The changing nature of libraries is not reserved for those that serve universities and civic centers around the country. Even on military bases, libraries are changing from being known primarily for their book collections to being multi-purpose spaces. In addition to offering books, magazines and other media, libraries on military bases today are offering educational services, meeting space, and Internet access for a large number of servicemen, officers and their families. As such, library storage on these bases is evolving, too.
Angela Aschenbrenner is the director of collections for the Air Force’s Charleston Air Base Library. She also serves the same role for a library located at the Naval Weapons Station Library, just a few miles away on the joint base. Having been through a couple of library renovations before, she understands and appreciates the changing nature of the buildings’ design and role.
“We really only had basic guidelines from the Air Force. They said size of the shelving units had to be no more than 60” high and that it had to be wood,” said Aschenbrenner. “They didn’t dictate that we use any specific colors or anything like that. Every base has different requirements of their libraries, so the leadership was really flexible about allowing us to design around our needs.”
Serving approximately 25,000 patrons a year, the 7,000 square foot space needed to be “opened up” a bit.
“In an attempt to make them a more popular place -- more inviting and appealing – the Air Force is changing the format and the look and how these libraries function,” added Ben McCollum, the Patterson Pope sales representative who helped Aschenbrenner with the project. “Part of it is offering a more wide-open space. Part of it is, ironically, having fewer books on the shelves. It’s all about offering a more open space, more seating, and more computer stations. Think ‘bookstore,’ and less traditional ‘library.’”
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An Attractive, Inclusive Space
McCollum and Aschenbrenner worked together to outfit the library with shelving that evokes a sense of calm, a bit of fun, and a dose of modernity. While the older library shelves that were removed were 82” tall, the new, 60” (max) shelves created new sightlines, brought in more light, and made the same footprint feel even more expansive.
“The wood shelves definitely add personality,” said Aschenbrenner. “They make a really bold impression. To mix things up and add a bit of whimsy, we decided to go with a black color up front. The natural wood, in the children’s section, creates a really ‘fun’ feel. The circulation desk, which was custom, is a mixture of the two.”
A bit of the metal shelving from a previous renovation was used along the walls of the library, as well.
“A lot of that old shelving – Spacesaver cantilever shelving – we actually reused. We just revamped it and used it against the walls, integrating it into the overall design of the space. We added some wood and panels to match with the all wood shelving in another area. It turned out really nice,” added McCollum. “In addition to the shelving, Angela was doing new paint and new carpeting, new furniture, and lots of other stuff. I was able to connect her with some really good vendors. Having worked with her a few times before, I felt I was well-equipped to help. It’s a whole new interior, and it looks great.”
Culling the Collection
As any librarian will tell you, taking books out of a library can feel counter-intuitive. Even when the reasons are sound, taking items off the shelves is an odd experience.
“When the library storage project started, we had about 40,000 items,” recalled Aschenbrenner. “Having worked with Patterson Pope on book moves before, I knew I could trust them to make the experience as stress-free as possible. Judy Baker and her team did a wonderful job of carefully removing all the material, storing it in a few 40’ storage containers in our parking lot, and then putting them back on the new shelving when everything was complete.”
And how did Aschenbrenner and her staff determine which items would be culled?
“Getting rid of some of our collection was tough, especially because a lot of it was circulating well,” she said. “But unlike a lot of libraries, we had the benefit of having another library nearby. We were able to transfer some of our collection over there. Because we’re going with that ‘bookstore’ feel, our materials are going to be newer. So, if there’s a series of books, we might only have the most recent ones. Luckily, we can still get the other ones from our other libraries, so we’re lucky in that way.”
A Trusted Partner
This was the third time Aschenbrenner and McCollum have worked together on this kind of project. Familiarity built comfort.
“I like that Patterson Pope really listens to what we want,” said Aschenbrenner. “They care about their customers. They’re available and helpful. They answer your questions and if there were ever any problems, they were quick to respond. I never had a worry about something not being addressed or not being done to my satisfaction. With projects of this size, there are always issues. But I had the confidence to know that things would be taken care of efficiently.”
For McCollum, the feeling was mutual.
“Angela had a really good idea of what she wanted. With library storage, that kind of preparedness is always helpful,” he said. “To be able to take what somebody has in mind and make it a reality is really a special feeling. A lot of that comes from experience. This was a fun project, albeit challenging at times. The results speak for themselves.”
To learn more about this project check out the Case Study.