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Eckhart Public Library entrance rendering


Eckhart Public Library

Rise from the Ashes

Auburn, Indiana

In 2017, the Eckhart Public Library interior was engulfed in flames. The fire, caused by a firework shot through the overnight book drop, caused irreparable damage to the library’s collection, and devastated the interior of the library. The building did not suffer any structural damage, but smoke damage required a renovation and restoration of the entire building. Due to the scale of the damage, MKM and Eckhart Library staff used this as an opportunity to consider how the library could be updated to better serve library patrons, creating an even more social, inclusive, and accessible library. MKM already had extensive experience working with the community, the building, and the library staff due to a large renovation and addition completed in the late 90’s.

The circulation desk was moved to the center of the library, near its historic fireplace, to allow for use of both the new and previously closed historic entrance. The renovation provides more social, community space with added meeting rooms and bathrooms now located on every floor of the library. A small addition to the building reconfigured the library entrance to become more accessible and overlook the library grounds and fountain. The addition also provides direct access to the Children’s department in the basement of the library and added natural light to the lower level. All historic artwork, furniture, and library shelving was restored.

The project has also influenced MKM’s approach to public library projects, ensuring every library’s book drops and genealogy departments are in fire-rated rooms to ensure communities do not lose access to important information. At the Eckhart Public Library, the book drop has been relocated outside of the building to a stand-alone fire box.

The Eckart Library is a perfect example of a community coming together in the face of a tragedy and deciding how to move forward, together, into an even better future.