Proposed downtown library floor plans unveiled

Visitors to the new downtown library may be able to order coffee and head upstairs to sit on the rooftop terrace or work on crafts or projects in a flexible studio space set aside for that purpose, according to preliminary plans prepared by the project’s architect.

The plans, which lay out what functions of the library could go on each of the planned four floors, are not set in stone, but are designed to “get our mind working right,” said Assistant Library Director Mary Stein.

“This is not a floor plan,” she said, but rather describes “what things should lead into what area.”

Library Director Spencer Watts said the arrangements could change.

“This is a stage where everything is highly fluid,” he said. “There’s going to be a great deal of change.”

According to the plans, the first floor would contain a vending and serving area where beverages and prepared foods could be sold. The area would be adjacent to a cafe-style seating area for about a dozen people.

“We are looking at the Barnes and Noble and Books-A-Million model,” Watts said. “To a lot of people, it’s a very appealing concept.”

Similar cafes have been successful in other libraries around the country, he said.

Stein said the importance of a cafe or vending area was made clear during a series of meetings with downtown and community groups held last fall.

On the third floor, a 1,200-square-foot “Maker’s Space” is envisioned as a studio for a variety of activities, according to the plans.

“We will create the opportunity for you to come in and make a robot, a model airplane, do something with graphic design or photography,” Stein said of the room.

The room would contain modular furniture that could be arranged in different configurations to suit a variety of needs, the plans show.

It would contain a ceiling mounted projector, a white board and a 3-D printer, according to the plans.

Watts said if the idea was successful, it could be expanded to other branches.

“This can be a model for us, across our system,” he said.

A terrace is planned for the fourth floor, that will overlook the Mississippi River, the Old State Capitol and Galvez Plaza, the plans show.

“It’s just like we are going to have at Main,” Stein said, referring to the new Main Library, which is currently under construction.

Watts hopes to hold public meetings in April to solicit input and feedback on the design of the $19-million downtown library. The current library structure will be torn down so a new, more modern facility can be built in its place on St. Louis Street near North Boulevard.

The project is still well within the early part of the design phase, he said. By April, he said, architects WHLC and Schwartz/Silver should have some “rough schematics” to show people.

Stein said construction for the project could start in the summer of next year with a projected opening date in 2016.