Client – Seattle Public Library

Years: 2000 – 2001

Problem – Planning for access by diverse users of a metropolitan public library while allowing for uninterrupted expansion of cataloged library resources.

Problem details – As the Seattle Public Library planned for a new building to house the city’s central library, they were challenged to design a facility that:

  • Was fully accessible to a broad range of people with disabilities;
  • Allowed for continued library acquisitions without reconfiguration of space or cataloging systems.

Both of these of these issues are challenges to libraries in general, and the latter had not been successfully resolved in any previous new library design nationally.

The initial building plans developed by architects, in conjunction with the library staff, raised strong concerns about access from both the Department of Justice (DOJ), who is charged with enforcing the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), and the disabled community of Seattle.

McGuire Associates, Inc. Solution:

  • Worked with the architects and library staff to design innovative continuous slope access models;
  • Involved members of the disabled community in testing the effectiveness of the alternative models;
  • Acted as a liaison with DOJ, facilitating a solution that not only complied with ADA standards but also provided an innovative new model for library access and growth.

Solution Details – McGuire Associates, Inc. was retained by the project architects, OMA/LMN, to facilitate compliance with ADA standards and assist in designing a creative solution that met the needs of all the stakeholders in this issue. OMA is owned by world-renowned Dutch architect, Rem Koolhas.

McGuire Associates, Inc. action steps included:

  • Working with DOJ; drafting all correspondence for the project and supporting the dialogue that culminated in compliance with ADA standards;
  • Working with architects and library staff to design two full size models of ramp systems that:
    • met ADA standards,
    • provided access to library resources and reading areas,
    • incorporated the flexibility needed for future library growth;
  • Addressing the needs and concerns of the disabled community and involving individuals with disabilities in testing two continuous slope access prototypes;
  • Creating a unique way-finding for library patrons who are blind/visually impaired.

Outcome – McGuire Associates, Inc. facilitated DOJ acceptance of one of the access models, successfully promoting a win-win solution that met the needs of all stakeholders involved and producing an innovative new approach to library design.

Outcome Details – On April 2, 2001, DOJ approved the Seattle Public Library’s access plans, paving the way for construction of the city’s new central facility.

The unique continuous slope access system created through this collaborative effort, and referred to as “innovative” by DOJ, provides exciting new possibilities in the future for library planners as the model addresses both access and acquisition expansion needs.

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