San Jose, Calif., August 12, 2020 – Anderson Brulé Architects, Inc. (ABA) has completed the planning and design for three Northern California libraries, each the winner of a $10,000 Maximizing Learning Spaces (MLS) Grant. Funding for this important project has been provided over the last three years and comes from the U.S. Institute of Museum and Library Services and is disseminated through a partnership between the California State Library and the Southern California Library Collaborative (SCLC), as a statewide initiative. The MLS Grant Project helps underfunded public libraries transform underutilized spaces, maximizing their potential for reading, literacy and learning.
This year, ABA was hand-selected to work with San Jose’s Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Library, Monterey County’s Pajaro Branch Library, and the Willits Library in Mendocino County, due to ABA’s delivery of high-caliber work. ABA is now in its second year of MLS Grant design work, with intentions to continue serving library clients and communities in years to come.
The 2020 grant enabled 20 libraries to apply for and fund either a professional design or furniture for their space. ABA’s lead designer on the MLS project is Associate Amy Crawford, NCIDQ, LEED AP ID+C, with assistance from interior designers - Rachel Quach on Pajaro and Tori Dang on MLK.
“The core of the MLS project is heartwarming – filling a gap in communities unable to fully fund their libraries’ needed renovations,” said Christian Theyer, Southern California Library Cooperative’s Project Manager. “Libraries are spaces where people go to learn and connect - this project helps libraries more fully realize the potential of their spaces and better serve their communities. You can really see this represented in the project results; it is worth it.”
“We are here to listen, interpret, and provide flexible interior spaces that help libraries better serve their communities,” said Amy Crawford. “It’s amazing to see how profound an impact these space-reconfiguration-and-design projects, can have on a library. It’s such rewarding work.”
MLS grants make possible the improvement of one underutilized interior space per library. Public libraries can receive help in “MacGyvering” these spaces through evaluation, reimagination, and furnishing to maximize their effectiveness. Despite this year’s pandemic challenges, virtual planning and design allowed MLS projects to move forward. ABA used digital technology for space mapping, tours, client collaboration and design.
“These grants have been a silver lining in difficult times for the recipient libraries,” said Crawford. “Once the renovation is fully executed and complete, they will have highly functional and beautiful new spaces to welcome the community back when they reopen. Our goal is to take something outdated that no longer works well in a modern library and replace it with something that works better. We want to create designs that incorporate creativity, where appropriate, as well as practicality, and provide the flexibility to accommodate different types of programs and groups throughout the day.”
ABA was uniquely positioned to tackle the redesign of the California Room of the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Library because ABA originally designed the space when the library was built in 2003. ABA refreshed the space and created a more flexible design that meets the modern needs of the California Room. By relocating shelving and making other key functionality changes, ABA created a more flexible open space, allowing the research-based room to fulfill its intended purpose and allows staff to easily reconfigure the space for programs.
ABA both space-planned and chose furniture and materials for the Pajaro Branch. The library is housed in the Porter-Vailejo Mansion, a large 1874 Gothic Revival residence listed on the National Register of Historic Places, and houses other services vital to the Pajaro community, such as a daycare. The library itself comprises only two rooms within the house and ABA was able to entirely redesign the library, employing a sophisticated yet whimsical concept with brighter colors inspired by book-cover imagery and other artists. Situated in a small, farming community, the building features original woodwork, staircase and crown moldings. ABA identified the goal of creating a more symbiotic relationship between the library and the building’s other services. Thanks to the redesign, the library could attempt to alter its operating hours to better align with the building’s other services.
The design objective for Willits was to take an outdated open plan library and create more comfortable small-scale spaces tailored to their user groups and in doing so have more acoustic privacy. The goal was to rework the library floor plan using existing shelving, furniture and materials, as much as possible, to take advantage of newly purchased furniture and keep future costs lower. The Willits team was delighted to have a conceptual space plan that employed ideas they had not considered. ABA proposed pulling shelving away from walls to help divide space and addressed the needs of the career center by proposing acoustically private meeting pods. The existing large service desk was kept and repurposed as a tech hub which should be lower cost to implement than demolition to remove the desk.
ABA has now designed seven out of the eight MLS 2019 and 2020 grant projects in Northern California. Last year’s projects include Sacramento Public Library - Martin Luther King, Jr. Library, Sonoma County Library - Windsor Regional Library, South San Francisco Public Library, and Yolo County Library - Clarksburg Branch Library.
After functioning in their refreshed spaces for some time, participants in the ABA-redesigned spaces from the 2019 grant program reflected, “We were able to create a safer place for the littlest among us to play, explore and learn in a secluded but still flexible play area, while the size of the furniture, its mobility and its quality allowed adults to stay longer comfortably, interact with their young ones and other adults, and allowed kids to stay and play longer and safely – we couldn’t be happier,” said Ray Stanley of Sacramento Public Library. Melisa Mendoza of South San Francisco Public Library said, “Everyone loved the bright new colors. We had continued interest in using the green wall as a green screen, and the new furniture to refresh our space was a welcome change.”
ABA was founded in 1984 in San Jose, bringing over three decades of experience and passion for architecture, innovation in design and a commitment to the transformation of the architectural profession. ABA provides a complete and comprehensive suite of services in strategic planning, architecture and interiors. ABA delivers client excellence on projects both in the large-scale and mid-sized arenas and operates within its primary markets of Community, Residential, Health and Wellness, and Education to create sustainable environmental models and spaces. To learn more about ABA, visit: http://aba-arch.com.
Kara Schmiemann-McCoy / Melinda Hepp
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