Renovating resources: Noblesville’s Hamilton East Public Library completes final upgrades, enhanced lower level

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After two years of work, renovations for a huge resource for Noblesville residents are complete.

Changes to the main floor of the Noblesville branch of Hamilton East Public Library, 1 Library Plaza, have happened slowly while reworks of spaces and major renovations have been under way. But on June 1, library, county and city staff celebrated the completion of one of the facility’s biggest project – the kids area, a complete lower level revamp.

“It really is totally different down here,” said Edra Waterman, director of HEPL. “This has been a long time coming.”

Perhaps the most noticeable change is outdoors, where a new back entrance gives guests direct access to the kids area. Rather than coming through the main entrance, walking through the library’s main floor and taking the stairs or elevator to get to the lower level, parents and kids now can park by the north side of the library and take a new path along a renovated outdoor area, which Waterman said also will be used for programming.

“Our goal was to beautify it and have things to interact with on the path,” she said of the new lighting, landscaping and artistic outdoor features.

Indoors, the new entrance has an open space that leads directly to a help desk and pickup/checkout area.

“Guests also will be able to use the children’s department as a location for holds pickups, so for moms that want to have their held-items down here and don’t want to have to go upstairs, they can come down here and be with their kids while also getting their items,” Waterman said.

From there, the area is zoned, leading guests along a path from early literacy to older kids’ materials further back toward the core of the library.

A new spot in the lower level that was formerly staff space is now a large, imaginative play area, complete with an interactive wall for toddlers; tables with building toys; and a reading and lounging space. Small changes have been made, too, like the way the children’s books are oriented on the shelf – face-out, so covers can be seen and flipped through more easily by kids.

All of this is visually connected with a wall mural that stretches through the middle of the entire lower level, starting at the ramp of the new entrance.

“The vinyl graphic is representative of buildings that were created and based off of downtown Noblesville’s buildings but in a cartoony way,” Waterman said.

What was the Teen Zone in the lower level now is a large program room, and for preteens and older children, the entire north side of the lower level, nearer to the central part of the library, serves as a quiet, dedicated study space with computer stations and moveable tables for individual study or tutoring sessions. The Teen Zone has moved upstairs.

“Moving the teens upstairs just made a lot of sense because a lot of the resources that our teens need are in the adult collection,” Waterman said. “So, if they’re doing schoolwork, a lot of those reference materials are on the main floor.”

The new program room is significantly larger as well.

“Our story times have been getting bigger and bigger,” Waterman said. “Our old room was just too small, too cramped and just not adequate for the size of the groups that we’re serving and for the folks here in Noblesville to have a really great, inviting and welcoming space. We also want people from all over to visit. We see a lot of people who live right in between here and the Fishers branch. Both have the same library card and commitment to the kind of experience guests have.”

On the other side of the interactive wall for babies and toddlers is a feature for older kids: The Motion Magix gaming system, which cycles through educational games projected on the wall. Aesthetically, the high-energy feature is framed by rows of books, separating it from a large study area for older kids.

Per the lower level, Waterman said the primary goal was to open up space and make it more inviting for families.

“It felt very ‘basementy’ before, and now what we’ve tried to do is really take advantage of the fact that it opens to the outside,” Waterman said. “It’s at least twice as big as it was, and we also have a bunch of new books, too.”

Final touches are still being made library-wide for a vision that began several years ago.

“Before we did anything, we did a space-planning process where we worked from our 2015 strategic plan, where we had done focus groups and interviewed community folks, went out and looked to see what other libraries were doing and what was happening in other organizations,” Waterman said. “What we discovered was that we had a need in our community for more space. We needed more flexibility, too, because we saw over the years the needs that people have from the library – because we see the library as a placemaking institution – changes a lot. So, what we tried to do with this renovation was to build in that flexibility and to create open spaces that could be configured to meet whatever need anyone has.”

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