Elmhurst, East Elmhurst libraries to become ‘destinations’

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Rendering courtesy of the Queens Library

The Queens Library has turned the page on an era of basic brick buildings, beginning a new chapter of attractive edifices acting as neighborhood landmarks.

During the fiscal crisis of the 1970s many libraries were “cinder block and institutional and really not aesthetically pleasing or a welcoming community space to be in,” said Joanne King, associate director of communications at the Queens Library. The Elmhurst and East Elmhurst branches serve as two examples of the shift to transform the libraries into community destinations.

“We want the community to feel welcome, so a lot of the buildings as they’re renovated are being renovated with the exterior walls at least partly transparent so it integrates more with the community and the community can see what’s going on inside the library,” she said.

The Elmhurst Library, which is being rebuilt, was originally constructed in 1906 with funding from philanthropist Andrew Carnegie, though it underwent numerous expansions and renovations.

“It’s going to be integrated into the community and the colors are vibrant; it’s not some large beige building with no personality,” King said.

Hours before the foundation was completed on the Elmhurst branch on July 25, Garrison Architects was receiving an Excellence in Design award for the addition to the East Elmhurst Library.

The award is given to exceptional public projects that exemplify the highest standards of design.

Jim Garrison, the firm’s owner, said in the past, libraries “tended to want to shutter themselves as opposed to open themselves up.”

Saying the design award meant a lot, he added: “That’s a big part of the agenda, making libraries an accessible part of our public world.”

The 30,000-square-foot Elmhurst Library is scheduled to open in 2014. The addition to the East Elmhurst branch does not yet have a completion date.