Tippecanoe Library’s vibrant makeover dazzles
December 31, 2015
By Katherine Keller
After months of operating in temporary headquarters in the Copper Kitchen’s banquet hall, Tippecanoe Library re-opened December 12, when more than 1,600 patrons were ushered through its shiny new front doors. The dramatic renovation transformed the former 1969 interior, a claustrophobic cavern that was illuminated with limp fluorescent lighting, to a warm, open space that gleams with natural light and razzle-dazzle.
“An interesting thing is that it looks so much bigger, more spacious,” said District 13 Ald. Terry Witkowski, whose district includes Tippecanoe Library. “There are more windows on the north side. It’s brighter, more open, and reeks of newness.” Witkowski credits residents in the neighborhoods who shared their ideas and suggestions about what they wanted in the redesigned library. The library held meetings during the planning and design stages of the project to solicit residents’ input.
The $4.5 million renovation focused on a new interior design and upgrades to the infrastructure including mechanicals and HVAC. With the exception of modifications to the north wall and a new entrance on the southwest corner, the exterior structure remained intact.
The redesigned entryway features an automated book return, and there is another on the exterior of the building, on the south wall, that is accessible 24/7. Tippe now offers express self-check-out stations, like those found in other MPL branches and libraries in metro Milwaukee.
A new perk, sure to please, permits patrons to purchase restorative brews from a “high-end coffee machine.”
There is an independent study room, a unique area for teens to meet and socialize, and a children’s area with early learning materials. New bumped out windows were added along Howard Avenue to provide expanded reading and studying space. The windows flood the space and adjacent stacks with light.
The northwest corner of the library serves as a multi-purpose area. At times it is an open space with tables and chairs, plus some upholstered easy chairs. At others, it is a meeting or conference room, when two sets of sliding glass panels are unfolded to enclose the space.
New light fixtures illuminate the vaulted wood ceiling, drawing the eye to a vibrant sculpture that’s suspended from the ceiling. The Spirit of the Manitou was created by Guido Brink, a German émigré who taught at the Layton School of Art from 1955 to 1974. Later, he was instrumental in founding the Milwaukee School of Art and Design, where he served as its first president. The sculpture was removed, cleaned, and reinstalled on the ceiling.
During construction, the Tippecanoe Library staff placed a time capsule filled with historical and everyday library items in the walls of the new library. The time capsule is registered with the International Time Capsule Society at Oglethorpe University.
The land around the building was not ignored during the planning sessions for the renovation. A number of green landscaping elements were incorporated. Witkowski said many members of the newly formed Airport Gardens Neighborhood Association and Town of Lake Neighborhood Association took an active interest in expressing their support for the library and voicing their suggestions about its design, especially landscaping and green and sustainable components.
“There are bioswales and permeable pavers in the low spots of the parking lot to purify water, divert it to plants, and contribute to the reduction of pollutants flowing off the parking lot,” Witkowski said. “They kept the big trees by the parking lot.“
The bioswales, located in the center of the parking lot, will host a rain garden to slow and filter runoff water. There are also rain garden swales along the south side of the building. New trees and perennials were planted.
Raised beds for community gardens were made possible by private funding. A secret garden was funded by Barbara Stein, a Milwaukee Public Library Foundation member, a tribute to Milwaukee Public Library Director Paula Kiely, who frequented Tippecanoe Library as a child.
Witkowski said that at the re-opening ceremony he watched people come and go and was impressed by how many arrived by bike, which he said was possible because of the unusually mild December weather. “More bike racks were installed with the renovation,” he said.
The project was funded by the City of Milwaukee capital projects fund. The Milwaukee Public Library Foundation funded additional features. A donor wall will be installed later this year to recognize those gifts.
Engberg Anderson designed the renovation project and the construction contractor was Creative Constructors.
The Tippecanoe collection contains over 50,000 items as well as full access to library materials from every member library of the Milwaukee County Federated Library System (MCFLS). The collection includes books, magazines, newspapers, DVDs, CDs and access to all library digital resources from free music and video streaming to e-books and digital magazines. More info: mpl.org/Tippecanoe
The new building at 3912 S. Howell was opened for service November 17, 1969 and served the community until January 30, 2015, when it closed for renovation. During the renovation temporary quarters were established across the street at 3933 S. Howell, in the banquet hall of the Copper Kitchen restaurant.
The library’s name was derived from the area in which it is located. Research disputes any claim linking the Native American tribe or the famous historical battle of the same name to the local area. The most popular explanation of the name is offered in Paul Gauer’s book, The Gauer Story: A Chronicle of Bay View. According to Gauer, there was “…Tippecanoe where the Savelands and The Sandersons had a lake and the young swains of their day would go canoeing. That was how Tippecanoe got its name.” It would seem that the name Tippecanoe was derived from the fact the young men of the time could go “tippe” (canoeing) in the nearby lake.
The library boasts a large metal sculpture created by artist Guido Brink, which highlighted the modern industrial and computer technique of the late 1960s. The sculpture represents the ancient Indian god spirit Manitou as inspired by the Native American origins of the name Tippecanoe.
Guido Brink (1913-2003) settled in Milwaukee in 1953 following life and studies in Germany and Paris. He is known worldwide primarily for his metal sculptures, brightly colored abstract compositions of reds, yellows, dark blue and black, that decorate public and commercial buildings. Guido taught at the Layton School of Art from 1955-1974. He was instrumental in founding the Milwaukee School of Arts (now the Milwaukee Institute of Art and Design), and served as its first president.
Source: Milwaukee Public Library brochure published in conjunction with the December 12, 2015 Grand Reopening
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