Library Revitalization Answers Feedback from Patrons Requesting Quiet Spaces

Stanley A. Milner Library, Rockfon

The Edmonton Public Library (EPL) celebrated the grand opening of its renewed Stanley A. Milner Library in late 2020. The new Milner Library not only reinvented its former box-shaped structure into a flowing, angular, modern icon but also reimagined its interior as a brighter, quieter, more inviting, innovative public space.

Supporting the EPL’s and Milner Library’s design goals, Teeple Architects selected Rockfon‘s acoustic stone wool ceiling panels to contribute to the welcoming, comfortable, energy-efficient space. Rockfon Artic, Cinema Black, Color-all and Tropic were specified to meet the aesthetic, functional and acoustical needs of each area. In total, QSI Interiors Ltd. installed more than 71,000 square feet of Rockfon’s ceiling panels in the 6-story library.

Comfortable and Quiet

The revitalized Milner Library’s design optimizes acoustics, categorizing each functional space or zone by its acoustic goals and utilizing a Rockfon acoustic ceiling panel with the appropriate amount of sound absorption.

In its 2019-23 strategic goals, EPL highlighted: “Edmontonians want an open, inviting, comfortable public place where they can learn something new, attend a class or workshop, quietly study, read or work on a computer. They want a gathering place where they can talk with friends, host a meeting and so much more. They also want services targeted to their unique needs and interests, available when, how and where they want them. EPL will continue to evolve and update our physical and virtual spaces for a consistent high-quality experience, while adding personalized services tailored to individual customers.”

Addressing these wants and needs, the revitalized Milner Library’s design optimizes acoustics, categorizing each functional space or zone by its acoustic goals and utilizing a Rockfon acoustic ceiling panel with the appropriate amount of sound absorption. Where high noise levels are expected or critical listening is required, the highest Noise Reduction Coefficient of NRC 0.90+ was specified. Where quiet concentration is needed or where a bit more excitement is desired, ceiling panels with NRC 0.80 performance are installed. In areas where less acoustic control is required, such as private rooms or circulation paths, lower performing panels of NRC 0.70 were used.

Finding a quiet space and avoiding noise was mentioned by 87 percent of EPL’s customers in a 2012 survey. Staff interviews confirmed a concern regarding the level of noise in the library. Computer areas and places where teens congregated were called out as being particularly noisy. Many said they valued designated quiet places to read, study, work or write.

More than 3,200 panels of Cinema Black with an NRC of 0.85 were selected for the first and second floors, delivering the best sound absorption for spaces like the high-tech, high-energy atmosphere of The Gamerspace.

Responding to this feedback, the Milner Library now features enclosed collaborative spaces for group activities, children’s programming and more lively activities. Computer and workstations are distributed more widely throughout the building. Quiet zones are designated for reading and other tasks requiring concentration.

Helping manage noise and optimize acoustics to match each area’s function, Rockfon Tropic, Cinema Black, Color-All and Artic ceiling panels provide the necessary range of sound absorption throughout the project with Noise Reduction Coefficients of 0.75 to 0.95.

The majority of Milner Library’s acoustic ceiling systems feature Rockfon Tropic with a mid-range NRC of 0.85. A total of 52,192 square feet of Tropic was installed by QSI on five of the six floors. These include the staff’s offices and amenities room, the server room and computer labs, the conference and meeting rooms, the main floor’s Shelley Milner Children’s Library, and the second floor’s enclosed reading room.

The reading room has been called “an island of serenity” within the Milner Library and Edmonton’s downtown core. It is equipped with comfortable seating and work tables, a community gallery wall, and views east and north onto Churchill Square. Here, in the reading room and in many of the library’s enclosed offices, Rockfon’s sound-absorbing ceiling panels combine with full-height walls optimizing acoustics to enhance clear and confidential communications.

Speech intelligibility and privacy are especially important in The Robert Tegler Trust Outreach Service at the Milner Library. Based on EPL’s community-led service model and the belief that great libraries welcome everyone, the outreach service staff works with EPL’s most vulnerable customers to help and empower them through literacy, education, connections and social support. Clients of the outreach service program find social support and assistance needed to manage challenges and make lasting changes toward a better life.

More than 3,200 panels of Cinema Black with an NRC of 0.85 were selected for the first and second floors. These deliver the best sound absorption for the high-tech, high-energy atmosphere of The Gamerspace, The Makerspace’s 3-D printing area, the black box studio and adjacent studio spaces, and above the laptop bars. The most acoustically critical areas in the third floor’s feature areas required the high NRC of 0.95 provided by 9,488 square feet of black Color-all panels.

Rockfon Artic ceiling panels, with an NRC of 0.75, provide good sound absorption appropriately scaled for the areas’ functionality. These are installed on the first and second floors of library in its open common areas, above small group work areas, adjacent to the main circulation paths, and in other spaces where social conversations are expected.

High-Quality, Welcoming Spaces

Responding to feedback, the Milner Library now features enclosed collaborative spaces for group activities, children’s programming and more lively activities.

Beyond dependable performance, Rockfon’s ceiling panels also enhance the appearance of Milner Library’s high-quality customer experience.

Taking a cue from the building’s angular exterior form, the bright white, Rockfon 2- by 5-foot ceiling panels are arranged in a diagonal pattern, subtly guiding customers and staff. These large format panels are installed on the first floor in the Shelley Milner Children’s Library, a multipurpose program room and adjacent meeting room, a program room, the book sorting room, and the common area near the staff room. They also compose the majority of the ceiling above the third floor’s collections.

A diagonal pattern also was created using Rockfon’s 2- by 4-foot white ceiling panels to visually distinguish and define the second floor’s computer lab and reading room. The same sized panels were installed in a typically linear grid pattern throughout the library. Near the northwest entrance on the first floor, these rectangular panels feature circular pendant lights suspended above a corner reading area.

Contrasting with the white ceilings, black Rockfon Color-all 2- by 4-foot panels were selected for third floor’s feature area at arranged diagonally. Cinema Black panels of the same size also were chosen for The Gamerspace and The Makerspace’s 3-D printing area to convey a high-tech aesthetic. In the black box studio and adjacent studios, the black panels add to the spaces’ dramatic presence.

Cathedral of Creativity, Knowledge and Inclusion

The $84.5-million Milner Library expansion and rejuvenation encompasses 230,000 square feet. At its center, a multi-story atrium ascends within the building’s stacked floorplates, interspersed with exterior window views and interconnected by light and openness.

Catherine McKenna, Minister of Infrastructure and Communities, said, “The new Stanley A. Milner Library will become a focal point for the community and culture in downtown Edmonton. This library will bring together all members of the community, and provide a modern and accessible space to connect with friends, family and community groups, while creating a cultural hub that Edmontonians can be proud of for generations to come.”

Photos: Latreille Architectural Photography, Andrew Latreille

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