Dec 1, 1999 12:00 PM, Jack McLean
The classic definitions of a wide range of facilities are now being altereddramatically, thanks in large part to the development and deployment of newmultimedia technologies. Case in point: The Herrick District Library inHolland, MI. Until recently, it fit the time-honored role that the term"library" connotes - stacks and rows of books along with healthy doses ofperiodicals and reference materials. An impressive expansion and renovationproject, completed earlier this summer, however, points to a new definitionof public libraries.
"The library board envisioned a bigger, better facility taking fulladvantage of multimedia tools for learning and for making the library atrue resource for the community," said George Kruggel, who headed up thedesign and implementation of audio, video and lighting systems for theproject. "At the same time, they also realized that in certain respects,the library is being compared to and is in competition with the Barnes &Nobles of the world. The need to provide the same quality of experience asthese well-financed retail establishments also played a role in thedirection of this project."
Kruggel directed the technical design aspects of the renovated HerrickDistrict Library with GMB Architects & Engineers of Holland, theengineering firm of record on the project. Recently, he founded RadiantDesigns, also based in Holland, which primarily focuses on high-endlighting and control designs.
"As an electrical engineer, George has a good understanding of electronicsas well as systems layout, and he also has a good feel for what thecustomer wants," said Gary Zandstra, sales and marketing manager forIntegrated Media Group of Byron Center, MI, which supplied A-V systeminstallation and design support at the library. "He also recognizes thattechnology is changing really fast, and that's where we have collaboratedwith him to great success."
The original Herrick District building, constructed in the late 1950s,still functioned well in its capacity as a typical library. As a result, itwas retained, joined by a new three-story annex integrated with the oldstructure, which was given a makeover. The result is a huge, sparklingfacility, featuring uniquely modern architecture - large windows,shimmering glass, stainless steel and white marble, and unique distributionof lighting fixtures designed exclusively for this project by Kruggel.
"It's an open, pleasant, stimulating environment," he said. "The libraryshould be a place that you want to visit, to utilize, to stay as long asyou like. It has to be comfortable, highly functional and easy to use."
Computers, of course, are in abundance. They serve as a handy resourceguide to what is available at the library along with serving a wide rangeof functions as learning and reference tools and word processors. Thechildren's section of the library also features several computers wherechildren can play interactive educational games available on CD-ROM.
The top floor of the library offers the community a huge selection ofvideos, audio CDs and more recently, DVDs, all of which can be checked outand taken home just like books. The main floor features books, periodicals,other reference materials, several computers and common areas for reading.The basement includes a state-of-the-art auditorium available for communityuse, along with a common area where coffee and snacks are served. Allfloors are accessible via stairs or a large elevator.
The library includes a building-wide background music and paging system, adirect counter to the days of total silence as a rule, punctuated only bythe occasional "shhhh" from a librarian. Control and source gear for thesesystems, which are independent of each other, reside in a control room inthe basement, which also serves as the computer storage and repair shop.
The background music system includes a Marantz PMD 370 five-disc CD player,fully loaded and generally set to random play. It feeds a Shure SCM268four-channel mixer, which provides any necessary signal processing inaddition to accommodating other source devices when needed, with signalthen fed to two Crown Com-Tech CT-810 power amps in 70 V output mode. Allof these components are mounted in an Atlas/Soundolier 502-61B rack, whichcan be covered and locked to prevent unauthorized access.
When the CD player is activated, it provides steady programming, withoutinterruption, to more than 80 Atlas/Soundolier L20-400-2-7 dual-voice-coil,8 inch (203 mm) ceiling loudspeakers located throughout the facility. Morethan a dozen Atlas AT series volume controls are mounted throughout thelibrary, allowing levels to be controlled for particular zones. Allcomponents are linked via assorted West Penn wire and cabling.
Another feature of the background music system, according to IntegratedMedia's Dan Grabill, who took the lead in A-V system design support on theproject, is the ability for alternative programming to be supplied locallyat a couple of locations. For example, the children's section of thelibrary includes another Shure four-channel mixer and Marantz CD playerthat can be used to provide a local source, perhaps to accompany a specialchil-dren's show.
"They can select the master program or localize it, whatever is needed orwanted at the time," said Grabill. "In addition, they can also plug inanother source device into these mixers for even more capability. However,this is so easy to use that even the most non-technical lay person canoperate it without a problem."
The paging system, meanwhile, takes advantage of the same Atlasloudspeakers; the dual voice coil design was the primary reason for theirselection. Separate feeds are provided from a Rauland CCOM25D masterintercom unit, also mounted in the lower-level control room. Linked withthe facility-wide telephone system, it provides paging by zone orbuilding-wide by simply inputting the proper numeric codes on the telephonekeypad.
"The Atlas loudspeakers are great for an application like this, where youdon't want pages constantly interrupting the music. Instead, the twocoexist, with the announcements coming smoothly over the top and neither ata volume level that could be disturbing to library patrons," Grabill said."This concept of two speakers in one also makes for much easierinstallation."
The audio CD section of the library offers a nifty method for eitherpreviewing CDs before taking them home or simply for listening whilereading or looking out the window. Grabill worked with Cadence, a casemanufacturer, providing them with plans for custom wood cases that house 20Tascam CD301 CD players distributed around a dedicated section. Theserugged but highly attractive cabinets rest on tables, protecting the CDplayers and also ensuring that they are not taken. Visitors simply checkout Hosa headphones from the A-V desk, drop in a CD and enjoy. The samecases are used to house the remote CD player/mixer combos.
The library's auditorium features an impressive array of audio, video andlighting technology, all integrated together under an intuitive,easy-to-use control system. As a result, all elements can be quicklyactivated and mixed/matched to the degree desired by the user.
The auditorium, located on the basement level, offers seating for more than100 people. A large stage, spanning the entire front of the square-shapedroom, can accommodate a single presenter at a podium or a rather sizablerepertory company, and everything in between. Open to the community, theauditorium is intended to host virtually any type of meeting, presentationor performance imaginable.
Aesthetics, designed by Kruggel and Frye-Gillan-Molinaro Architects ofChicago, are pleasant, with an abundance of natural wood surfaces thatoffer a live acoustical characteristic tempered by careful placement.Incandescent room lighting works in tandem with the surroundings to createa comfortable environment. Carpeting covering the entire floor of theaudience area helps keep reverberation to a respectable level, while thewood of the stage enhances acoustics for smaller, spoken-word presentations.
"The idea was to create the room to meet as many needs as possible, withtechnology available as an option or as an accouterment to the particularneeds of a group," Kruggel said. "So, a lecturer could bring in an overheadprojector, plug it in and roll down the video screen, and be ready to go ina couple of minutes. Or, a musical combo can set up on stage, hit a coupleof buttons to activate the sound system and adjust house lighting, plug ina couple of mics, and also be ready to go in a couple of minutes. This wasthe primary goal with respect to the functionality of the room."
One of the keys to this quest was a Crestron STS wireless control system,outfitted with an ST-IO input/output module and a wireless Crestron touchpanel. Grabill programmed these elements to provide one-button operation;he outlined presets covering virtually every scenario that could be desiredand then established custom control screens, viewed and accessed on thetouch panel to access these presets.
"The wow factor on this project is the careful programming that Dan did toprovide smooth transition of all of the room's elements," Zandstra said."For example, if you want to play a movie on the VCR, you simply press theappropriate preset, with the lights dimming smoothly at a seven secondrate, the video screen lowering during this time, and video rolling just asthe lights finish dimming and the screen is resting in place. It's a veryprofessional presentation. The point is that anyone can create a preset,but how does it look and feel while you're sitting in the audience?"
All A-V source devices for the auditorium, including a Pioneer DVD/laserdisc/CD player and a Panasonic PV-9451 VCR, are housed in a single Atlas502-61B rack in a small control room at the rear of the auditorium. All canbe controlled via infrared protocol - the Crestron control system is linkedto an IR emitter panel that interfaces with each source device. As aresult, the IR remote control of each of these devices can also be used ifthe operator prefers.
"In a nutshell, the control scenario is pretty simple," Grabill said. "Youhave the Crestron touch panel, with one-button selection, providing an RFfeed to the Crestron control unit, which, in turn, is providing controlprotocol to each device via infrared. And, you can navigate on the touchpanel for more individual control of each device, if that's wanted."
Meanwhile, the Crestron system also interfaces with the room's PrescoLitelighting system via seven contact closures able to be accessed, eachrepresenting a different preset established by Kruggel. The motorizedDraper 80infinity100 (2.4 m infinity 3 m) video screen retracts into theceiling and is lowered via a touch panel preset or an up/down switch in thecontrol room.
A Sanyo SP-10N LCD projector, outfitted with a Buhl long-throw lens, restson top of the control room equipment rack and provides a quality videoimage. The projector is rated at 1,200 ANSI lumens and offers800infinity600 resolution.
"When the equipment was specified over a year ago, this projector was atthe top of the line for an application like this," Kruggel said. "It's abit more run of the mill now but still very good in terms of both pictureand reliability. And, the price point enabled us to include an identicalunit, both for redundancy in the auditorium and for portable applications."
The audio system, also housed in the control room rack, includes twodifferent modes of operation, again triggered via the Crestron panel. Forspoken word and general music applications, signal is processed via aPeavey CEX-5 digital programmable controller, providing a stereo feed tothe house loudspeaker system. For video programming, audio signal is routedto a Lexicon DC-2 surround sound processor, with additional equalizationadded with the Peavey CEX-5.
Crown K2 convection cooled power amps deliver signal to seven EasternAcoustic Works (EAW) JF80 loudspeakers in the auditorium. Mountedhorizontally with Omnimount 100WA hardware, the compact, two-way JF80sprovide good fidelity and dynamics to the entire listening area. ThreeJF80s are mounted left/center/right at the front of the room, with theremaining four loudspeakers dedicated to side and rear surround output.Each loudspeaker has its own K2 channel, including an EAW SB250 subwooferlocated on one of the rear corners of the stage floor. This location provesideal to take advantage of acoustic coupling when added sub-bass presenceis desired.
"The JF80s are a good choice for situations where you need good spoken wordintelligibility and the additional dynamics of full-range music and videoprogramming," Grabill said.
A Mackie 1604VLZ compact mixing console, also mounted in the rack, isavailable for live mix by musical performers. Several patch panels on thestage include system inputs, and three Shure U24 wireless systems areavailable as needed. Two offer bodypack transmitters with lavalier mics,while the other includes a handheld transmitter with Beta 58 mic capsule.Antennas for these systems are mounted in the control room.
In form and function, the Herrick District Library indeed indicates afuture direction for public libraries. New technologies are becoming moreaccepted and even demanded by the general public, and facilities of thistype will increasingly be responding to accommodate this reality.Multimedia will become a norm, not an exception.
"We're aggressively utilizing some of the latest audio, video and lightingsystems in a manner that truly speaks to what an asset a library can be toits community," Kruggel said. "The library board and the citizens ofHolland deserve a lot of credit for looking to the future and embracing itwithin the bounds of this exceptional project."