Associated General Contractors (AGC) ACE Industry Award–2023 Jack Mincher People’s Choice Award
Associated General Contractors (AGC) ACE Industry Award–Bronze Award for Best Building Project, General Contractor ($10-$40 Million)
“Think and wonder. Wonder and think.” - Dr. Seuss
High Plains Library District, LINC
“Fantasy is a necessary ingredient in living—it’s a way of looking at life through the wrong end of a telescope.” – Dr. Seuss
The Library Innovation Center (LINC) is the newest chapter of the High Plains Library District’s adventure in creative spaces. Designed with the intent to inspire, the 64,000-square-foot addition and renovation began in September 2021 and wrapped up in May 2023. Innovation aspects of the building include industrial space, wet/dry arts bays, industrial room, recording studio, and makerspaces that promote hands-on inquiry, problem-solving, and lifelong learning. A river of books on artfully curvaceous shelving runs through the library, tying together the waterway theme and love for learning.
LINC is located at 501 8th Avenue in Greeley, Colorado–the former site of the old Greeley Tribune. This was a poetic transformation of the site into a state-of-the-art educational facility serving the surrounding area–LINC Library, like the Tribune, is a source of knowledge. LINC was designed with the river system in mind, blending purposeful, creative décor meant to educate patrons.
The $23 million LINC project was initiated in response to community needs, along with the High Plains Library District (HPLD) strategic planning efforts. Financial support was provided by the Weld Community Foundation, Greeley Downtown Development Authority, and HPLD Friends and Foundation. The owner is High Plains Library District, the Owner’s Representative is Wember, Inc., the architect is Barker Rinker Seacat, and GH Phipps Construction Companies is the general contractor.
Planning efforts for the space spanned five years as library management visited libraries around the world, gathering ideas and finding ways to best integrate them into the LINC design. The vision was brought to life this summer, and like the water that gently carved the high plains over time, so will LINC shape the lives and futures of the residents of Weld County.
“You’ll never be bored when you try something new. There’s really no limit to what you can do.” – Dr. Seuss
There’s a big blue sign outside LINC Library. Your mom might take your photo there. I looked like a lowercase “i” inside the LINC frame. I’ll try again next year.
My parents said LINC is a centerpiece of the Weld County community, and the librarian cares a lot about transferable skills. My friends and I are just looking for something fun to do around here, we get bored sometimes.
The person who made the library likes rivers. I like it, but one friend of mine was annoyed at the turquoise in the table river design. He just has a bad attitude about turquoise. I think it’s pretty. We sat at the table while my parents looked through genealogy books.
My favorite thing was climbing through a portal to the upstairs. The rivers were there too, painted on the walls. There was a message on the wall, written in code. Using the alphabet decoder, we spent some time solving the secret message. I won’t spoil that part.
Creating a physical connection from the mezzanine level that showcases the rest of the library space without detracting from the experience.
An installation artist designed a climbing maze to guide children from the lobby up to the second floor–parents can opt for the stairs. Inside the installation are playful round windows overlooking the children’s library. Creatively lit tunnels provide an impactful view of the grand staircase and main hall below, expanding the space and providing a truly immersive experience.
“Why fit in when you were born to stand out.” – Dr. Seuss
You know how it’s usually plain in a library, and if I weren’t being polite, I’d say boring? Well, these shelves are all flowy and the ceiling has waves of color. The stairs have rivers, the windows have rivers, even the shadows on the floor are rivers!
Seamlessly and artfully bringing the essence and beauty of the high plains water system into the main design.
To mimic the Northern Colorado watershed, a metal façade was crafted to match the confluence of the South Platte, St. Vrain, and Cache La Poudre Rivers. With the knock-out elements in the metal creating a negative space, daylight casts the organic shapes and patterns of the river routes onto the interior space. At night, the metal is backlit to showcase the façade to the passing public. Paintings and wall hangings map rivers and share quotes. With no detail spared, even the oak coffee table–carved from a 122-year-old silver maple salvaged from the nearby University of Northern Colorado campus–showcases a river-inspired turquoise inlay.
The vinyl Installation was also a reflection of the community and the surrounding environment as the line work and design were derived from questions sent out to the public to respond with pictures and words that remind them of Greeley and Weld County. This brought forth pictures of hay bales, hoof prints, hot-air balloons, irrigation pivots, telephone wires against a skyscape, and others which became a collage of line work images printed into a wall vinyl with colors reflecting the theme of the building.
“It’s opener there in the wide open air.” – Dr. Seuss
Some spaces had large ceilings. One was a room for woodworking, the next space for working on cars. The ceilings in the story time room had clouds with lightning or sunshine. Some rooms had walls that could move. The windows in the wavy book section looked out to a circle of outdoor space for sitting and reading. I felt like I was outside, but I was still in the library!
Space utilization and bringing the seasons indoors.
Large windows and glass walls in the library frame an atrium honoring space preserved from the old Greeley Tribune. The lighting casts shadows of the river system from the metal façade onto the ground, creating a surreal feel when natural sunlight is present.
The indoor/outdoor transitional spaces convert easily. A children’s garden for story time, shade sails, patio umbrellas, and flexible makers spaces with garage doors, allow various options to enjoy the beautiful Colorado seasons.
“Sometimes the questions are complicated and the answers are simple.” – Dr. Seuss
After visiting the sound studio, podcast room, and filming area with the tall green walls, I can’t decide what I want to be when I grow up. My brother knows, he played video games on the giant screens forever, until Dad said we should appreciate the history of the space and started talking all about some old newspaper. I guess that’s what was here before. I wonder if the newspaper had rivers too.
Preserving existing space from the old Greeley Tribune in a safe, functional way–while incorporating the new design decisions.
The innovation center was once a double-height printing press space. The children’s library was designed to fit the existing mail room with shelves of books twisting along the curves of the space. Linking past and future, this creative use of existing space reduced demolition and cut construction costs.
The collaboration between teams was crucial to safely cutting six new thirty-foot-tall openings in existing masonry walls. The project team performed unique structural upgrades to the existing space. Environmental care was taken in the preservation.
“You’ll be sort of surprised what there is to be found once you go beyond Z and start poking around.” – Dr. Seuss
If I had to tell you one thing about the LINC Library–other than being patient with your parents and not worrying about growing into a capital letter “I” …well, I would say it’s not boring. I think you’ll love it!
“Oh, the things you can find if you don’t stay behind!” – Dr. Seuss
The LINC Library grand opening brought in more than 1,700 people. A frequent patron said, “It is great to see a line at a public library front door that is as long as an amusement park’s line.” LINC is a role model for the future of innovation in the library space. LINC is truly special, forward-thinking project, well deserving of an ACE Award.