Designed by MSR Design, in partnership with the Louisville firm JRA Architects, Louisville Free Public Library’s new South Central Regional Library is one of six library projects to be honored by the American Institute of Architects (AIA) and American Library Association (ALA) with an AIA/ALA Library Building Award. Cosponsored by AIA and ALA’s Library Leadership and Management Association, the award honors the best in library architecture and design. Forward-thinking library design elements include larger gathering spaces to support the needs of the community and sustainable features to conserve water and energy. The South Central Regional Library showcases both of these aspects and more.
The South Central Regional Library is the second regional library to be built as part of Louisville Free Public Library’s ambitious 12-year master plan (developed by MSR Design). The new facility brings library service to 160,000 customers in a previously underserved neighborhood. By delicately inserting the building into a grove of trees, the project stands out in a region of Kentucky where clearcutting sites is standard practice. Tree preservation, daylight harvesting, and energy conservation served as guiding principles for the design. Extending the building outside through exterior reading and gathering spaces in the landscape creates a library in the trees. Mirroring this strategy, large spans of windows capture inspiring views to the light-dappled leaves that envelope the site.
The library’s innovative program encourages interaction and engagement for people of all ages and backgrounds in lieu of simple transaction. Concentrating staff-only areas within focus-oriented, shared spaces made room for more public areas within the building. The design creates a series of volumes in a single open space to ensure flexibility for short-term adjustments and adaptability for long-term changes. This flexible, responsive organization will allow the library to continue to meet the community’s needs well into the future. Key spaces include a teens’ area, a makerspace called “the collider” that houses the library’s innovative artist-in-residence program, and a flex studio for hands-on activities that combine learning and application. The new library serves as an ideal venue for community events and innovative programming, which has resulted in the library issuing 2,818 new library cards in the first six months of operation. Certified LEED-NC v. 3 Gold, the library exceeds the 2030 Challenge energy reduction goal by 10% through passive and active design strategies, such as performing solar studies and EUI analysis and incorporating a geothermal system on the site to minimize heating and cooling loads.