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Norman Mayer, Robert E. Smith Libraries Open in New Orleans

Mar. 22, 2012

OCD-DRU representatives joined New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu and other City officials at the grand openings of the Norman Mayer Library on March 20 and the Robert E. Smith Library today.

*photo courtesy of WWL-TV*

Stacy Bonnaffons (third from right), OCD-DRU chief of staff, joins New
Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu and others in a ribbon cutting ceremony for
the Norman Mayer Library in the Gentilly neighborhood of New Orleans.

Norman Mayer
OCD-DRU Chief of Staff Stacy Bonnaffons attended the opening of the $5.7 million Norman Mayer Library in Gentilly. The state invested $3.7 million in disaster recovery funds in the renovation after the building was severely damaged in Hurricane Katrina.

“The Norman Mayer Library is an essential part of the Gentilly neighborhood, and the state investment’s has provided not only construction costs but also funds for contents such as furniture and equipment,” said state Office of Community Development Executive Director Pat Forbes. “The library offers an important public service to the community, particularly those of low to moderate incomes, and is now built to be better protected against future storm damage.”

The main entrance stair and elevator lobby anchors the corner of Gentilly and Norman Mayer, marking a prominent pedestrian access point off of busy Gentilly Blvd. The first floor houses a meeting room, a space that could become a coffee shop or other retail space, A/V collection and children’s collection. The second floor contains additional computers, the adult fiction and nonfiction collections and a large teen area overlooking Gentilly Blvd. The Norman Mayer Library has also been designated as a music branch, and it features an audio recording collection and music listening stations.

New Orleans Deputy Mayor of Facilities, Infrastructure and Community Development Cedric Grant said, “This new energy efficient library with its Wi-Fi access, self-checkout stations and computer stations will offer the latest technological advancements in libraries and helps bring Gentilly into the 21st century.”

The total cost of construction is $5.7 million, with funding coming from Disaster Community Development Block Grant, FEMA public assistance, Energy Efficiency and Conservation Block Grant and City bond funds. Design services were performed by Lee Ledbetter & Associates of New Orleans. Construction services were performed by Gibbs Construction, LLC, of New Orleans.

OCD-DRU Executive Director Pat Forbes addresses the crowd
at the grand opening of the new Robert E. Smith Library
in the Lakeview neighborhood of New Orleans.

Robert E. Smith
OCD-DRU Executive Director Pat Forbes helped to celebrate the opening of the $4.6 million Robert E. Smith Community Branch Library located at 6301 Canal Boulevard in Lakeview. The state invested $2.2 million in disaster recovery funds in project.

“When the 17th Street Canal floodwall failed during Hurricane Katrina, the old Robert E. Smith Library was one of her many victims,” Mayor Landrieu said. “But today, a new library has risen up in its place to once again serve the people of Lakeview. This will be an important common gathering place on a thriving corridor.”

“It is always encouraging to see new construction where hurricane-damaged property had to be demolished, and this new, larger Robert E. Smith Library has more space, books, computers and programs to better serve the citizens of Lakeview,” said state Office of Community Development Executive Director Pat Forbes. “The state’s investment of $2.2 million for construction and equipment, along with FEMA funds, has created a wonderful community facility that is designed to withstand damage from future storms.”

The building is organized in two rotated U-shaped blocks that create a central courtyard allowing for an outdoor gathering plaza raised off the street. This also lets moderated natural light into all spaces of the building – an important feature on a square site – and enables dual entrance into the building from both Canal Boulevard and Harrison Avenue. The façade and grounds of the structure correspond appropriately with the residential character of Canal Blvd., with its mature live oak trees, and the commercial elements of Harrison Ave.

New Orleans Deputy Mayor Cedric Grant said, “The unique design of this new library allows for natural light to fill the space and provides for an excellent gathering plaza in its courtyard. The citizens of Lakeview once again have a library they can be proud of.”

Inside, the children’s area, including story time and the children’s collection, is located on the southeast corner, easily visible from the circulation desk and with access to the courtyard, an ideal situation for children. The main floor level also houses special collections, reading areas and some technology stations all with views and natural light from the courtyard.

The second level houses most of the stacks for the collection, as well as reading areas and the technology center. Reading and technology are grouped around the light well where glass walls allow natural light and views into the courtyard below. Natural light for the stacks is provided by a large window wall on the north façade and sections of the southern façade that angle back to admit vertical strips of ambient light.

The total cost of construction is $4.6 million, with funding coming from Community Development Block Grants, FEMA public assistance and City bond funds. This library was designed by Lee Ledbetter & Associates of New Orleans and built by Gibbs Construction, LLC, of New Orleans.