Durham News

Planned Durham County library bigger, better, lots of glass

A conceptual rendering of the renovated Durham County library.
A conceptual rendering of the renovated Durham County library. Courtesy of Durham County

After a presentation about Durham County’s new library, Michael Page said he can hardly wait two years to see the larger, open, modern space.

“It’s OK,” the county commissioners chairman said. “It is going to be worth it.”

Earlier this month, the commissioners received an update on the $44.3 million transformation of the library space. The renovation goes beyond updating the inside. The remodeled building will have lots of glass and a circulation that spills out into the community with a porch area, rooftop terrace and an art garden.

The change will add nearly 20,000 square feet to the current 65,000 square foot building. All of the work depends on Durham County voters approving a bond referendum Nov. 8.

All told, voters are being asked to approve four bond referendums totaling $170 million, which includes $44.3 for the library renovation.

How soon?

If the project moves forward, the library would close in early 2017.

The design of the building would extend through March. Construction would extend from June to December 2018. County officials would start moving back into the building in December 2018.

The library would reopen in February 2019.

Whats changing?

Almost everything.

The project seeks to transform the current “bunker-like building” that is somewhat “insular and disconnected” from its surroundings, and open it to the community “conceptually and quite literally,” said Victor Vines, president of Vines Architecture, which is designing the building.

“We are taking everything down except the existing structure,” Vines said.

Officials are keeping the bones of the building, Vines said, because it saves about $2.2 million.

What’s new?

The current library has two entrances and three floors. The redesign includes one main entrance with a central flow to four floors.

The plan includes several meeting and conference rooms and a 300-seat auditorium with seats (that can retract) and a movable stage.

It includes a Friends of the Library store and cafe, an outdoor art garden, a rooftop terrace, and outdoor areas for library programs.

It also includes a bigger teen space and study rooms, and more computers, as well as areas for gaming, music and video production. A digital, touch-screen display would highlight an expanded North Carolina collection area.

Don’t worry, said Library Director Tammy Baggett-Best, the design includes plenty of space for books and a quiet reading room.

“The traditional books will still be here,” she said.


The current library has 178 parking spaces on site.

The renovated library would have 143 on-site spaces and 31 on-street parking spaces along Liberty and Holloway streets. (That’s 174 spaces total.)

With the loss of spaces and the expected increase in library traffic, county officials are discussing parking overflow options, which would likely include links to planned county parking decks on the 300 and 500 blocks of East Main Street.

Virginia Bridges: 919-829-8924, @virginiabridges

Why is the library being renovated?

The Main Library is 36 years old. It has reached the limits of the amount of technology that can be added with the current design. In addition, the central staircase creates poor sight lines, and the building has very little natural light. The library also needs more room for programming and the North Carolina Collection. The renovation of the Main Library is the final step of the regional library plan implemented by the county commissioners more than 10 years ago. The new building will be LEED certified and built to accommodate users’ needs well into the future.

Source: Durham County Library