Wichita’s Advanced Learning Library in Kansas is the city’s newest and largest public library, replacing the old downtown branch. “Open for all” in June 2018, a play on its inclusive acronym, the project’s modern appearance and amenities welcome the community to congregate, collaborate, concentrate and to contemplate its 440,000 books, plus movie and audiobook collections.

The new 105,200-square-foot, two-story learning facility’s multi-functional environment meant selecting products to optimize each area’s purpose and performance within a unified design. Metal ceiling panels and perimeter trim, finished in copper metallic, contributed to achieving the library’s aesthetic, acoustic and sustainability goals.


Vision: Library of the Future

A new master plan for the library facilities was approved in 2006, as the continuation of 40 years of master planning by the Library Board of Directors. After further planning and budgeting, the project moved forward in 2016 with final approval from the Wichita City Council. After two years of construction, the Wichita ALL was completed as scheduled at a total estimated construction cost of $38 million.

Designed by GLMVArchitecture, the new ALL incorporates concepts requested by the community to build a new library that would replace the smaller, 48-year-old, less efficient, less accessible, former downtown branch. Through “charrettes,” workshops and engagement sessions, more than 700 of Wichita’s citizens, designers and other participants collaborated to shape a vision for project’s development.


Aesthetic: Copper Metallic

Distributor Pioneer Materials Inc., supplied Midwest Drywall with 6,000 square feet of Planostile Snap-in 2-by-2-foot metal ceiling panels and matching 12-inch Infinity Perimeter Trim. Under the guidance of Dondlinger Construction, Midwest Drywall installed the metal studs, drywall, insulation, tape and finish, wall panels and specialty ceilings on the ALL.

A custom Copper Metallic color was specified to complement the building’s exterior panels and other interior finishes. “Working through the custom was painless,” adds Wendler. Rockfon provided finished samples for the designer’s approval prior to manufacturing the metal ceiling panels and matching perimeter trim.

Perhaps a subconscious influence, the ceiling’s copper finish also is a similar shade to the spots on Mo the Giraffe—the unofficial mascot of the Children’s Pavilion. Outside the children’s area and back into the Community Pavilion’s lobby, patrons will find a coffee shop. They can take their beverages with them throughout ALL and into the nearby multi-purpose conference room.


Acoustics: High Absorption

The ALL embodies modern cultural design with large open and flowing spaces, high ceilings and stately materials including stone, glass, wood and metal. Yet, a high level of acoustic control still had to be implemented without negatively impacting the aesthetics.

The acoustic plan to make the ALL acoustically accessible and comfortable for everyone was to perforate the extensive metal ceilings, which allows sound to pass through the metal and be absorbed by a fibrous matt laid on top of the metal.

On the ALL, Planostile Snap-in metal panels also were specified with end-to-end 0.25-inch-diameter circular perforations. Along with the acoustical pad, the ceiling panels offer a high-absorbing noise reduction coefficient of NRC 0.90.


Sustainability: Environmental and Operational Efficiency

Supporting sustainable design and operational efficiency, the ALL’s metal ceiling panels were manufactured with 100 percent recycled aluminum content. At the end of their service life in the library, they can be locally recycled.


Longevity: Opportunity and Connections

Wichita Public Library Foundation board member Mark Chamberlin says, “For me, libraries are about connecting people—connecting them with information, connecting people with our history, connecting people to our community. All those connections made with the simple intention of improving the lives of all of our citizens. Today symbolizes a long-awaited step for that improvement.”

Exemplifying this connection, the June 2018 grand opening began with a “Books & More Brigade” line of 900 people passing books hand-to-hand 0.7 miles from the former downtown branch location to the new ALL. A ribbon cutting followed at the new building with remarks from elected officials, members of the Library Board and other community leaders.

The Library’s visionary paper offered additional insight about the evolving relationship of libraries and their communities. It concluded:

  • “Public libraries of the future are likely to be actively involved in education: creating new readers, offering technology access and training, and partnering in the delivery of programs and services that support lifelong learning.

  • Successful public libraries will be gathering places for their communities. People will come for the social interaction as much as for resources they may use. Materials collections will still be important assets but will be housed and offered in ways that encourage interaction rather than in the storehouse configurations of the past.

  • Library buildings will be flexible spaces, easily reconfigured to serve a variety of uses and to support changing community needs. Buildings will be zoned for differing noise levels in order to support both active and passive citizen uses. Buildings will also need easily recognizable, consistent yet changeable way—finding signage so that visitors know where to find what they need from the time they enter the library. Spaces that support amenities such as cafes or coffee shops and self-service activities will be important.

  • But as the roles and services change, one constant will remain. The success of the library of the future will remain measured, as always, by the institution’s ability to assure equality of opportunity and to contribute to the quality of life for all citizens.” W&C


711 West 2nd St. N., Wichita, KS 67203; http://www.wichitalibrary.org/About/ALL

  • Owner: City of Wichita; Wichita, Kan.
  • Architect and Interior Designer: GLMV Architecture; Wichita
  • General contractor: Dondlinger Construction Co.; Wichita
  • Installing Contractor: Midwest Drywall Co.; Wichita
  • Distributor: Pioneer Materials Inc. (a GMS company); Wichita
  • Ceiling Systems Manufacturer: Rockfon; Chicago
  • Photos by: Alan Blakely