By Sadie Reecer
For more than two years, Noblesville’s Hamilton East Public Library has been looking at shifting toward the future, examining how the community uses libraries.
Now, the library has announced it will begin as early as this summer on a $5 million renovation to make the library work more efficiently for its users through modernizing, reorganizing and redesigning its spaces.
STARTING THE PROCESS
“In 2014, we did a pretty in-depth strategic planning process where we had our staff go out into the community to explore what was happening with great organizations, what we could see, what we could emulate, what we could do here to create a library that our aspirational communities deserve,” Library Director Edra Waterman said. “So that was kind of our focus. What does a library look like in that context? What kinds of things can we do over the next few years to move forward?”
Waterman said one of the things that came out of that process was a very clear indication that the library’s spaces were not ideal.
“We worked about a year and a half after the strategic planning process ended, and in the new strategic plan one of our goals is to create great indoor and outdoor spaces,” Waterman said. “We really want to create spaces and experiences for people in Noblesville, Fishers and Hamilton County that are aspirational and exceptional. We want to do that first by transforming our space.”
In pursuit of that, HEPL began working with a library consulting company, Kimberly Bolan & Associates, in Zionsville, that does space planning and design.
“They took our strategic plan documentation, took all that data, looked at our spaces and created a facility space plan. After we got that, we really thought, ‘OK, let’s do this,’” Waterman said. “We also worked with the (Hamilton) county council, who actually approves our budget. We have money in reserve that we’ve been saving to turn into services. We went to them and kind of laid all this out and said, ‘We did this planning. We have this document. We want to do all of these things. We have the money in savings. Is it OK if we spend it?’”
STARTING AT THE FRONT
One of the first things to change is near the entrance, where the large service desks are located to the right.
“When you walk into the building, it’s a little closed in and you go right into the stairs,” Waterman said. “People line up and use (the service desks), and that’s just now how people really use things anymore. You go to nearly any retail store, go to Apple, and someone usually comes up and says, ‘How can I help you?’ and that’s really what we want to transition to,” Waterman said. “So, one of the first things is we’re going to be pulling out these big service desks and replacing them with smaller, more mobile service points. We’re also going to get automated materials handling that will automate the check-in and sorting processes that will allow our staff to be out interacting with humans.”
The entire service-desk area will be reclaimed as public space, complete with a mural on the large, curved wall.
IN THE MIDDLE
At the center of the facility, the ceiling already opens up for guests to see the second floor, but the view is obstructed by drywall that cases the stairs and the perimeter of the floor above.
Waterman said to enhance the aesthetic and give the appearance of a larger space, the stairs will be reconfigured and flipped, and the drywall will be replaced by glass.
“We hope that will really open that up, and you’ll be able to see through the stairs all the way to the windows in the Rotary Meeting Room (at the back of the library),” she said.
With the opened space, a large part of the library’s materials will be moved to the central part of the library, rather than its current location near the back.
“Basically, we’re pulling everything forward and opening it up,” Waterman said. “We’re going to be opening up a lot more usable space. So we’ll have a lot of tables, seating and flexibility. The furniture that we’re bringing in is going to be on castors. With that, there’s so much flexibility on how people can configure the space. If they’re in a group, they can push tables together. If they’re by themselves, they can pull them apart.”
In the same area, HEPL will be keeping its study rooms because of their popularity. However, Waterman said with flexible furnishings, people also will be able to create “semi-private” areas to work.
“We’re also going to be adding a lot of power into the floor,” she said of new technology that will run under carpet tile for guests of the library to use for computer and phone cords. “People can have power where they need it instead of just finding the outlet somewhere and having to park there.”
AT THE BACK
The current “Teen Zone” will move from the lowest level upstairs to the first floor’s southeast side.
The Rotary Reading Room, best seen from the east when driving down Ind. 37, will also be repurposed to fit the building’s new style.
“The Rotary Reading Room will be deliberately designed for conducive co-working,” Waterman said. “We’ll have lots of different kinds of tables, lots of power, new seating. It’s such a beautiful space.”
A new, smaller service point also will be located in this area, along with the rearranging of shelving to improve its design.
“Another big thing that’s changing is, instead of having a separate computer lab, we’re going to be bringing those computers down (from the second floor) and scattering them out,” Waterman said. “
THE SECOND FLOOR
Currently, the Indiana Room is housed on the library’s second floor. However, Waterman said the area will in the future also be utilized as an expanded digital media lab.
The digital media lab opened in what was formerly a small study room in late 2015.
“When we bring up the teens from downstairs, the lower level will be all for kids,” Waterman said. “Some of the biggest changes will happen down there.”
For example, a new exterior entrance will be made at the back of the library to accommodate families with strollers and to allow for closer parking to an entrance into the building that leads directly to the area they’ll be visiting.
“One of the things you notice when you are down (there) is it’s small,” Waterman said. “When you think about the size of the library as a whole, it’s a very small space, and we do a lot down here.”
In addition to the new entrance, other new features of the space will include the creation of a large program room, new furniture and interactive educational points.
The lower level also will be zoned by age groups. The youngest children’s resources will be closest to the new entrance, and age-group areas will advance as visitors move toward the center of the library.
Artistic renderings of the changes will not be released to the public until National Library Week, April 9-15.
“They’ll be some really exciting things to see once we reveal the renderings,” Library Director Edra Waterman said. “It’s going to take us a year and a half to really finish, so we don’t want to get those out there too soon, but we want people to understand why they’re seeing some emptier shelves and shifting.”
- 2014 – Strategic plan completed
- 2015 – Kimberly Bolan & Associates study the library and develop a facility space plan
- 2016 – HEPL gets Hamilton County Council approval, funding is organized
- 2017 – Remodeling begins
- 2018 – Projects are completed