Toledo Lucas County Public Library

Toledo, Ohio

Bronze Prize in the Starnet Commercial Flooring Awards and American Libraries Design Showcase 2020

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Transformation of an iconic Art Deco main library building

The overall theme of this project was to enhance what has always been present in the library building by adding modern technology throughout, re-positioning spaces and functions to make them more readily accessible to customers, adding some new spaces that will let customers experience, learn and create, and providing more of some the most popular areas for the public to enjoy.

When renovating a library for the 21st century, particularly a building as iconic as Toledo Main, it is important to first understand what is sacred to the library and its community in terms of both function and the physical components of the space. Certainly, the historic art deco Central Court with its beautiful and irreplaceable vitrolite glass panels, ornate original light fixtures, and wonderful historic murals, is the space that most strikes a chord that resonates throughout the building. We used the strong art deco geometric motifs and colors found in the Central Court as the basis of design for all new millwork (displays, service desks and other cabinetry) throughout the library to bring that strong presence of the Central Court experience to all parts of the building. In the Central Court itself we did very little, retrofitting the existing light fixtures with new LED sources, adjusting the location of the redesigned service desk and adding more new and popular material displays. The idea was to do just enough to allow a 21st century library to function inside the historic framework of the existing spaces. At the core of this renovation we are building for flexibility. In three, five, and seven years when the community needs something different, the Library can quickly and economically pivot.

We transformed the entry experience coming into the building from the parking lot to bring people down a bright, back-painted glass clad “Promenade” flanked by a glass-enclosed community meeting room and a business incubator “Workspace” that will showcase different business startups or nonprofits in progress. This Promenade is a harbinger of the materials and technology that carries throughout the rest of the renovated library.

Part of this project involves a complete reconceptualization of the spaces and services that can support entrepreneurs, local non-profit groups, job seekers, and people just looking for a creative outlet. A group of librarians known as the “Business and Workforce Department” have left their desks to meet people out in the community and learn about what the library can do to help them in terms of services, resources, and spaces. In addition to providing access to meeting spaces outside of library hours, the Work-space allows non-profit and small businesses the opportunity for long-term space rental and hosts workshops.

In addition to a technology training lab, a teaching lab holds sessions in business writing and building digital literacy skills. The Studio Lab space further supports entrepreneurs creating marketing materials or prototypes. All of these elements have overlaps with workforce development strategies that encourage customers looking for these services, to feel more comfortable asking for help.

The Children’s Area has been fully re-vamped with new finishes, furniture, and lighting fixtures that have either been replaced or re-lamped. The collection layout has been reconfigured for improved browsing. The fixed service point has been reduced in size and a mobile service point has been added for flexible oversight during peak times. The highlights of this space are a Dr. Seuss gallery wall featuring original artwork and a Nancy Drew Room that houses a Jennifer Fisher Nancy Drew Collection. An interactive “mystery wall” engages children in problem solving activities with both visual and audio clues.

The Atrium was added as part of the 2001 expansion and acts as an important connector between the historic areas and the main collection wing of the library. This light filled space now has become a central gathering point off of which feeds a new Gallery, Café and Gift Shop


HBM | Design Architect, Interior Designer and Architect of Record