city to function before deciding if it can afford the want of shiny toys. The city now has bought the shiny toys but is saying it can't afford its needs. A family should put a roof over its head and food on the table before it buys fun but unnecessary things. The city doesn't seem to know that. The rec center, the library redo and the ice skating rink I am sure will all be nice and fun but they are wants that will be used by a minority of the citizens. They are not needs. Now we have to pay higher sales and property taxes to pay for the needs of the city that the majority if not all citizens will require in one form or another.

John Graham 4 years ago

Kevin, It is you that states libraries and the arts prevent children from joining street gangs. You state there are countless studies to prove this yet you when asked fail to produce a single study to support your statements. I never made any claim that I was referencing any study, I was stating my opinion. You are the one who claims to have facts to refute my opinions yet you are the one who fails to provide your claimed facts when asked to produce them. Calling me a liar without facts to back your claims makes your arguments null and void. It also makes you look quite pitiful. You are free to your opinions just as I am to mine. But to call me a liar, lacking in honesty, honor and integrity is simply an over the top personal attack.Your personal attacks are that of a desperate person. Get help for yourself.

James Howlette 3 years, 12 months ago

We voted for the library, John. Grouse all you want, but this is what the people of Lawrence wanted. We'll enjoy all the toys while you stay home and pout.

John Graham 3 years, 11 months ago

You are correct James that the majority of voters approved the library. Good for them. When the tax bills increase, which sales and property taxes are going to increase very soon, those that voted for the library should not complain. They chose toys at the cost of higher taxes. Those that voted for the library should be proud they are helping make Lawrence the most expensive town in KS to live. Nothing wrong with voting for toys but those that did should be consistent and thus embrace the higher taxes that comes with it. That is all I am saying. There will be plenty who voted for the library turn and complain about the higher taxes. Can't have it both ways.

James Howlette 3 years, 11 months ago

The voters have already been paying the library taxes, John. We've already seen the mil levy increase on that one. Damned straight it's more expensive to live in a college town. And not only is it the most expensive place to live in Kansas, it's the only place I'd want to live in Kansas. If you don't feel the same, there are plenty of bigger, cheaper houses elsewhere.

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