A Redeveloped Library Celebrates Increased Patronage

Public libraries have evolved in recent decades to become critical places for connecting and building communities. Their services now extend far beyond book lending, with modern libraries catering to diverse demographics, interests and activities.

The City of Mitcham engaged DesignInc to redevelop the Mitcham Memorial Library to become a modern library and to reflect its progressive place in the community. This included providing accessibility for all ages and abilities, including a new youth area and a larger children’s area. New meeting facilities support business development and economic growth in the local community, and the co-location of the toy library supports diverse community needs. This is the fourth upgrade in the building’s history and continues to future proof the library for future generations.

‘Mitcham Council wanted a new, modern, and highly visible facility that would support the council’s community services and enable better community and cultural experiences for residents and business people,’ says DesignInc Associate, Michael Willis

The library occupies a corner site in Hawthorn, Adelaide, and faces onto a parkland and creek setting. The adjacent roads and heritage gardens restricted the expansion of the building. DesignInc’s solution retained and repurposed a large part of the original footprint and created a new layout with six main zones – These included borrowing, public computers, youth, quiet study/reading, main collection and children’s library, and the foyer/gallery located to the creek side of the building. The existing sanitary facilities were retained, and the design incorporated the existing low ceilings and roof structures contained in this zone.

Interior of Mitcham Memoral Library

We achieved a lot within a compact and restricted footprint. The library provides an amazing amount of different services to the community, within a very compact space, however the physical experience of the library is not cramped.

Michael Willis
Associate, DesignInc Adelaide

Seating is placed around the perimeter of the building facing outdoor spaces and the park. A variety of booths, alcoves, armchairs and tables allow different users to enjoy this view. The children’s library is located in the east of the building, where parents and carers can easily access the existing sanitary and change facilities. This also places the “energetic” users deeper within the library, away from the busy front entry where customers need assistance. The children’s zone can also be configured into an event space for presentations and talks. The computer area and youth zone are located near the service desk, where users can access IT assistance and the staff can offer general supervision.

The City of Mitcham wanted to maintain the feel and familiarity of the existing library for long-time users and to create a space where people would feel comfortable staying for the day. DesignInc looked to the exterior landscape for inspiration, using natural colours and materials to complement the park environment.

The simple palette of external materials includes charcoal and white to complement and highlight the more natural finishes, such as weathered Corten steel, which allows the building to blend into the landscape. Internally, green carpet and timber-lined ceilings alongside the windows connect with the parkland, while white ceilings deep within the building create a lighter and brighter space.

The library team hoped to retain the warmth and community feel of the existing facility with the new additions. Their feedback has confirmed they feel the new building is very successful in this regard, and that it feels like home.

Michael Willis
Associate, DesignInc Adelaide