The Thornhill Branch replaces an existing aging library on the same site as part of St. Louis County Library’s capital campaign for county-wide library improvement. The 20,000 SF library incorporates the newest technology, featuring not only books and media for borrowing, but extensive public computers and a computer lab for public classes. Other new features incorporated into the building are new programmatic pieces for the library, including, a commons area with laptop bar, meeting rooms for community programming, a comfortable quiet room, private study rooms, a designated high-tech Teen space, and an innovative children’s area. The children’s area opens into a fenced Children’s Garden area to expand possibilities for children’s programming.
When embarking on design of this branch, Mackey Mitchell Architects repeatedly heard complaints that the old branch was too low profile and tucked into the site – making it invisible from the street and dark inside. In designing the new building, the site was graded higher and the library was pulled away from the street - with a prominent front corner - to create visibility and identity. The abnormal shape of the site created a challenge when it came to maximizing interior square footage, driving a dynamic, angled building footprint. At the more residential back side of the site the library is a shorter overall height with rich grey brick and standard windows, then turns the corner and rises to a light and soaring children’s space on the street side of the site. Reading spaces feature expanses of glass beneath sunshades to open the building to the outdoors.
St. Louis County Library was passionate about creating the best possible experience for patrons and making sure that libraries have continued relevance in the 21st century and beyond. This branch features areas that are designed to attract a diverse range of community members and support all kinds of programming. The meeting rooms are flexible enough for town hall meetings or Harry Potter yoga and the stacks are interspersed with a wide assortment of soft seating and study tables. The children’s area is especially interactive and innovative. Entry is through a large mirrored portal with a secret “kids only” tunnel branching off. The wall shared with the stacks area is thickened for reading cubbies, play cubes, and magnetic walls, carefully designed to give children and their parents an area to grow a love for reading.
The library is a place where people can find information, but it is also about community and coming to a place where you can attend programs, hear authors or hear music, spend time, do some research or start a business using our free WiFi.
- Kristen Sorth
Director, via STL Public Radio