In the historic context of New England, the Walpole Public Library is a rare new building sited adjacent to the town hall and historic Blackburn Hall and just steps away from downtown. LLB Architects had been working with the Walpole community since 2007 when we were asked to re-envision and improve upon the previous library design, accepted for a construction grant from the Massachusetts Board of Library Commissioners. After a long, twenty-year process and funding approval by a slim margin, the community of Walpole can be proud of their new library.
The design of the new 32,000 sf building uses traditional architectural textures, colors, and fundamentals of traditional architecture to respond to the New England context. The library program is organized around four masses encased in fiber cement panels which anchor the building’s entries. In between them, generous circulation paths, a sculptural staircase, and skylights create a feeling of openness and lightness. The difference in treatment and fenestration on each side of the library appropriately responds to its site orientation and the environmental effects on them.
On the interior, service desks for circulation, reference, and the children’s area are centrally located for the highest visibility and security with the minimum number of staff. There are areas dedicated for young children, which includes a program room for community events; young adults, with computers and comfortable seating for lounging; and patrons looking for new books and media, or reference materials, or any of the 110,000 items (and counting) in the library’s collection. One of the areas in the library that has grown in popularity is the quiet study rooms, designed with floor to ceiling glass, which allow for a sense of privacy and territory, but a sense of security as well.
The building is expected to receive LEED Silver certification and makes use of both passive sustainable strategies as well as active strategies. The incorporation of a green roof over the one-story wing creates a better insulated space for the program area. Natural light floods the interior spaces through the surrounding glazing and skylights and reduces the need for artificial lighting. The use of a photovoltaic panel system has assisted in generating over 5% of the building’s utility features onsite, as well reducing the baseline energy use by nearly 25%. A rain garden at the entry of the building creates a small stream of rainwater from the roof to feed native plantings and remain within onsite in a retention pond. To further promote sustainable design, significant efforts were made to use both local and high-recycled content materials.
The library’s past location was built in 1903 thanks to a grant from Andrew Carnegie, land donation by Walpole natives, and town money. Like then, Walpole’s new library, with a project budget of $11.2 million, has been made possible by various contributions including a generous grant from the MBLC, charitable donations from the community, and optimism from the taxpayers of Walpole. Since its dedication in April 2012, the Walpole Public Library has seen circulation levels dramatically increase and continues to welcome patrons offering endearing compliments.