Libraries are part of the heart of any city, they are more than buildings that have books. They have become spaces to gather, have community events, train for new jobs, help people learn, connect, and succeed. Many of the original functions of the library have changed with technology. This means that many older library buildings are not being put to best use.
The main library in Uptown Charlotte is a prime example of a space not being used to its best advantage. It was designed for books and periodicals, microfiche, reference rooms, VHS tapes and records. There are gathering spaces, but they are not the best layout, there is no cafe, and the wifi is not as good as it could be.
Many cities have recently updated their main libraries to be showplaces. For example, Austin, TX recently updated their main library and it is an architectural marvel that functions beautifully for the community and draws tourists as well. Calgary in Canada also updated their library to be a central part of the city that serves the city as well as looks like a place you want to spend a lot of time. Charlotte even has a great example of this with the ImaginOn Children’s Library which has amazing design as well as functionality for children of all ages.
Enter the new plan for the main library in Uptown Charlotte. The plan involves tearing down the existing building and creating a space that functions for how the community needs the space now and going into the future. The $100 million dollar project will bring a new 115,000 square foot space that includes five levels above ground and one level below ground. The plan calls for two outdoor terraces, an extensive lobby, a vendor-operated cafe, two immersive theater spaces, advanced technology, flexible meeting space and meeting rooms, the main entrance from North Tryon and much more.
The library plan positions the Main Library to be an inviting destination that is open to everyone of all backgrounds and economic circumstances. Groundbreaking should commence in early 2021 with a projected completion date early in 2024. This will leave the city without a main library for at least two years, which can be problematic for the community. The books will be kept in the other library branches and will still be in circulation.
The other functions of the library, from the meeting rooms to the computers are part of the next phase of the plan where community leaders are trying to make sure that all library patrons will still have access to the services they have come to depend on. Many of the services will be moved to nearby library locations that are on public transit lines such as Myers Park, South Boulevard, Plaza Midwood, and Beatties Ford Road. Other functions of the library could be housed in nearby churches or empty storefronts.
If this library follows in the footsteps of new libraries in other cities, expect technology lending libraries, maker spaces, 3D printing capability, recording studios and much more. This will truly be a space that will serve the community in the ways that are in demand now and in the future.