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New Southeast Branch Library Design

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New Southeast Branch Library Design

Nashville Public Library, Tenn.

Health & Wellness | 2015 | Top Innovator

Innovation Synopsis

The “library of the future” might be NPL’s new Southeast branch. This LEED Gold facility, once a windowless store in a vacant shopping mall, was designed based on community input. It features sleek technology, public art and community spaces. Patrons love it: circulation is up 34 percent since it opened!


When city leaders wondered what to do with a dead shopping mall parcel in southeast Nashville, NPL answered: Let us double the size of the library branch nearby, which was bursting at the seams. NPL hosted community input meetings, using feedback to inform the new space’s design. The Library portion sits within a larger, multipurpose facility, next to a Metro Parks center and yards from the practice rink used by Nashville’s NFL hockey team. NPL purposefully chose this location to capitalize on a community magnet with these features: public art, a playground and a four-acre green space (repurposed from a mall parking lot). The local farmer’s market has chosen to relocate to the green space because of the site’s popularity.

Key Elements of Innovation

The nearly 700 people who joined NPL for Southeast’s opening day told us they loved what they saw and felt their voices had been heard in the design process. The Library added a café, portable laptops, a dedicated children’s area and a Studio NPL teen digital learning space. We included DVD and popular materials vending machines, accessible 24 hours a day. NPL also introduced multilingual signage, digital artwork featuring local contributions from the neighborhood, and an interactive catalog (patrons tap or hover their feet over titles projected onto the lobby floor and follow arrows directing them to the item).

Achieved Outcomes

Circulation is now up 34 percent at the new Southeast location. Bilingual story times are a favorite among patrons in this diverse, ever-growing part of town. What’s more, this community-input model for designing NPL spaces has become the standard for the Library's ongoing building and renovations campaign. Whether we are building a new, 25,000-square-foot facility, or remodeling one of our two 100-year-old Carnegie buildings, the goal and outcomes are the same: we use our spaces as tools for inspiring reading, advancing learning and building community in every neighborhood where we are located.