Fairfield Area Library
Henrico County, VA
Architect: Quinn Evans
Insightful & Innovative New Product For An Unrecognized Need In Libraries
Libraries are ever evolving ways to expand access to knowledge. This timeless mission makes the library a wonderful incubator for developing new products. As designers and craftspeople, we often find the best ideas emerge through conversations with our architect and library clients as we listen to their needs and brainstorm on solutions. The new Fairfield Parent+Child Carrel is a case study in what we love most about design, innovation and collaboration.
The Fairfield Parent+Child Carrel design was based on insightful challenges from the staff of Henrico County Public Library for their Fairfield Area Library. The staff noticed that parents with toddlers or infants in strollers had no easy way to use the library‘s adult reading room computer workstations. Further, their young children might disrupt the work of others using the library workstations. The library director, Barbara Weedman, and her staff wondered if Quinn Evans could help them find a solution.
The team at Quinn Evans, led by Senior Interior Designer Shannon Wray, researched the problem and found nothing readily available on the market to fit the bill. Quinn Evans called on TMC to create a custom workstation.
Collaborators at TMC, Quinn Evans and Henrico exchanged sketches and shared notes. The workstation, which features a desk with privacy panels and an attached play area, evolved through these discussions and reviews until designers at TMC and Quinn Evans felt confident it would meet the library’s needs.
Photography: Chris Cunningham Photography
The Fairfield Carrel enables parents and caregivers to use the workstation while older children are reading or playing nearby. The inside play space, designed for infants and toddlers up to two years of age, features a mirror at the lowest level and a series of interactive panels above. Library staff can switch these panels out to provide a variety of content which might change for the season, curriculum or other community needs. The exterior panels can feature a variety of TMC-standard ImPrinted designs or a custom creation.
At the Fairfield installation, TMC designers worked with Quinn Evans so the material and color of the Parent+Child Carrel would complement the aesthetics of the library interior and become an integrated part of the Quinn Evans design vision for the space and structure. This is a specialty of TMC to create “late-process customization” in our Grand Rapids factory allowing architects/designers to make the furniture fit their overarching design. Perforated circles in varying shapes allow babies to peek outside while also echoing the curvilinear, organic shapes prevalent throughout the Quinn Evans design for the Fairfield children’s area. While they are seated at the desk, parents have privacy from adjacent workstations, but can easily see their child in the connected play area.
Maintaining sanitary surfaces was a prime concern. TMC‘s two decades of work in major healthcare systems around the world gives us leading expertise in sanitary system and material specifications for children’s furniture. The vinyl mat is made of healthcare-grade material which can be easily wiped down multiple times a day as needed. Both the mat and the maple finish on the workstation are non-toxic and durable for frequent cleanings. A gate on the play area also simplifies access for cleaning.
It’s been gratifying for all Fairfield Carrel collaborators to see this family workstation become such a big hit. At the opening day reception, a mother with an infant and a small child said, “I’m going to be in the library all the time because you’ve got a place for me“. Likes, shares and comments on social media exceeded 35,000, many reflecting the enthusiasm of one who wrote, “You all are amazing for adding this to the library! How wonderful for working parents and families! Thank you!!!” Social media popularity of the Fairfield Carrels suggest they might be useful beyond libraries, and find a place in work settings, hospitals and other public spaces.
Recognizing a need, sharing ideas and finding a solution: the Fairfield Parent+Child Carrel represents design collaboration and creativity at its best!