Project Thumbnails

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Project Summary

Built in 1976, Milner Library is a six-story, mid-century modern building whose layout does not match the University’s current library vision, strategic priorities, or current student library needs. The building lacks the necessary flexibility and services required to keep pace with the ever-changing and increasing availability of new publications and needs to accommodate constantly changing digital and information technology. To align design efforts with Illinois State University’s (ISU) vision to Educate, Connect and Elevate, Bailey Edward and our library planning consultant, Pfeiffer Partners, established a master plan vision to drive design development and prioritize strategic planning for eventual execution.

Engagement Process

A series of nine workshops and two public engagements were held with the aim of fully realizing the needs and aspirations for the study. Between workshops, the Planning Team worked to develop the master plan study by refining, embellishing, and modifying the conceptual approach as directed by ISU’s Executive Committee. To maintain transparency and bridge any potential disconnects between administration, faculty, staff, or users, two multiple-session engagement events were conducted. These events allowed stakeholders, students, outside faculty, and administration members to be informed and involved with the planning process.

Top priorities for the Library gathered from these engagements included developing: information use and fluency center, student study spaces, library instruction spaces, learning commons, and a re-imagined Library entry sequence.

Facility Condition and Collection Assessment

As part of the comprehensive master plan, our team conducted building assessment surveys and reviewed the existing collection and shelving capacity to determine existing parameters. Our facility condition assessment included an evaluation of the building and its systems, recommendations for needed repairs and renovations, and associated costs for the work. The findings were then used to formulate a replacement value for the building, determination of life expectancy and repairs, a cost opinion, for repair and replacement, and a report describing each element to be addressed.

Master Plan

With the vision, existing condition items and the program priorities, the Planning Team created architectural concepts which integrated valuable new programs with core library functions into a state-of-the-art library design. Design schemes incorporated building and system improvements, code, accessibility, and energy requirements.

The master plan envisions a series of unique functions including a 24/7 study zone, learning commons, information use & fluency center, graduate student commons, international student salon, lightworks studio, digitization lab, and digital scholarship center. Daylighting and views are emphasized, as student and staff environments are oriented toward the perimeter of the building near windows, including exposure to the Bone Student Center courtyard.

Each floor is punctuated by an exhibition space and easy wayfinding to frontline librarians and browsable collections. Wayfinding throughout the Library is simplified by outlining a clear focus at each level. The level of research increases as users move upward through the building. An expanded entrance lobby connects the first and second floors to the internal stairs. Not only is more space provided, but also new uses are created for the Library.

The Library collections are accessible and reader-oriented. The Automated Storage and Retrieval System (ASRS) vault (see Design Vignette), with staff access at the first floor, will allow the Library to reduce the footprint of its collection and repurpose the building into a reader-oriented environment. By strategically zoning the use of each floor and using compact shelving where feasible, the volume of the collection can be maintained while its footprint is reduced.

Architectural intervention is strategic and respectful of the building’s history. Because Milner Library has a unique architectural presence, the proposed architectural interventions, such as the expanded entry and the ASRS addition, work within this architectural language while transforming the Library into a friendlier and more open environment.

Strategic Implementation

Available resources and the need for the building to remain open prevent the design from being executed as a single project. Instead, the Master Plan will be split into three long-term phases, each with multiple packages, which the University can carry out at its discretion. Each package was divided into sub-packages that explained relocation of users and programs in addition to the prerequisites needed. The report illustrates the visioning, concept development, and strategic planning for Milner Library, and gives ISU the direction to realize its vision.

Implementing the master plan was broken down into three separate phases. Taking into consideration funding might not be available for all projects at once, the implementation schedule arranges project packages to prevent rework of building areas and to begin work as soon as possible. Each package or sub-package includes infrastructure upgrades or extensions within the area of work, such as ductwork, heating, piping, power, lighting, fire alarm, information technology, and security. Interior finishes and added exterior wall insulation are included as well.

With our comprehensive master plan, ISU’s vision of transforming the Milner Library into a technology-focused, intellectual hub on campus can be fully realized. As more funding becomes available in the future, ISU can implement a range of the various renovation efforts at its own pace.


Normal, Illinois


Design Vignette

Bringing the Library into the 21st century requires new methods for the storage and retrieval of its vast inventory. An Automated Storage and Retrieval System (ASRS), will allow the Library to reduce the footprint of its collection and repurpose the building into a reader-oriented environment. The ASRS will be constructed as a vault with a connection to the existing building and expand the Library’s eastern landscape. The retrieval system will allow the Library to accommodate its General Collection which totals 121,325 linear feet.