Richland County Main Library

In association with The Boudreaux Group and Margaret Sullivan Studio

McMillan Pazdan Smith’s Library expertise was included on a multi-firm team headed by a local architecture firm in Columbia, SC, to re-envision the state’s flagship and largest public library. Originally constructed in 1993, the 240,000 SF library reflected conventional library thinking dominated primarily by with tall metal stacks. Due to the evolution of technology online accessible materials and new leadership, the library asked the design team to address deferred maintenance issues as well as design the library around activities rather than materials and to challenge the traditional definition of a library through creative thinking.

The Main Library Renovation, will be transformed by the Library as a Studio concept and a customer-based approach. The core of this transformation is that the library is 1) a platform for social and community advancement 2) a platform for storytelling in all of its vibrant forms 3) a platform for innovation and creativity and 4) a platform to support a variety of learning styles, at all ages and stages.

Library as a Studio: The 21st century library offers programs and activities that actively engage the user. Contemporary literacies, and a shifting society, requires a new set of skills. Central to this, is the Library as a Studio set of activities that the library seeks to support.
• Artists and thinkers work
• Ideas are explored
• Talents are practiced
• Risks are taken
• Problems are solved
• Passions are uncovered

The goal of the renovation is to create carefully considered physical conditions to enable these activities, while recognizing that conventional library design has not supported these most effectively. Taking cues from a wide range of physical experiences, including public parks, public markets, art spaces, business incubators and interactive museums, our team created a new set of physical guidelines to create conditions for the learn, create, share cycles to flourish for all users.

Studio Domains: One of the biggest shifts will be that users will not engage in the library with departments, but with “Domains”. These domains will be a series of environments for all ages and stages and community-centric (not stratified by conventional age or subject matter differentiators.

For Richland County Main Library, these domains are:
• Arts and Literature: “Create, Connect and Thrive”
• Career Advancement: “Your Accomplishment is our Business”
• Education and Growth: “Read, Learn, Create, Grow!”
• Teen Engagement: Passion, Play and Belonging!”

For Main, the domains will literally be a floor. Taking cues for other building types, each floor will have a distinct character, with a distinct set of programmatic goals, yet all will incorporate the active engagement and cycle of learning experiences: learning, creating, sharing; central to 21st century learning.