During the 2014-15 school year at Episcopal School of Jacksonville, the planning began for a two-phase renovation project in the Jacob F. Bryan III Library. The Bryan Library was built in 1992. With the exception of new carpeting and a couple office moves, there had been no major changes in the building since the opening . . . same furniture, same layout, same procedures, etc. We had been in a place “stuck” in time. Libraries were changing all around us. We were given the opportunity to take a huge step towards modernization and we jumped on it.
We enlisted the services of two professionals: Jeff Hunt of Library Interiors of Florida and Cheryl Parramore of Parramore Interiors. Cheryl really helped steer us as we updated the library’s Lucy B. Gooding Boardroom and our lobby. That was the first phase of our renovations. They took place during the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays of 2016. We made traditional yet modern choices in the boardroom. The lobby, which was merely an open pass-through area, became a student art gallery with benches, display cases and an art hanging system with art lighting.
Throughout this time, we met regularly with Jeff Hunt. We planned and planned and planned. We discussed our wishes for the function of the space and Jeff did his magic; he projected images of floor plans so we could pluck items out, replace items, and rearranges spaces. Many libraries manage their own renovations. After working with Jeff, I have no idea how they do it! His experience and expertise brought us a finished product that was all we hoped for when we started the process in 2014.
Our school’s librarian in 1991 had great vision. Barbara Benham helped plan a beautiful building with a modern layout. All we needed to do was take her creation and open up the floor plan, make everything a bit more accessible, and add some functional spaces.
During the Spring of last year, we began by doing a final weeding of our inventory. We offered all the old furniture that we would not be using to our staff and faculty. We gave extra shelving to a school who needed it. Jeff’s crew unloaded our inventory onto giant rolling book carts, disassembled bookshelves and moved everything to a storage facility. Two days before the wrecking crew came in, everyone picked up their furniture. It was like a giant estate sale! Every stitch of furniture was disassembled and carried away.
The demolition crew followed; they removed flooring, a couple walls, the circulation desk, etc. The construction crew came in to trench the floors for electricity/data lines, cut out new windows and doorways and begin the reconfiguration process.
The crews worked straight through the summer months and finished on time for the first day of classes this past fall. Though we still had some punch list items to take care of, our renovations were complete and a success in the eyes of our students. The new library layout goes hand-in-hand with the School’s Harkness initiative, emphasizing collaborative learning and students’ ownership of material. The entire space is maximizing its flexibility, embracing technologies, and diversifying the ways in which students might learn.
The newly renovated Bryan Library now includes:
• A new Makerspace with craft materials, a 3-D printer, as well as new computers equipped with special software for creative endeavors like recording, playing, and editing music.
• New furniture sets – tables, chairs, and sofas – equipped with power so students’ devices can recharge
• New zones within the space – from individual, quiet study in frosted-glass-divided carrels with noise-canceling headphones to a glassed-in area on the northeast wall of the library, capable of being divided into three smaller spaces or opened up into one large space for discussion, lecture, or even yoga classes
• A permanent home for the school’s archives and the Alumni Hall of Honor display
The finished product is lighter and brighter, more conducive to collaborative work with areas for quiet study along the windows overlooking campus and the St. Johns River. The entire project was quite an undertaking and so worth the effort!