The Observer spoke with Executive Director Shawn Shaffer about what residents can expect regarding the new facility during 2018.
Winter Park’s new library/event center is coming closer and closer to becoming a reality.
As the year of 2018 begins, the exact design of the building may soon come to life as world-renowned architecture firm Adjaye Associates is expected to craft the final renderings soon. The new year also may see the demolition of the existing Rachel D. Murrah Civic Center — tentatively scheduled for June or July — and the groundbreaking of the new facility — tentatively scheduled for August or September, Winter Park Public Library Executive Director Shawn Shaffer said.
THE NITTY GRITTY
On Nov. 30, Shaffer and other officials with the library met with Project Director Russell Crader, of Adjaye Associates, to discuss more details — everything from the placement of bookshelves to the design of a proposed artistic multi-layered curtain that will hang across a stage in a performance auditorium area.
The ideas just keep coming, and it’s incredibly exciting, Shaffer said.
“We just had a great meeting, where we went over the floor plan,” Shaffer said. “We got into some real specifics — like where are we putting the shelves, how high the shelves will be and where the story time room is.”
When visitors step into the new library, they will be greeted with a large open space with shelves of books and seating areas, Shaffer said. At one end of the first floor will be the flexible performance and presentation space with tiered steps sloping downward. Chairs and even tables could be placed on each of these steps depending on the event taking place. Even when the space is empty, visitors can sit on the steps and read a book, treating it as an open study space.
Shaffer said the library hopes to have a wide range of events at the performance space, from concerts and movies to TEDx Salon events, where groups gather on a weekly or monthly basis, watch live TED Talks and discuss them.
“That’s just an incredible opportunity,” Shaffer said. “Flexibility is going to be the key. I want it to be a performance space where the Bach Festival can be and a venue for education or TED Talks.”
The other end of the library will include a series of smaller conference rooms, study rooms separated by glass walls and a “maker space” that will include a 3D printer, a sound studio and other forms of technology for visitors to use.
The first floor also will include a bookstore and a cafe, which the library hopes will serve delicious food that draws a crowd of its own.
“I see this being a lot like New General, about two blocks from here on New England, where there’s a store and sort of that same kind of menu with coffee and teas and drinks, salads, toast — not a lot of heavy cooking,” Shaffer said. “Between the atmosphere and the building, the food will be so good that — even if you’re not coming to the library — you’re coming to the cafe.”
Stairs will lead up to the second floor, which will feature the children, tween and teen books, along with plenty of areas to sit and read.
Winter Park’s new library facility will demonstrate numerous improvements over the existing building, Shaffer said. Two floors will be much easier to navigate through and organize, she said. Instead of books for adults being split between the first and third floor, they’ll all be in one place
“When you walk in, you’re going to be able to look right and left and really see everything,” Shaffer said. “You’ll be able to see where that auditorium is. You’ll be able to see where the maker space is. It’ll be more open and inviting. If you can see it, we can see it – that makes it easier for us to manage as well. … You’ll walk in and you’ll know where to go.”
The library will have the feel almost of an Apple store, with staff spread throughout the library with tablets used to check out items, Shaffer said. An automated conveyer belt system for sorting the books could also be implemented in the new building, she said.
As for the event center space, the building will work closely with the library and likely share spaces, Shaffer said.
Some libraries have hosted events like comic cons and author festivals, and the Winter Park Public Library would like to do so as well, she said.
“Our auditorium is (going to be) great, but the ballroom is going to be a much bigger venue for us, so when we want to bring in a big speaker or we want a bigger venue, we’ll want to use the ballroom,” Shaffer said.
“In many ways, we’ll be working together as one organization between the two of us.”
It’s been a long journey toward a new library, but it’s been an amazing process, Shaffer said.
“We’re getting there,” she said.
The library should see schematic drawings in late January/early February, with the new library opening in the spring or summer of 2020.
“Winter Park has a unique opportunity to not only create and deliver a generational imperative to our community, but also to send a signal to the region and beyond, that comprehensive library projects are not expenses, but rather investments,” Winter Park Mayor Steve Leary wrote in a statement. “The new library should not only be a place to go and check out a book or even to connect to the internet but rather a place where dreams are created, careers are launched, relationships are strengthened, and bodies, minds, and souls are nourished.”