Renovating an Historic Library

The St. Louis Central Library was renovated to honor the past while also incorporating essential modern amenities like computer labs, teen spaces and collaboration rooms.

Making Space for Modern Amenities

Amenities that are essential to a library’s success — like computer labs, teen spaces and collaboration areas — were missing from St. Louis Public Library’s Central Library. In order to better serve the surrounding community, the library’s leadership initiated an extensive design project to compactly store books and other printed materials and to create space for modern needs.

Watch this video from STL-HOU about the renovation.

A Community Library

The St. Louis Public Library system began in 1865 and was open to paying members. It initially housed a collection of only 1500 books, but by 1893 the collection had grown to 90,000 volumes and was open to the public at no cost.

Today the St. Louis Public Library system is made up of 15 branches, including the St. Louis Central Library, and it houses a total of 4.6 million volumes.

history library old entrance

history library gains more space

The iconic building was designed by one of the most famous architects of the early 20th century, Cass Gilbert, who later went on to design the United States Supreme Court building in Washington D.C. The library was constructed in 1912, thanks largely to a donation by Andrew Carnegie.

history library bookstacks before

st louis library book stacks

The building has been visited by millions of people from all over the world, but the library needed modern amenities to thrive in the 21st century.

Smart Shelving Solutions

With so many challenges to overcome, the design team integrated many different shelving solutions into the historic library renovation project. These solutions opened up space for repurposing and created a sleek, modern appearance that integrated with antique wood and other classic features.

LED light library shelving
Custom glass end panels and LED lighting integrated into the shelving makes the stacks look almost like works of art. They create a design feature unique to this historic urban library.

cantilever library display shelving

Red acrylic end panels were used on the cantilever shelving units in the showcase space on the library’s main level. These panels were custom ordered and mounted to the shelving during installation.

clear en panels for library shelving

Glass end panels were also installed on the cantilever shelving used in the media room. These cantilever shelves were designed with hinged periodical display shelves.

cantilever shelving in wooden book cases
In the reading rooms, the original bookcases lining the walls were restored and put to use, but in some cases the wooden shelves were cracked, damaged, or difficult to reconfigure. Spacesaver provided steel cantilever shelving for these areas.

library movable book shelving charts
In the children’s area, cantilever shelving was placed on heavy-duty casters to create movable library shelving. Now staff can easily reconfigure the room on the fly.

custom library shelving retractable shelves
Cantilever shelves feature pullout drawers to store DVDs and other media. This saves space while also encouraging patrons to browse.

Saving Space in the Stacks

Books and other printed materials were consolidated in Spacesaver high-density mobile shelving to free up space for modern uses.

movable library shelving stack storage

compact library book stacks

This century-old library is now a blend of old and new, where ornate wooden ceilings and dramatic chandeliers meet high-tech computer labs, sleek glass walls and exposed concrete floors.