Library DrawingThe CONNector

NOVEMBER 2000Volume 2 Number 4

Connecticut Award for Excellence in Public Library Architecture 2000

Mary Louise Jensen, Building Consultant

Minor Memorial Library's entrance
Minor Memorial Library's entrance
Photographs furnished by David Ottenstein Photography

The Minor Memorial Library in Roxbury (architect: Herbert M. Noyes, Jr., Noyes Vogt Architects, Guilford) is the winner of the Connecticut Award for Excellence in Public Library Architecture 2000. The award recognizes outstanding architectural design and functional planning of public libraries built or renovated in Connecticut between 1994 and 1999. The Connecticut State Library, Connecticut Library Association, American Institute of Architects Connecticut, Friends of Connecticut Libraries, and Association of Connecticut Library Boards sponsor the award.

There are also two honorable mentions, one for the restoration of the James Blackstone Memorial Library in Branford (architect: George Buchanan, Buchanan Associates Architects, New Haven) and another for the alternation of, and addition to, the Douglas Library in Hebron (architect: Dale H. Cutler, Jr., Kenyon & Cutler, Architects, Avon).

Twenty-three libraries submitted projects for consideration. A jury panel consisting of two librarians and two architects, all from out of state, reviewed and evaluated the spectrum of building styles and design solutions represented by the twenty three projects.

Minor Memorial Library's adult reading area
Minor Memorial Library's adult reading area
Minor Memorial Library's children's area
Minor Memorial Library's children's area

Minor Memorial Library is a new, 7,700 square foot, one-story library building in a rural town with a population of 1,982. Since this building is located near historic houses, the architect and library wanted to design a traditional library that reflects the character of the town. The jurors noted that the exterior materials and the subtle use of color elegantly express the civic nature of the small public library building. The interior is inviting and "user friendly" with areas for reading by the fireplace, for studying in the carrels, or for children reading, playing, or participating in a story hour in the "Story House", a colorful structure with a south-facing window and built-in seating. The library has a functional layout, is easy to supervise, and has a versatile community meeting room designed for exhibits as well as for lectures and meetings. In warm weather, the meeting room can be enlarged by opening several sets of double doors to an awning-covered granite terrace that triples the space available for grand community occasions. The total project cost was $1,338,000 and was partially funded with a $350,000 State Public Library Construction Grant and a $46,880 federal construction grant (LSCA Title II). Public usage of the building has increased. The total annual attendance has increased from 9,250 in 1990 to approximately 28,000 in 1999. Circulation has increased from 12,235 in 1990 to 40,000 items in 1999.

The jurors were impressed with the restoration of the James Blackstone Memorial Library that retained the historic aspects of the building while allowing for 21st century services. The original finishes have been meticulously restored. Colors, from the blue meeting room chairs and salmon red carpet in the meeting room to the peach walls of the rotunda, boldly highlight the architecture. The architect made excellent use of reclaimed space, especially in the lower level and the second floor which was previously a museum. In order to use every nook and cranny in the building for library services, he designed a separate mechanical building. The total project cost was $3,980,000 and was partially funded with a $350,000 State Public Library Construction Grant.

James Blackstone Memorial Library's rotunda
James Blackstone Memorial Library's rotunda Photograph furnished by Robert Perron
Douglas Library's new main entrance on the side
Douglas Library's new main entrance on the side Photograph furnishd by Kenyon & Cutler Architects

The original Douglas Library was a Victorian cottage building. Overcoming an exceedingly difficult set of existing conditions, the architect designed an addition which meets the needs of the community without detracting from the original building's historic position. In particular, the massing of the addition entirely to the rear of the site reinforces the library's standing as one of several important elements on Hebron Green. In order for the library to provide adequate services, the long narrow site dictated that the building would have three floors. In the lower level, a community meeting room with a kitchen provides direct access to the parking lot and can be used after hours. Adult services and circulation are located on the main level, and the children's room is located on the third floor, giving the children their own special place, high in the eaves, which feels cozy, yet is large enough to house a generous collection and a story hour room. The total project cost was $2,471,000 and was partially funded with a $500,000 State Public Library Construction Grant.

At Douglas Library there has been a marked increase in circulation (some months as much as 200% from last year), registered borrowers increased from 3,950 to 6,856, patron attendance has more than doubled, and the weekly story hour attendance has increased from 25 to 90 children.

The Jurors commented on the quality and variety of the public library projects, both large and small, completed in Connecticut since 1994. The two architect jurors were F. Drayton Faire, AIA, Associate at Tappe Associates Inc. (Boston, MA) and President of AIA New England Region 2000, and Christopher O. Placco, AIA, NCARB, Executive Vice President/Design Principal, The Robinson Green Beretta Corporation (Providence, RI.) The two librarian jurors were B. Franklin Hemphill, B. F. Hemphill & Assoc., Library Consultants (Woodbine, MD) and Patience Kenney Jackson, Library Building Consultant, Massachusetts Board of Library Commissioners (Boston, MA.) Mary Louise Jensen, Building Consultant for the Connecticut State Library, was the non-voting facilitator.

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