Whether visitors want to check out a book, use a fully equipped business center or let their kids play with interactive toys and apps in the new Discovery Zone, there’s something for everyone at the updated facility, located at 300 Clarkson Road in Ellisville. The branch recently received renovations as part of the district-wide Your Library Renewed program, and is the 14th branch, out of 19, to be updated.
“Everything was completely gutted back to the studs on the wall,” SLCL Director Kristen Sorth said. “All of the spaces have been built out. Only the bones of the branch stayed. Everything you see inside the branch is completely new.”
The public will be able to access the branch on Wed., Oct. 25 at 9 a.m., when reopening programs will be available to patrons of all ages. Live Art with Karen Raidy will take place at 9 a.m., followed by Story Time at 10 a.m. and a performance by the Juggling Jeff Comedy Show at 4:30 p.m.
The library’s new Discovery Zone includes interactive literacy panels and a slide between floors and a Crooked House play area made possible through a gift from West Newsmagazine, in honor of the community paper’s 20th anniversary in 2016. The stylized playhouse doubles as a quiet reading nook for younger kids.“We wanted to celebrate our anniversary with a gift to the community,” West Newsmagazine Publisher Sharon Huber explained. “The reason we chose to facilitate the crooked house in the Daniel Boone branch’s new Discovery Zone is because of its connection to reading and, as a house, it has a mailbox, which, of course, is integral to the delivery of our newsmagazine. Three times a month, West Newsmagazine is in the mailboxes of West County homes. We hope that, through our connection with St. Louis County Library, we can encourage children and parents to develop a love of reading and explore issues that affect all our lives.”
Of the crooked house, Sorth said, “It’s kind of a location for kids to crawl in to sit and read a book if they want to, but it’s also for playing in.”The Daniel Boone branch only is the second one to feature a brand new Discovery Zone area. The Florissant Valley branch unveiled its renovations, including a Discovery Zone, last month. At the Daniel Boone branch, the Discovery Zone comprises the entire lower level, which is entirely dedicated to children’s services and educational activities. The Asian Center, which used to be located in the lower area, will have a new home in the Thornhill branch. Renovations there are scheduled to begin this fall or winter.
Some of the amenities within the new Discovery Zone include a pneumatic tube display and an interactive light wall similar to a life-sized Lite Brite where kids can work together or alone to create custom designs.“It’s truly a destination place for families,” Sorth said.
Also present in the Discovery Zone are two large-format touch screens where kids can play games and test digital literacy skills with educational apps and software.
Sorth said, “The kids enjoy all the features we added [in Florissant], particularly the large format touch screens with educational apps. The pneumonic tube maze also is really fun, and the kids love it.”
Ellisville City Manager Bill Schwer said that, in addition to excitement among community members, there’s excitement among city officials and staff. “We’re all definitely excited for the reopening.”
The Your Library Renewed program was broken into three phases to efficiently renovate and rebuild 19 libraries across the county. Phase I was marked with the completion of nine renovated branches and the construction of two completely new facilities from 2015 to 2016. Phase II includes the construction of three new branches and four sets of branch renovations, including Daniel Boone. Phase II is scheduled for completion by the end of 2017. The program will conclude with Phase III, which includes a reconstruction of the SLCL Headquarters, 1640 S. Lindbergh Blvd., scheduled sometime in 2018.
The Daniel Boone branch, which was built in 1966, was renovated to include an additional 10,000 square feet. It now offers a Discovery Zone for children, collection space, quiet reading room, program room and comfortable seating areas.
The budget for renovating the Daniel Boone branch was about $9 million with a construction timeline of about 12 months. Clayton-based Bond Architects handled the design.Bond Architects has worked with SLCL to renovate or renew multiple libraries as part of the Your Library Renewed program, including the Samuel C. Sachs branch. Bond Architects was one of many architects chosen for the program through a competitive process, and according to Sorth, worked mainly on Phase II projects.
The new facility totals 44,000 square feet in size and includes a larger children’s library in addition to the new Discovery Zone on the building’s lower level.
Sorth said the additions at Daniel Boone were not chosen at random but were the result of community feedback.
According to SLCL Communications Manager Jennifer McBride, community surveys were administered at the Daniel Boone branch from Sept. 1 to Oct. 1, 2015, as part of the library system’s 2015-2018 strategic plan. Preparation for the plan included multiple surveys and focus groups to gauge residential feedback for various renovations, including what improvements patrons would like to see at the Daniel Boone branch. A facilities master plan survey also was conducted in February 2012 by Aaron Cohen Associates Ltd out of New York, to determine what library patrons wanted systemwide. That survey indicated that the former Daniel Boone facility was inadequate for its surrounding population and business volume.
“Patrons wanted places where they could spend the day, whether they’re reading a book, on their laptop or hanging with their kids,” Sorth said.
For patrons who may be worried that the library’s renovations, which have a definite community center feel, have compromised the collection, Sorth said there’s no need to fear. The renovations, she said, will help maintain Daniel Boone’s high circulation levels and provide a home for the library’s growing collection.
“It’s the exact same collection,” Sorth said. “It went into storage and now it’s coming back. Daniel Boone is a really busy branch and has very high circulation levels. There are a lot of books there, and they’ll be back for people to check out.”According to Sorth, Daniel Boone circulated about 1.4 million items in 2015 prior to its closure for renovations in 2016. By comparison, SLCL’s Headquarters circulated about 1.1 million items in 2015. The addition also offers the potential to expand the collection and eventually add more to the branch.
“We’re still very much about books and checking out materials,” Sorth said. “Those items are all there and waiting to be checked out.”
However, the results of the surveys indicated branch patrons wanted an increased emphasis on comfortable seating, quiet reading areas and an enhanced children’s space in the new Daniel Boone branch, all of which have been added.
Sorth said the dedication of the entire lower level to children and educational programs was done intentionally. In the former Daniel Boone branch, the regular library space, teen space and children’s area all shared the same floor. The separation was intentional to not only confine noise to certain areas of the branch, but also to give children a designated safe space to play.
“We wanted to encourage kids to explore, play and learn, and to have plenty of space to do that,” Sorth said. “The collection at Daniel Boone for kids, like the books and DVDs, is very large. That is also on the lower level.”
Sorth noted that the teen area now is located upstairs. That updated area features the entire teen collection, a computer bar, colorful furniture and trendy light fixtures.
“I think it’s been a library experience around the country that teens aren’t interested in being near the children’s area, so they want their own space and to be recognized as not being kids anymore,” Sorth said. “It’s pretty dynamic and is a good place for the teens to go and just enjoy hanging out there.”Spaces for teens and kids aren’t the only areas to receive a makeover. The furniture, seating areas and shelves also have been updated with a more modern aesthetic to correspond with survey feedback about updating the look of the facility. The new branch features more open floor space and more windows creating natural light in that space.
“We certainly tried to place our new seating areas near windows as much as possible, because those are often the most popular places in the branch,” Sorth said. “The new addition has some fabulous views outside the branch.”
Other additions to the renovated location include a new commons area, a quiet reading room, a laptop bar, a vending machine area and a new family restroom. An updated business center with fax, copy and scanning machines also was created to replace the old computer lab.“Daniel Boone has an awesome commons space with high-top tables and a laptop bar that looks out into the branch,” Sorth said. “On the other side is the copy center, so people can spend time in those areas. There are also vending machines, so if people wanted to grab a bottle of water, soda or a bag of chips, they can just hang out and enjoy themselves.”
According to Sorth, one of the biggest additions is six new study rooms, the largest amount of any branch that has been renovated or replaced in the system.
“Adding the six private study rooms is huge for that branch,” Sorth said. “That is a branch that has a lot of children and teens, and there are also a lot of people that do study groups there or tutoring.”
The update also allowed for the creation of four revamped community meeting rooms available for use by individuals and organizations.
“In our old branches, the meeting room spaces were closed off,” Sorth said. “In the new branch, there’s glass on the front of the meeting rooms, study rooms and lab areas. This means that people can see what’s going on in there, and they might be more inclined to join a program or go to a computer class.”
Various other amenities in the facility include a quiet reading room, a new program room and newly-designed seating areas scattered about the facility.
“We tried to put various options in terms of seating, Sorth said. “Some are just chairs and some have tables with them. There’s quiet rooms where if people want to work or get away from interruptions, they can go there. If someone wants to be in the hub in the center of everything that’s going on, there are places for them, too.”
As the Daniel Boone branch opens, four others will close. Grand Glaize, Mid-County, Thornhill and Meramec Valley all are scheduled to close this fall and winter for renovations or new construction. The timeline is subject to change based on weather conditions and other factors, and the final dates have yet to be officially determined.
One thing is for sure; once renovated, the branches are built to last.
According to Sorth, the gutting and renovation of the branches, including Daniel Boone, is meant to keep the facilities updated long into the future.
“We’re future-proofing the buildings because we don’t want to do this again for a long time, Sorth said. “It’s the perfect location for us, there’s great visibility. It’s easy for patrons to find and has great parking. This is a building that’s been expanded on and completely renovated, and we expect it to be like that for a very long time.”