We previously mentioned that the Dayton Metro Library has a plan to change and update all of its branches. But how has that plan turned out?
The new main branch from the outside seems completely different. As if the old building was torn down and a new one built. This is mostly the case. The main structure was saved but the building was rebuilt. The building was enlarged to almost 4 times it’s previous size. Administrative offices and services for the entire system were given their own building freeing up even more room. The difference is very noticeable.
Parking was always a problem in the busy downtown area around the library. A new underground parking garage was added and eliminated a lot of the problem. From the garage, or the street, patrons now enter into a large open “lobby”. Where as the old branch had an entrance / checkout area, the new branch has a large 3 story entryway with an inviting staircase topped by a new art installation. The entryway is the first taste patrons will get of the much more open design.
The open design is also evident in the shelves themselves. With the new focus on community space, and less on physical media, the materials the library offers are integrated into the openness without being any sort of a focus. Somehow they feel both hidden and easy to find at the same time. The collection shares space with the technology available for use. The computers, digital microfiche machines, seating, and tables all take up space through out the building with no single dedicated space.
The new building is not just one open space however. On the first floor are two exhibit rooms. They are used to show of community works, traveling exhibits, or any of a variety of other things. There is also is a multi-use lecture hall, The Eichelberger Forum performance space . Where the old buildings hall and spaces were hidden, the new building makes them a focal point. One wall of the Forum can be opened for an inviting space, or closed for a more formal hall. Upstairs there is a black box theatre, a green screen room and the technology to use it, a Dayton History room, and a quite outdoor patio with nice views of the city.
Through out the branch are space for the community to come and interact, or to be alone. There are many small group rooms, each equipped with a large monitor / TV, a desk, and comfortable seating. These reservable spaces can be used as a meeting space for professional or recreational use. There is a large quiet reading room to get away from the noise. Like to cozy up to a fire and read a good book. They have a few of them with plush seating too.
The new local branches are just smaller more community centric versions of the Main branch. Instead of cookie cutter branches the Dayton Metro Library built unique places that reflect the spirit of the local area, while delivering to the needs of that community. Each building is adorned with art work inspired by pieces of art, selected by the community, from the Dayton Art Institute’s collection. They have a 24 hour lobby with self check in and hold lockers. No longer does a late night worker have to worry about the branches hours to get and return items. The local branches also all have computers, laptops, tablets, and more available, with friendly staff to assist any needs. Like the main branch the focus has turned away from the physical collection and more to the community. The shelves are smaller and more tucked away, but still easy to navigate. The extra space has been given to small group study areas, quiet reading rooms, fireplaces and comfy chairs, and a single large Community Room. The community rooms even have outside entrances for after hour use.
The Dayton Metro Library’s goal in the system wide update has changed the feeling of the branches from grab and go to a place to stop and relax. All this has been done while they have been able to meet the needs of each community, from a need for more computers in some areas, to more community space in others.
As this is written more and more branches open. Not all branches are finalized and we are excited to return sometime and see how the new ones look.