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Spokane Public Library: Creating 21st Century Learning Hubs

Those lucky enough to enjoy the benefits of a public library know the joy book borrowing can bring. For members of the Spokane Public Library in Washington, borrowing goes beyond the norm. Local stargazers, hikers, and filmmakers in need of expensive or specialized equipment can borrow telescopes, state park passes, video production tools, and so much more from the “Library of Things,” Spokane’s bookless, digital library offering everything but books. Members simply log into their account, browse the online items catalog, and check out what they’re looking for. Items are either delivered to one of seven library branches of the member’s choice, or, for some items, available for pickup at specific branches.

This is just one of many unique offerings provided by the Spokane Public Library, and after the Library’s seven branches undergo major construction beginning this spring, it will offer so much more.

Hill International is providing program, project, and construction management support for the Library’s $77 million construction bond program, which will help the Library realize its vision of thriving, flexible community destinations that deliver library services through the system. Project work will include remodeling the Downtown Library to consolidate back-of-house and technical services spaces and create opportunities for more patron use, such as a collaborative commons, art and music studios, maker spaces, daylight program rooms, and a café. The Shadle branch will receive a 12,000 square foot expansion that will include a children’s zone, and the East Central branch will be relocated, double in size, and include two new quiet study rooms. In total, the bond provides for the remodel of four existing branches and the construction of three new libraries, but perhaps the most exciting addition will be that of the Libby Center branch in the East Sprague district, which, in collaboration with Spokane Public Schools, will create a 21st century public library nicknamed “The Hive.”

Like the Library of Things, The Hive is an innovative venture created with the needs of Spokane residents in mind. The new, cutting-edge library will be one without books, focused solely on art and community.

“The Library of Things inspired the Library to create The Hive. It’s a place to learn, but in other ways,” said Matthew Walker, Hill’s Program Manager and Spokane Operations Manager. “The Library is really putting an emphasis on community gathering spaces, and that’s what this branch provides: a place for artists within the community to come together and collaborate, display their art, or teach others. If someone wants to learn how to make pottery, or learn ironworking, or how to play guitar, this is the place to do it.”

In addition to artistic learning space, The Hive will also act as a teacher training facility and provide office space for Spokane Virtual Learning. Construction for all seven locations is expected to wrap up by 2023, with the Downtown and Shadle branches temporarily closing during construction. The Library of Things, however, will stay available to a myriad of learners.

“We’re really excited to start construction and help deliver this library and all the others within the Spokane Public Library system,” said Mr. Walker. “These are the libraries of the future, and Hill is proud to take part in making them a reality.”