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“We gave the city of Riviera Beach a library that stands out from the surrounding libraries in the area, which is forward-thinking.”—Rodney Freeman, Director of Reminisce Preservation LLC (former director at Riviera Beach Public Library)

Riviera Beach Public Library

The Library

The city of Riviera Beach is located along the Atlantic shores of southeast Florida. It’s part of Palm Beach County and has a population of more than 30,000 residents. The city of Riviera Beach is comprised of a mostly minority population, with around 70% of its residents being African American. It is a growing community that is constantly looking for ways to improve and enhance the lives of its residents.

Riviera Beach Public Library has always been a hub of activity and learning within the city. Over the past few years, the library was located at 600 West Blue Heron Boulevard in Riviera Beach. As part of a public improvement project called Reimage Riviera Beach, it was planned to update the library as well as many other public facilities throughout the city.

The Challenge

The library building at West Heron Boulevard developed a mold and mildew problem which led to the decision to permanently relocate the library. Concurrently the library closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic in March of 2020, so it was decided to keep it closed for an extended period until a new facility could be found. Library director, Rodney Freeman, started the search for a new library location, as well as vendors who could provide a new library design and furnishings.                                       

Rodney wanted to move the library to a building that would allow for an updated library interior that would invite the residents in to use the facility. He wanted the library to create a sense of pride within the community and look unique. Surveys were also conducted to learn what was most important to Riviera Beach residents regarding their new library.

It was decided to move the library to a new building on North Congress Avenue where it would share its location with the city’s Youth Empowerment Center. This combination of facilities represented the importance for the community to prepare its future leaders. The new library space would be approximately 10,000 square feet (4,000 less than the previous building), so it was going to be a challenge to incorporate the collection, areas for programming, and meeting space within the design.

The Connection

Rodney Freeman, the library director, had heard about Opening the Book North America during his time working at Chicago Public Library, a few years before his relocation to Riviera Beach. He remembered their unique library furniture and design service, so he did research online to learn more about their current offerings. Rodney reached out to Opening the Book’s office to discuss their free library design service and start the process.

Rodney explained the goals of the new library space and how it would be a shared location with the city’s Youth Empowerment Center. The library and the youth center needed to each have their own identities but also blend well together. An engaging children’s area within the library was a priority. He also mentioned that he wanted a bright, unique look for the library and needed flexibility to make use of the downsized space.

The Design

The Opening the Book design team worked with library director, Rodney Freeman, on creating layout options that met the unique needs of the new Riviera Beach Public Library. The main room would be a multi-use space, so mobile book display tables and bookcases were incorporated. The bookcases were strategically placed to create a discovery layout which would invite patrons to browse throughout the space. An African American archive room, conference room, and lounge areas were included. The children’s area would be a bright, fun space with bookcases at just the right height for kids. Fun feature pieces were incorporated to promote reading and play, as well as soft seating for relaxing reading areas.

The Opening the Book design team provided 3D visuals of the proposed layouts and had virtual meetings to go over the images and products with Rodney and Riviera Beach city administration staff. Seeing the 3D images really helped the decision makers to visualize what the space would look like. They immediately signed off on the design and wanted to move forward with the project!

The Furniture

Upon entry to the new Riviera Beach Public Library, visitors are greeted with Performance wall shelving with bright, custom lightbox graphics and café tables. As they continue through the space, the main library area uses 60” high Performance Mobile Double and Single bookcases to create a discovery layout. Book Tables and Book Pods are also placed throughout the space to create easy to access face-out displays strategically placed in high traffic corridors. The perimeter wall shelving showcases the Adult collection on 72” high Performance Bookcases with aspirational Lightbox Graphics.

The custom split-height large circulation desk overlooks the main circulation area, with good sight lines of the entire space and easy access for business center users to request assistance.

The African American archive room is lined with 72” high Performance Wall Shelving. The library’s large collection of classic African American titles can be found here. A book pod is centered in the room to display select African American titles. Patrons can sit and read or study at the bar height table along the wall opposite the bookshelves. The city’s history is also accessible in this room via digital format on a smartboard.

As you enter the Children’s area, Opening the Book’s fun feature pieces: the Reading Hideaway, Book Tree, and Rocket Pod are front and center and add whimsical excitement, while still maintaining high function and child-height book displays. BookSpace 48” high Mobile Curved Bookcases are positioned mid-floor and can easily be moved to open up the area for programming or story time. A BookSpace 48” high Archway invites young children to enter and browse board books and picture books in a special area just for them. There are soft Egg and Button seats placed in the center of the space so kids can sit and read their selections. Picture Book Tunnels are included to integrate reading and play. Storage seats, a Hub seat, Reading Hideouts, and additional Egg and Button seats are placed throughout the children’s area so there are various seating options where kids can relax with a book. A row of 60” high BookSpace shelving aligns the wall to hold the older children’s collection.

A small circulation desk is placed at the one end of the Children’s area so that staff can sit and have full view of the entire space. Just like in the main adult circulation area, Opening the Book’s layout ensures that staff have good sight lines of the whole room.

Outside of the Adult and Children’s library spaces, there is a public conference room, computer lab, classrooms, hydroponics lab, robotics/STEM lab, a dedicated virtual reality room, and a cafe in the building.

The Outcome

The new library furniture was installed, in partnership with R. George & Associates, and the building was ready to open to the public in July of 2021. A grand opening celebration was held on July 3rd to welcome the community into the new location. It’s a state-of-the-art facility for everyone to use and enjoy and signifies the importance of literacy and access to books to the residents of Riviera Beach.

“We gave the city of Riviera Beach a library that stands out from the surrounding libraries in the area, which is forward-thinking.”—Rodney Freeman, Reminisce Preservation LLC (former director at Riviera Beach Public Library)

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