Project tracker: Renovated Milton Public Library nears opening

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Jim Dayton
Monday, January 16, 2017


What it is: Renovating the Milton Public Library.

Why it was needed: The original library, built in 1966 as part of the Milton College campus, had run out of space. Without enough room to read and spend time in the library, visitors came inside to get their books before quickly leaving, Library Director Lisa Brooks said.

That kicked off a design phase in 2013, which included public input. The library held workshops where the community could share ideas with architects and designers, who then combined those thoughts into a cohesive design, Brooks said.

The city's role: City hall was formerly located on the library's second floor, so the city was closely involved in renovation discussions from the beginning. Milton initially gave $150,000 for the library's design work while also constructing a new municipal building on Janesville Street, City Administrator Al Hulick said.

When municipal services moved into the current building in 2014, there was an understanding that library expansion would eventually move forward. The library raised most of the $3.1 million project's funds through private donations, and the city allocated $750,000 in March 2015 to bridge the gap, Hulick said.

The expense was worth it because the library will draw visitors from across the region, he said.

“It's something that we are incredibly proud of from the city government side and the city community as a whole,” Hulick said. “It is something that is a great source of pride and community identification for the city of Milton.”

What's new: Construction began in March of last year and wrapped up in December. Most notably, the library has doubled its size—the children's area alone has increased from 800 square feet to 5,000 square feet, Brooks said.

But the new space is totally transformed and does not look like a typical library. Bright colors dot the interior, and rooms are separated with curved, glass walls, she said.

The new building emphasizes collaborative and high-tech learning spaces to align with modern education methods. Restaurant-style booths are equipped with Apple TVs, and new iPads and iMacs will be common throughout the library, she said.

The focal point of the new learning spaces is the SPARK Lab, where people can “experiment, fail, learn and feel comfortable to use their imagination.” The lab will provide tools for sewing, 3D printing, electric circuitry and online coding, Brooks said.

Students at MECAS and Milton High School will collaborate with the library to write simple lesson plans and teach classes for younger children at the SPARK Lab, she said.

“The more we can collaborate, the more people come in and share their experiences and skills, the more we can learn in our community,” Brooks said.

Preparing to open: Furniture and shelving units have arrived as staff and volunteers work to put the finishing touches on the new library. The grand opening will come sometime in mid-to-late February, its date dependent on when some final furnishings are delivered.

“It's been an amazing process, an amazing experience. I am beyond excited to launch this,” Brooks said. “It will be a popular destination for people in Milton.”

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