Published on: Tuesday, February 2, 2016 Takoma Park Newsletter

Library Renovation Update

By Ellen Robbins

This year we are observing the 80th anniversary of the City Library – not only with cake and special birthday cards – but with steps toward what we hope will be a significant renovation, which will also give us additional space.

A new concept design was presented to the City Council on Oct. 29, which incorporated their own recommendations, as well as those of Library and other City staff.

Architect Greg Lukmire presented this concept design at public meetings on Dec. 12 and Jan. 7 – eliciting some spirited discussion and suggestions for the next phase, which involves schematic design and detailed design development.

Approximately 25 people of varying ages attended both meetings. A group of about five elementary age kids attended the Dec. 16 meeting. Here are some of the topics that came up at both meetings.

Light was a big concern. Though people were not opposed to the larger windows shown in the character sketches, which allow more natural light to enter the Library, there were concerns that the effect remain substantially different from the new Silver Spring Library, which was described as having “an excess of glass,” making it “blinding” and “too open.” One person asked, “Could an excess of light damage library materials?” Would it be distracting or too bright? The architect discussed the attributes of the newer glass, which is thermally broken, with two or even three panes, allowing for considerable specificity. One person commented there might be insufficient light in the central part of the library, away from the windows. Might a skylight be an option?

Adequate space for different functions came up repeatedly – as this has been a continuing concern. Will there be enough space for books, periodicals, comfortable seating, quiet space, and storage space as well as enough work space for staff? Will the program room be large enough? Greg Lukmire addressed all these concerns. Several group study spaces are enclosed (with exterior glass) and can be used as collaborative or quiet study space. The program room is intended as a flexible, multi-purpose space with very light-weight modular tables and chairs that can be easily moved. There will be comfortable seating and designated space for periodicals and other collections. A petition was submitted, signed by 14 kids, asking for a designated “read-aloud section” in the children’s room.

Space outside the library, which was not part of the design process, also generated a lot of comments. People wanted to know how the flood wall and the area around the flag pole might be dealt with. Though there was general agreement that it is cumbersome to leap over the wall or walk around it, several people also voiced concern that there be a gathering place somewhere on the grounds – for kids, care-givers, and parents picking up kids. A wish for personal bike-space was also expressed as a way to preserve the attractive bike racks now in front of the library. One person voiced concern about the flat roof and the load it carries in winter; another suggested that the mosaic might be sacrificed to allow expansion toward Maple Ave. However, the transformer and the police parking area would seriously limit that expansion. There was a general wish for a future design for the outdoor space that included seating and other attractive components.

The planned new entrance facing the parking lot was viewed favorably, but there was insistence on a walkway from Philadelphia Ave. up to the new Community Center Entrance. There was an associated concern about some loss of parking spaces, which are already at a premium. The architect mentioned the possibility of narrowing the spaces along-side of the buildings, which are unusually wide.

Other suggestions for the interior were a place for permanent art and a designated space to highlight new books. Another observation was that the access from the library to the senior room was round-about and might be problematical for people with mobility issues.

All in all, both meetings prompted lots of constructive discussion – and pointed the way forward to the next, more detailed phase of Library renovation. Your comments and questions are welcome. Please direct them to me at ellenr@

This article appeared in the February 2016 edition of the Takoma Park Newsletter. The Takoma Park Newsletter is available for download here.