Richland Library, Main Branch

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In association with The Boudreaux Group

• AIA SC, Honor Award for Interior Architecture, 2020
• AIA SC, Social Justice Award, 2019
• AIA SC, Patron Award, 2019

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 tall metal stacks. Due to the evolution of technology with 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 Richland Main Library renovation was transformed by the “Library as a Studio” concept and a customer-based approach. The core of this idea 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. The 21st-century library offers programs and activities that actively engage the user.

The goal of the renovation was to create carefully considered physical conditions to enable these activities. 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.

One of the biggest shifts is that users no longer engage in the library with departments, but with “Domains.” Domains are a series of community-centric environments. For Richland County Main Library, their domains are: 1.) Arts and Literature: “Create, Connect and Thrive”; 2.) Career Advancement: “Your Accomplishment is our Business”; 3.) Education and Growth: “Read, Learn, Create, Grow!”; and 4.) Teen Engagement: Passion, Play and Belonging!”

Each domain exists on its own level of the library. Taking cues for other building types, each floor has a distinct character, with a distinct set of programmatic goals, yet all incorporate the active engagement and cycle of learning experiences — learning, creating, sharing — a central principal of 21st-century learning.