February 16, 2018

Year in Architecture 2015: Working in Harmony

Architecture 2015

The 113 triumphant academic and public library construction projects that we’re highlighting are large and small, dear and frugal, cautiously attentive to historic character and wildly beyond what some consider “typical” library design. Yet all feature what is at the core of today’s library, the cohesion between service and the community.Among these facilities, completed between July 1, 2014, and June 30, 2015, are eight buildings judged to be the best examples of replicable public library models, Library Journal‘s New Landmark Libraries and Honorable Mentions. They are noted on the tables that follow and received a lot of ink in our fall Library by Design supplement, mailed with the September 15 issue. Check them out.
Overview Architects
The Data
Academic Libraries Public Libraries Six-Year Summary

Architecture 2015 - ImageGalleries

This is an expanded version of the Architecture Issue that appeared in print November 15, 2015. Opener image: Southwest Regional Library, Louisville Free Public Library, KY.
Architects: MSR Design, library architect; JRA Architects, local architect. Photo by Lara Swimmer
Boston Meets Brooklyn Vaulted Learning Environments Out-Front & Open Design Shine the Light Sit Right Down Elbowroom & More Benchmarks A Fitting Tribute

According to academe

The new library at the University of Chattanooga is the hub of campus partnerships, home to the Art Department, Center for Advisement and Student Success, Information Technology Division, Disability Resource Center, Center for Academic and Innovative Technology, Southern Literature Association, Walker Center for Teaching and Learning, a new Gig City Studio (or Maker space), and more. The Syracuse University College of Law Library, NY, houses a collection of open spaces that foster transparency and collaboration. Its wood-paneled Reading Room receives natural light from two sides, thanks to the building’s sky-lit central atrium. The Ketchum Library, University of New England, Biddeford, ME, is now home to art exhibits, study space, book talks, lectures, receptions, classes, meetings, and noontime yoga.

The Herman B. Wells Library, Indiana University, Bloomington, reduced the number of desktop computers by nearly two-thirds, doubling seating capacity and transforming a massive open environment into a “sophisticated space that gives students options.” The Thomas D. Greenley Library at Farmingdale State College, NY, offers large group study and team learning spaces, individual touch points for plugging in, private tutoring nooks, and flexible social lounge seating.

The Ruppert Commons for Research, Technology and Collaboration (The Edge) extends Duke University Libraries’ mission by providing a collaborative space for interdisciplinary, team-based, and data-driven research. At the Moraine Valley Community College, Palos Hills, IL, wall-mounted displays in group study rooms automatically link to students who plug their devices into tables with embedded connections. The new library and learning center at Vaughn College of Aeronautics and Technology, Flushing, NY, is the final phase of the expansion, renovation, and sound abatement project at the school’s main campus, which (conveniently for the aviation students) is just 200 feet from a LaGuardia Airport runway.

Going public

With regard to public efforts, the Riverside Library and Cultural Center, Evans, CO, is situated on former school property, features items from the Evans History Museum, and ­cohabits with a police sub­station, café, and banquet space.

The outdoor lawn of the Manhattan Beach Library, CA, often functions as a de facto programming site, ranging from story time sessions to “Movies in the Park.” The Stevenson Ranch Library, CA, is situated within the Valencia Market Place shopping center. Once patrons are inside the building, the high ceilings, warm lighting, and vibrant color scheme “create a sense of openness and possibility.” As well, the Castaic Library, CA, rests atop a small hill overlooking an adjacent shopping center. It has a meeting room for the community as well as a separate kitchen for cooking demos.

Waccamaw Neck Branch Library, Pawleys Island, SC, is located directly adjacent to a bike path and middle school. The library has a 200-seat multipurpose room with sound and AV systems; the children’s area features a fish tank at the entrance. The Southwest Regional Library, Louisville Free Public Library (LFPL), KY, houses two ample-sized community meeting rooms; several smaller rooms for study, reading, and collaboration; a new teen zone; and LFPL’s largest children’s area.

The renovated San Francisco Public Library Main Library created two new spaces: the Bridge at Main offers adult and family literacy programs, one-on-one tutoring, learning differences resource support, and more; The Mix at SFPL is an innovative, youth-designed, 21st-century teen learning space. The Snuggle Up Center at the Library Partnership: Neighborhood Resource Center, Gainesville, FL, is designed to stimulate and encourage kids’ imagination and learning. Coordination with the Partnership for Strong Families brings in more than 30 social service organizations to address the full spectrum of the community’s needs.

The Family Place Library at Orion Township Public Library, MI, provides a unique space for children ages zero to five and their caregivers in which to read, play, and learn together. Sayville Public Library, NY, turned an underused lawn into a 750 square foot outdoor children’s program area and multifunctional plaza, amphitheater, and children’s event space. The design of the Athens-Limestone Public Library, AL, transformed an abandoned grocery store dating from the 1960s into an impressive public facility. A joint venture between Madison School & Community Recreation (MSCR), the Madison Public Library|Meadowridge Library + Meadowood Neighborhood Center, WI, revitalized an empty storefront, with both entities making use of the commercial-grade kitchen in the joint community room.

Originally opened in 1941, the Welwood Murray Memorial Library, Palm Springs, CA, serves as a research library and archive for the Palm Springs Historical Society. The Northbrook Public Library, IL, features a 225-person auditorium; a 100-seat meeting room; and a Civic Room that seats 40, with “possibly the world’s most comfortable chairs.”

The 10,000 square foot Clifton Branch, Public Library of Cincinnati and Hamilton County, opened in the historic Parkview Manor with a state-of-the-art tech lab, a children’s story time solarium, meeting rooms, a bike rack with built-in tire pump, a water fountain for dogs, a covered porch with built-in chess and checker tables, and special holds lockers. The Garland Smith Public Library, Marlow, OK, in a renovated National Guard Armory, grew from 3,000 square feet to 14,357 square feet. Its children’s learning center provides a place for reading programs, crafts, after-school activities, and the Saturday morning movie matinee.

Fanciful design and wetlands

The shape of the Glendale Branch, Salt Lake City Public Library, includes a curved form that reaches out into the community while creating an outdoor plaza. Colored concrete and landscaped designs represent the geographic area along the Jordan River. South Hadley Public Library, MA, is located along the banks of the Connecticut River and mirrors the architectural elements of historic mills while providing a modern environment. A landscaped, riverfront pergola serves as an outdoor program area. The siting of the Ferndale Library, WA, presents a threshold to both civic life and a scenic wetland. A small public plaza and meeting room with a view of Mt. Baker take advantage of the topography, raising the library well above flood levels. The Case-Halstead Public Library, Carlyle, IL, created a detention pond as a landscape feature.

At the new East Roswell Library, a covered bridge entry opens up to views through the building into the natural landscape beyond. The West Feliciana Parish Library, St. Francisville, LA, is established as a series of small volumes, reminiscent of the additive nature of the surrounding plantation homes. The Palmetto Library, GA, is imagined as a series of “rooms” or small buildings nestled within its semirural landscape.

The Library at Central & Unser, Albuquerque, NM, is marked by an iconic light tower and a changing LED sign reminiscent of its location on old Route 66. The front of the Sharpsburg Community Library, Pittsburgh, is accentuated by a large, yellow “swiss cheese”–like structure and storefront windows that showcase the new community room.

Airports, armories, antiquated facilities, and all-around poor functionality have met their match in this year’s construction efforts. Libraries are moving up, catching up, and standing up as models of solid design and community focus.

This article was published in Library Journal. Subscribe today and save up to 35% off the regular subscription rate.

Bette-Lee Fox About Bette-Lee Fox

Bette-Lee Fox (blfox@mediasourceinc.com) is Managing Editor, Library Journal.

Celebrating her 46th year with Library Journal, Bette-Lee also edits LJ’s Video Reviews column, six times a year Romance column, and e-original Romance reviews, which post weekly as LJ Xpress Reviews.



  1. oliver wilcox says:

    When is the submission deadline?