$55 Million Renovation Of Downtown Tulsa Library Almost Complete

Tuesday, March 8th 2016, 9:00 am
By: News On 6

The flagship facility of the Tulsa County Library system is scheduled to reopen in downtown later this year.

When it does, it will prove once again that everything old can be brand new again.

"The building first opened in 1965. It was heralded as the library of the future and it truly was - it had very innovative features," said Gary Shaffer, Tulsa City-County Library CEO.

But that was 50 years ago, so when Gary Shaffer was hired in 2010, he undertook a massive $55 million fundraising campaign, $30 million of that raised in private donations.

"The money is spent in a complete renovation, gut renovation, of the building," Shaffer said. "All the systems were at the end of their life, so systems alone were $15 million."

The new facility will include a five-level parking garage and between that and the library, a large but cozy children's garden. Plus:

"Eight study rooms that people can check out on their library card, we have a coffee shop coming in, a STEM learning center - so, it's truly a library to convene, collaborate and create," the CEO said. "Libraries have long left the time of being a book warehouse."

2/1/2016 Related Story: Tulsa Library System To Check Out Wireless Hotspots

Speaking of those books, they're heavy.

"Typical buildings will be designed with a load of 70 pounds-per-square-foot on the floor loading but libraries have to be designed with 150 pounds per square foot of floor loading, just for the weight," said Mike Leitch, Tulsa City-County Library.

Another challenge, incorporating new technology while maintaining the essence of the building's mid-century modern design.

"It's truly a brand new library in the shell of its former self," said Tulsa Library CEO Gary Shaffer. "We're anticipating 1,500 to 2,000 people a day just in this location alone."

It will obviously be the crown jewel of the Tulsa system when it opens. There are actually 24 libraries in the system in all, and that gives us here in Tulsa - a system that is comparable in size to places like Boston, Seattle, and Washington D.C., much larger cities. That's pretty impressive.

"This building will be a generator of bringing the area back," Shaffer said.

Mike Leitch thinks when people see the new facility, their reaction will be, "Wow!"

For more information about the new library including jobs, go to the Tulsa City-County Library System website.