Lawrence Public Library: Modern Place and Campus Escape


By Audrey Danser


With the semester in full swing, the crowds have settled upon the campus libraries and you’ve started to realize the drab decor, musty odor of the resource books and desolate WWII bunker feel of the Watson stacks. Don’t get me wrong, I have a fondness for KU libraries, but I sometimes need a break from my study space.

For students not willing to sacrifice five bucks for a latte in order to “pay rent” at a coffee shop, and I sure don’t blame you, the newly renovated Lawrence Public Library (LPL) is the perfect off-campus study spot. With the modern but equally inviting atmosphere, a good study playlist, and a cup of joe, one can easily get what they need to get shit done.

“Sometimes you just need to get away from campus to get focused, and the public library is a great space to do that,” LPL Marketing Coordinator and recent KU grad Jeni Daley said in an email interview. “We have plenty of space for you to spread out and a good mix of conversation and quiet spaces that offer the best ambiance.”

LPL, which reopened July 26 after a several-month renovation, has all the modern amenities for technology, research and even artistic expression. A 20,000 square foot expansion around the core of the existing building adds an open floor space to accommodate additional shelving, a children’s space, and lounge areas for study or recreational reading. Students have access to any of the reservable study rooms, computers and wifi, and knowledgeable staff. Most importantly, for those who need a caffeine fix, there’s a coffee bar available from the Sconelady to satisfy all cravings.


The downtown presence of the library, located at 7th and Vermont, now reflects the up-to-date resources the institute offers. The building, designed by Mass Street architecture firm Gould Evans, is a modern standout in comparison to the quaint feel of downtown.

Straying from the typical brick façade of the surrounding area, terra cotta panels wrap the library into a uniting shell. The continuous envelope of the structure creates a unique space with no “back façade” – the library faces the community from every direction, best viewed from the floor-to-ceiling windowed corners. Gould Evans paid special attention to these windows in its design, noting that it allows the public to peer into the building and engage with it prior to entering.

Despite the modern aesthetic of the building and the connotation that typically comes with “modern,” the library’s interior is cozy. The most prominent feature of the design, the different means of natural lighting, softly illuminates the interior space and brings warmth to the atmosphere. The open floor plan adds to the airy feel and allows one to flow easily in and out of the bookshelves searching for research materials or simply a new read. The light wood material, simplistic furniture and striking black typography add a final, clean touch.


Apart from the new look, the renovation emphasizes that the library is no longer an ancient institution, rather a community gathering space that can accommodate all ages.

“You can now come to the library to not only discover your next favorite book, but to record an album [free of charge in the sound+vision studio], find out how to fix your car or your career, grab a latte and a spicy romance, or just sit in the sunny corners and contemplate life,” Daley explained.

These many roles of the library, both current and evolving, were all considered during the design process of the addition.

“Although there are many uncertainties about how the library will interact with changes in how books are consumed, there are many roles that the library will always maintain,” said a representative of the architecture firm in an email interview.

One of the most important and timeless roles of the library is the sense of community, which is now accurately complemented by the space.


As you study in this new atmosphere, you will notice this sense of belonging. Children snuggle into picture books with their parents on the oversized reading staircase, your typical Lawrence grandfather rests into a comfortable chair reading the Journal World, and as you glance down the shelves of fiction novels, two trendy tweens gawk over the latest issue Vogue. LPL creates an atmosphere where it is easy to feel part of Lawrence community, not just campus.


Photos by Marlee Schuld

Edited by Hannah Swank