Carmel Clay Public Library Renovation Promises Exciting Additions and Features
Writer / Christy Heitger-Ewing
Photographer / Justin Sicking
It’s fun having something to look forward to. By the end of this year, the Carmel Clay Public Library’s building project, which began in September of 2020, will be complete.
When Bob Swanay joined the team as the library’s director, one of the first things the board told him was that the teen area was too small. As the board and staff began having internal conversations, they realized they were facing other space issues as well since the building was nearly two decades old.
“We went through a process of reevaluating our space and how it was being used,” says Swanay, noting that the largest programming space, accommodating roughly 100 people, was no longer adequate given that Carmel’s population has increased to approximately 100,000. “With more than 2,000 programs offered a year and an attendance of around 70,000, there was an obvious need for more space.”
When the new version of the library opens, the teen area will be substantially larger.
“What we had before was the size of a living room with some chairs, a few tables and a row of computers,” Swanay says. “What we’re going to be getting is an area six times as large that has a lot more lounge seating.”
The space will also include dedicated study rooms, some of which will be soundproof so that teens who want to practice a musical instrument can do so. In addition, library leaders plan to have an artist-in-residency space that will host a different teen artist each semester, giving them a quiet place to create. A versatile programming space, to be known as the community room, will hold close to 400 people versus 100, enabling librarians to use it for gaming, book discussions, guest speakers and more. This larger room will be able to divide into two to allow for multiple activities at once.
“Each of the half-rooms will be larger than the old one we had,” Swanay says.
Another exciting element to the remodel is the addition of a dedicated outdoor space, which the library team is calling the event lawn, and which will accommodate movies, story times and musical performances.
“No area of the library has been left untouched,” Swanay says.
Parking has also been expanded, including a parking garage in the same place the main parking area was on the south side of the library. Not only did the garage increase spaces from 230 to 430, but it also enabled a skybridge on the second floor so people can enter the library without having to face the elements.
The other cool addition in the parking garage is a locker area where patrons can pick up their holds, similar to Amazon lockers.
“The advantage is that items can be picked up independently of library operating hours, so if super early in the morning or late at night is the most convenient time for someone, they can do so,” Swanay says. “They’ll be super easy to use. Just scan your library card and the locker door will pop open. When you take your books out, it instantly checks you out.”
In a 2017 community survey, staff learned that many people like the breadth and depth of the library collection but expressed a desire for a west branch.
Jeff Terp, executive director of the Village of WestClay Owners Association Trustees Hall, says several people were interested in developing the vacant space in WestClay that once served as a deli, but businesses are pleased that the Joyce Winner West Branch moved in.
“It brings in traffic,” Terp says. “People are pleasantly surprised to see a library in this space.”
Greg Maiers, former board president and current board member, notes that the Joyce Winner West Branch has been a wonderful addition to the neighborhood.
“It’s so inviting,” says Maiers, who loves to check out books and movies digitally. “It has a fireplace. You can come in, lounge, and browse through books and magazines.”
According to Maiers, the Village of WestClay has about 5,000 people, and the library offers fun activities for kids in the neighborhood.
“The village is a diverse group of folks, and there are a lot of school buses around every day,” Maiers says. “The library has become a real focal point for them and a great addition to the neighborhood.”
Swanay has been pleased by the warm reception by the Village of WestClay management and residents.
“It’s nice being in the village,” he says. “You get a lot of families who walk from their homes. It’s a nice neighborhood feel.”
The Carmel Clay Public Library is located at 55 4th Avenue Southeast in Carmel. For more information, call 317-814-3900 or visit carmelclaylibrary.org/main-library.
These beautiful photos are taken at the Joyce Winner West Branch Library located at 12770 Horseferry Road, Village of WestClay, Carmel, Indiana 46032. 317-814-3965 or visit carmelclaylibrary.org/west-branch.