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Published: Thursday, 2/6/2014

Sylvania Branch Library hosts brainstorming design session

BY NATALIE TRUSSO CAFARELLO
BLADE STAFF WRITER
A woman places her suggestions about images of renovated libraries shown during a public forum directed by Cleveland-based HBM architectural firm Thursday, Feb. 6, 2014, at the Sylvania Branch Library near downtown Sylvania. A woman places her suggestions about images of renovated libraries shown during a public forum directed by Cleveland-based HBM architectural firm Thursday, Feb. 6, 2014, at the Sylvania Branch Library near downtown Sylvania.
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The Sylvania Branch Library hosted a brainstorming design session on Thursday, prompting residents to give their likes and dislikes for the future upgrade of the library building.

“It’s not about what’s here. It’s about what could be here,” said Dan Meehan of Cleveland-based HBM Architects, a library planning and design firm.

He and his colleague Kevin Kennedy flashed images of different libraries around the country, showcasing designs in different library areas, such as the entrance or study area. Those in attendance were asked to give feedback on what they liked or disliked about a room, decor, or design.

PHOTO GALLERY: Click here to view photos of the forum

About 10 citizens attended the Renew, Upgrade, Refresh! planning session, a precursor to a library redesign project that will accommodate modern reading habits and update furniture, fixtures, layout, and also expand and improve the vestibule. Also in attendance were library employees and Sylvania Mayor Craig Stough for Stough and Stough Architects. The Sylvania firm will work jointly with HBM on the project.

Each person was given a colorful Post-it pad to write a thumbs up or down on fireplaces, a gaming room, an interactive child’s area, rooms with writable walls, a tech bar, a cafe area, and so on. The architects even fielded opinions on the types of chairs to be used including, bean bags for the teen section, stools for the children's section, and cafe-style seating in a reading area.

Decor, color, and use were all discussed. Ideas were also sought on the future use of a small patio.

Sylvania Mayor Craig Stough, of Stough and Stough Architects, takes notes. Sylvania Mayor Craig Stough, of Stough and Stough Architects, takes notes.
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“The porch could be developed into a miniature garden with tables and chairs to accommodate,” said Toledo resident Magdalena Skiles, who volunteers in the area and uses the library almost daily. “How exciting to read a story with fresh air and sunshine.”

David Scanlan, library employee who also uses the facility, asked that the meeting room, which now seats 100, was improved with soundproof walls.

“You can hear a hand dryer every time they run it,” he said about the bathrooms that adjoin the room. Just as he spoke a low hum from a dryer was heard in the room.

One resident, who did not give her name, said she liked the library the way it was and was unsure why the change was needed.

“Libraries have changed a lot and so have the needs of our customers, which were not thought of in 1989,” said Susan Skitowski, administrator of branch services for Toledo-Lucas County Public Library. She noted that, along with the need to accommodate new technology, the library equipment was “reaching end of life.”

The architects said the building’s character sets the tone for the surrounding city and school buildings, and they would keep the integrity of the facade as is. However, officials are considering adding 1,500 square feet to the building entrance. In 1989, the building underwent an expansion to its current 18,500 square feet.

The architects said that books would not be diminished because of changes in space or emphasis on technology, but rather, rearranged for easier use and browsing.

“We think this is a [Bring Your Own Device] community, so more charging stations, a tech bar where the staff can work one-on-one with computer issues, more developed children’s area, Maplewood Elementary School is across the street. And we have Northview High School down the street. We should also take advantage of the views,” Mr. Meehan explained of the main design objectives.

About $2.5 million to $3 million of state public library funds are earmarked for the project.

Ms. Skitowski said she was disappointed with the low turnout, considering postcards were sent to thousands of Sylvania households inviting them to the planning session. She understood that cold weather may have kept many away. Another planning session may be scheduled before solidifying the architectural plans, she said.

For now residents and library visitors can call in for comment; a book of suggestions will be kept at the checkout counters, she said.

The aim is to have an architectural plan by summer, officials said. The overhaul would require the library operating out of a temporary location.

Contact Natalie Trusso Cafarello at: 419-206-0356, or ntrusso@theblade.com, or on Twitter @natalietrusso. 



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