Libraries, like books, can’t always be judged by their covers. But occasionally they are due for a fresh look.
The Hamilton East Public Library is undergoing simultaneous renovations at its locations in Noblesville and Fishers branches. The Fishers renovation is expected to cost between $13.4 million and $15.5 million and will completely reshape the look of the library while minimally disrupting the main checkout and bookshelf areas.
The project began in 2018 with the completion of the Ignite Studio, which inside the Fishers branch and promotes the arts. Library officials then began to envision redesigning other elements of the building.
“The last time we did a major renovation of these buildings was in the early 2000s. We were coming up on the 20-year mark and we really were looking at things that needed to be refurbished or replaced,” said Edra Waterman, library director and CEO. “When we looked at the design and what we needed to do, we were really focused on how we make sure we are positioning these resources that we have for the next 20 years of library service.”
The entire Fishers renovation will be completed in two phases. The first, set to be complete by the summer of 2022, will be major external work as well as some interior piping. The second phase will begin at the conclusion of the first and will be wrapped up by 2023. When complete, library officials see the future of the library as being better incorporated into the rest of downtown Fishers.
“I think it’s really an exciting opportunity for the entire City of Fishers,” HEPL Director of Marketing and Communications Shelley Huffman said. “It provides that holistic sense of community where we are integrating the library with the city center, the amphitheater, the farmers market. I think it will bring greater enthusiasm to the city and we’ll see more people use the resources at the library.”
The first phase
The renovation will be most noticeable at the north and south entrances. In the current configuration, the southern entrance is the main entryway, but that will be reversed when the renovation is cocmplete.
“So, you’ll come right off of Lantern (Road), onto Municipal (Drive) and turn right into the library,” Waterman said. “We’re building a new two-story main entrance there. There will also be a ton of pedestrian access from the (Nickel Plate) Trail, from the city center, all around the library.”
Sidewalks will circle the library. Currently, the two entrances are separate.
Waterman said on-site parking also will be improved. Currently, most of the parking is in the south lot, which is between the library and the police statio, with only a couple access points off Municipal Drive. When renovations are completed, parking will be significantly increased to the north of the building.
Besides the entrances, the bulk of the funds will be spent on less visible projects, such as replacing HVAC systems, roofing and certain electric components.
The second phase
Renovation to the front of the library and its mechanical systems is included in Phase 1 of the Hamilton East Public Library project. The second phase will rework some inside areas of the branches.
Waterman said the process of finding and checking out books has been popular and will not be significantly altered, but the entrance to the teen and children’s areas will be redesigned.
“Phase 2 is very small, and it’s mostly updating carpet, paint and furniture,” Waterman said.
Library officials aren’t disclosing the final design elements for the renovated children’s area.
“We’re going to bring some really cool elements in there, but I don’t want to ruin the surprise,” Waterman said.
Incorporation of the arts
Besides being the impetus for the renovations, the Ignite Studio at Hamilton East Public Library will be a major focal point of the new entryway, with artwork showcased there as well.
“When you walk in (to the new entrance) you’ll have an immediate connection with the Ignite Studio on the right, and then there will be stair and elevator access up to the main level,” Library Director and CEO Edra Waterman said. “It’s going to be really nice.
“There’s going to be space for art and installations in that space as well, which will tie it into the Nickel Plate Arts District and the work at Ignite Studio.”