The Libbie Mill Library Story: Part 1

In anticipation of the opening of Henrico County’s newest library, Libbie Mill, we’ve created a series of posts that capture all of the aspects of our thinking and design process for this special place. The 60,000 square foot library is in the center of Libbie Mill Midtown, a new 80-acre mixed use urban development west of Staples Mill Road in the center of Henrico. The library’s civic presence at the heart of Libbie Mill Midtown will contribute to the overall urban fabric of this pedestrian scaled community.

Libbie Mill Library has been envisioned as a hub for learning, positive individual transformation and community advancement.

 The Libbie Mill Library Story- Part 1 (contributed by Jeff Hoover, Library Design Director at Tappé Architects)

As libraries restructure, redefine and “re-brand” themselves for the 21st century, library planners and designers often talk about a shifting spectrum of emerging “trends.”  For Libbie Mill, we reviewed these trends with the intent to discern from them those which were simply “trendy” and those which embodied ideas, initiatives and innovations (the 3 “I”s) that would be uniquely suited to this particular library for this particular community.

One trend that we embraced was the idea the library becoming the center of community.  In the context of a completely new development on a cleared plot of land, this library is to act as the cultural and geographic center of the new neighborhood.  The Libbie Mill Library is configured to be a collective “living room” – a welcome destination in the community beyond the home and the office.


Gumenick siteplan with Libbie Mill Library as the “center of the community”

Another emerging trend we focused on was creating an active library for productive people. Libraries in the 21st century are increasingly active places, rather than just places of quiet scholarship. At Libbie Mill, the design is responsive to a variety of library-planned and user-defined activities.  The library will be the place to come to be productive as well as be contemplative. It will support individuals needing focused concentration, group collaboration projects,and providespaces to be creative – both digitally and tangibly. In addition to having a great community meeting room, various spaces around the collections are configured for people to productively use information themselves, share information with others, complete projects (alone or in groups) and even create new information.

LML _Pavilion North Rendering

Collaboration zones and usable meeting space in Libbie Mill Library

A third trend we considered in our design was the idea of made for “easy shopping.”  The design needed to recognize that active lives sometimes require “grab and go” transactions. Library representatives, therefore, wanted to make it convenient and pleasurable to browse the collection and discover information.  As a response, the library’s design incorporates wide aisles and shelves at convenient heights which tilt the books’ titles up for easier viewing and selecting.  Also, many will appreciate the drive-up window for picking up library materials as well as returning them.

ADULT STACKS libbie mill

View of Adult collection at Libbie Mill Library

We were also very proud to embrace a fourth trend, that of being uniquely local.  Successful libraries of the 21st century understand that part of what makes them desirable destinations is that they are unique places, with unique material resources, advanced technological resources, and spatial resources.   As an important civic building, a library needs to have its own architectural character – one that is tuned to its particular place, but also distinct and identifiable in the context of other buildings in the community.  A library also needs to be rooted in its own unique community.

The architecture of Libbie Mill Library identifies itself as a reflection of the community’s aspirations for cultural and individual advancement while also being a logical extension of the guidelines that shaped the character of the community.  An interactive digital display that we’re calling the “Heritage Wall” will be dedicated to celebrating and illustrating the unique history of Henrico County.

Heritage Display Wall

Henrico County “Heritage Wall” on display in the Libbie Mill Library Lobby

Our goal was to make this library relevant, useful and productive for the emerging generations of the library users in this part of Henrico County. We set about this process by finding those 3 “I”s (Ideas, Initiatives and Innovations) that would help us to achieve that goal. For additional insights into how the Libbie Mill Library meets the challenges of 21st century library services, check back next week for an inside look at the overall design of the library.

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