Columbia Heights Public Library Wins Merit Award for Design and Service to Community

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Columbia Heights Public Library Wins Merit Award for Design, Sees Major Increase in Use Since New Building Opened
The Minneapolis branch of the American Institute of Architects recently selected the Columbia Heights Public Library as a 2018 Merit Award winner for 'excellence beyond design.'

The award recognizes buildings with exceptional design qualities that go above and beyond in addressing social, economic and environmental needs in the community, exhibit technical innovation, and were built within budget constraints, among other criteria.

The Columbia Heights Public Library, at 3939 Central Ave NE, is one of five buildings to earn this award in 2018. The award will be presented on the afternoon of Thu, June 28, at International Market Square, and comes on the 90th anniversary year of the opening of the first Columbia Heights Public Library. 

“We are in our 90th anniversary year, and we are so excited to be in this great, new, light-filled building at the heart of the community,” said Renee Dougherty, library director. “This building is the true gift, and this award reminds us of what a great gift it is.”
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Award-Winning Attributes and Building Success

Use of the Columbia Heights Public Library has increased by almost two-thirds since the new building has opened.

Completed in 2016 on budget and ahead of schedule, the 22,565 square-foot building provides print and digital collections, community meeting spaces, educational and recreational programming, and 20 computer stations. The study rooms, small meeting rooms, and the Community Room received more than 3,200 public reservations in 2017, representing a 93 percent increase in reservations compared to the old building. 

Circulation of materials (books, magazines, DVDs, CDs) also increased in light of the new building, from 109,018 checkouts in 2015 to 123,812 in 2017. But the increase in computer use marked the biggest change, from 23,218 computer sessions in 2015 to 47,506 in 2017.

"A major way the Columbia Heights Library serves our community is by bridging the digital divide, providing access to computers and high speed internet for those who don’t have access to the internet at home or work," Dougherty said.

Designed by architect Paul Neuhaus, the library also provides an urban community space on Central Ave with ample day lighting, deep overhangs, high open structures with sound-absorbing decking, and a comfortable indoor atmosphere with design features that help minimize the building’s impact on the environment, such as sun-sensitive LED lighting and energy saving underfloor air distribution systems.

Dougherty and several members of the library design task force and architect firm involved in the planning and development of the library will be present to accept the Merit Award Thursday.