Although the volume of the Reading Room was maintained, significant changes were implemented in the remodeling that took place in 1954. The Reading Room and circulation areas were painted, large areas of flooring were replaced, skylights and historic fixtures were removed and fluorescent lighting installed. The spaces contiguous to the Reading Room and its circulation area also were modified.
In the Reading Room a suspended ceiling was installed that concealed the original decorative ceiling and diffused new ambient illumination provided by fluorescent tubes. Furniture was moved. Most significantly a new circulation desk was built that spanned between the columns in the Reading Room; the card catalog was moved from the circulation area to assume a new prominence at the center of the Reading Room. In this location, it also served to divide the space into two discrete zones.
What had been conceived as a space with a single function, “reading,” was modified to perform as a multi-use space. The long tables were removed from the north side of the room, where smaller tables containing reference collections, conversation areas and newspaper reading stands were installed. While the older circulation desks remained in place the areas behind them, including the former delivery areas, became more fully dedicated to the use of staff.
(Photo Courtesy of the Wisconsin Historical Society)