The original library building, a Nationally registered historic place, was constructed in 1902 from a large financial donation by Andrew Carnegie and a gift of land from Frank Stout. The library purchased the neighbouring land in the 1930s and eventually underwent expansion in 1981. The 1980s expansion brought a contemporary style adjoining space which hid and limited access to many of the original buildings prominent features including the skylights, original reading room and use of its grand entrance. The 2010 renovation (restore and modernize) project has focused on bringing back to live many of those lost features and striking an improved balance between contemporary and historic spaces by reorganizing the way in which spaces are used and moved through, peeling back some of the added layers and inserting new elements strategically. The project under went several fund raising drives which resulted in half of the building being financed from private financiers exemplifying a great local appreciation for the landmark.
Several elements from the building’s original design bolstered the process including proportions of spaces, storey height, natural light, intuitive wayfinding and the hierarchy of spaces taking visual clues from the architecture (light and volume). Many underused spaces were (re)activated including an unused mezzanine turned into an elevated reading lounge and an elaborate central rotunda showcasing a 4 metre light well. The biggest challenge with reinventing how the building is used and circulated through was finding creative ways to move air. An untapped zone between the original building and the addition provided the needed solution to move air sufficiently. The process showed albeit a poorly done renovation from the 1980s, how a well-designed building, designed over a 100 years ago, can be refit easily for modern needs and receive LEED certification.