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Design on the Cheap: Library Design and Renovation on a Budget

Library renovations can cost several million dollars or more. For some libraries, funding a project that size—or even half that size—isn’t an option. Luckily, design options are available at a minimal cost for libraries that want to change the look and feel of their space.

Start with what you have. The first step in any design project, big or small, is intense self-reflection. Brian Lee, architect and design partner at Skidmore, Owings, and Merrill, has designed libraries around the world, including the award-winning Chinatown branch of Chicago Public Library (CPL), which opened in 2015. He stresses the importance of research and an inward gaze when trying to design on a budget.

"Go back to your library’s purpose—the mission—and all the programs that you believe are necessary, and develop strategies to achieve them," Lee says.

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