Welcome to the next chapter of the library.
At the Racine Public Library’s June 2021 board meeting (PDF), the board approved a renovation of the library’s second floor. The renovation is currently expected to cost $2.7 million.
The board knew that as long as Racine grew and changed, the library must follow. Our building has of course served us well, but we need a refresh to meet our community’s current needs. The library of the 2020s, in essence, must offer new technology and human services as well as be easier and more fun to use. This refresh will better help you find resources, attend events, get support, study, discover, relax and collaborate.
To this end, the library worked with the architects at Product Architecture + Design on a plan to bring us to our next chapter. Construction will begin in April 2022 and then continue in phases through early 2023. We’ll be open the whole time, and our construction team — Rasch Construction & Engineering — will help us keep the space as comfortable as possible during our changes.
Want to see what other changes and achievements are coming during our 125th anniversary year?
What does the library look like right now?
Changes so far
The walls for the upgraded Innovation Lab and Teen Space (in the opposite corner of the building from where you enter the second floor), History Room (next to the Innovation Lab and Teen Space), Business Center (immediately beside the stairs and elevator when you enter the second floor), and study spaces (across the room from the staircase entrance to the second floor) have started going up. An opening for the new entrance along Lake Avenue has been created but is covered until the entrance is completely installed.
Public computers have been re-located to the north-west end of the building (across the room from where the elevator opens onto the second floor). Items for checkout, technology for visitors and staff desks have all been relocated, but you’ll find a staff member stationed right at the entrance to the second floor if you need help finding anything. Another staff member is stationed by the new location of the computers.
Magazines are no longer available for browsing, but they can still be checked out on request. Please ask a staff member for any issues you’re looking for.
Throughout the renovation
Shelves and items will be moving to new places throughout the renovation. Please let a staff member know if you need help finding anything.
Computers and the nearby staff service desk will move from the back corner of the second floor to the space across from the second-floor bathrooms while we place carpeting throughout the building.
The Spanish and travel collections will shift to different places throughout the second floor. Graphic novels will be relocated throughout the second floor, with most to be placed in front of the history room.
The voting station will be unavailable during carpeting. All other items and services on the Lake Avenue / downtown side of the second floor will be stored until carpeting is complete.
The construction team will begin setting up partitions to begin construction on the new staircase once all parts are available. The first-floor bathroom won’t be open during this time, but the second-floor restrooms will stay open.
New carpet will be placed in the second floor’s open areas. Then, shelves will be moved onto the new carpet for carpet to be placed in the currently occupied spaces.
The library renovation will add:
- A new staircase in our first floor lobby with enough room for two-way traffic. The staircase will be open and well-lit for a more pleasing entrance.
- A second entrance to the library on the downtown, Lake Avenue side of the building.
- A bigger, easier-to-use Innovation Lab. As a result, it will be easier to join STEM workshops, use the 3D printers and laser engravers, try virtual and augmented reality and work with other technology. The new space will also contain workstations where visitors can innovate and create.
- A more appealing teen space. This will become a dedicated space of which teens can have ownership. The new room will be a great place for group and quiet study, gaming and more.
- A Beyond Books Boutique for you to browse the supplies, tools, games and other items in this collection. It’s like walking into the shop of an airport — only everything is free!
- Better displays of other items you can borrow. As a result, finding what you want — or discovering something new — will be easier and more fun.
- A Business Center and new study spaces to invite quiet time, study, collaboration, and other forms of remote work. These spaces will contain audiovisual tech, screens and whiteboards. You’ll also find comfortable, versatile furniture throughout these spaces and the entire second floor.
- A large meeting room for up to 77 people. In addition, its walls will be movable to make space for hundreds.
- An expanded history room. Our archives will soon have more space and better protection, thanks to new climate controls for light, temperature and humidity.
- Better lighting to enhance our natural light.
- More open spaces for exhibits and displays.
- Clearer direction signs and walkways.
- Better restroom accessibility.
Preview the Renovation
Want to see what the library will look like after the renovation? Check out the previews below.
Want to support the renovation and other library projects?
If you believe in the work we’re doing to bring literacy — in all its forms — to the people of Racine, we’d love for you to support our work. Will you donate to help us power our renovation and the future of the library?
Want to know more about the library renovation?
Library’s Total Floorspace
65,000 square feet
Floorspace to be Renovated
29,300 square feet
July 2021 to Early 2023 (estimated)
Planning: July 2021 to April 2022
Construction: April 2022 to Spring 2023
$2.7 million (current projection — not fixed)
Where the funds come from
What to Expect
We’ll upgrade the second floor in phases over the next several months. The library will stay open during construction.
Why does the library need a renovation?
Literacy is the library’s purpose, but literacy is about so much more than just books. This is the concept of transliteracy: the ability to read, write and interact through a variety of platforms, tools and media.
In addition, libraries are shifting focus from collections to connections. While checking out books and other items is crucial, our patrons are requesting more human-centered services to meet their basic needs.
In many ways, our services are already transliterate and connection-focused. For example, your library card lets you borrow hundreds of fun and useful items you might not keep at home, like cameras, a projector, drones, a sewing machine or a metal detector. In addition, we already house social services and a sensory room, tech classes, creative tools like 3D printers and laser engravers, career supports and so much more. However, this is only the first step. In order to make our transliterate and connection-focused services reliable and irresistible, our building needs a refresh.
To this end, we’re updating and adding second-floor spaces to meet a wider variety of human-centered, multimedia needs. After the refresh, the library will offer a community kitchen, a recording studio, new meeting rooms, a refreshed Innovation Lab and teen space, and more. By providing better services that transform the purpose and definition of libraries, we open new options for Racine and support its well-being, learning and innovation for years to come.
What are the renovation's funds for?
The renovation will cost $2.7 million. $1.7 will cover contractors while the remaining $1 million will fund architects, furniture, a few other pieces of the project and the unexpected.
This money won’t come from any new sources of taxpayer funding. In fact, the budget will come only from unrestricted funds in library trust accounts. Although unexpected costs may arise, we would cover extra needs by fundraising or adjusting the project.
How did you decide what to add to the renovation?
We completed our new strategic plan just as COVID-19 reached our area. While planning, our team talked to Racinians, staff, and library stakeholders to hear our community’s needs. Then, our architects held their own conversations with staff, community members and the board to form their plan for the renovation.
As a result, our project plan is shaped by community input to address the needs we heard. After all we’ve learned, we’re confident this renovation will make the library an irresistible destination for building literacy and beyond.
Why renovate instead of building a new branch?
A renovation is the best way to expand community services from within our current home. New branches, on the other hand, take much more time and work to get funding and partner with municipalities. Additionally, the library’s status as a municipal library means that it can’t open branches outside the city of Racine. All in all, this means a new building isn’t the best way for us to serve our community, at least not now.
However, the library is adding a second mobile library — a Techmobile — to its Library GO! services late 2022. The Techmobile won’t just offer books, but also borrowable and on-board tech. As a result, the whole community will be able to enjoy STEAM workshops, 3D printers, borrowable laptops and hot spots, public Wi-Fi and more.