Education design: Libraries reborn as community hubs

Cedar Rapids Public Library (3)

The American Institute of Architects awarded six libraries for innovative architecture and interior designs that reflect needs of their residents

As the world goes digital and the traditional role of libraries evolves, the designs of these community spaces have changed to reflect the needs of the surrounding residence. The American Institute of Architects and the American Library Association developed an awards program to encourage and recognise excellence in the architectural and interior design of libraries that best convey their new roles in learning patterns, technology and use. These six participants received the 2015 Library Building Awards.

Claire T. Carney Library, (Massachusetts), designed by designLAB



The dramatic transformation of the 170,000sqft mid-century academic library at the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth was accomplished in less than two years while it remained in full operation. The library was originally conceived by Paul Rudolph and was built in its entirety between 1962 and 1974. With half of the collections relocated to basement storage, the creation of a wide variety of new services and collaborative workspaces and the addition of a glass-enclosed “campus living room”, the Carney Library is now the most popular place on campus.




Cedar Rapids Public Library (Iowa), designed by OPN Architects

Cedar Rapids Public Library (1)

Designed to LEED Platinum requirements, the building features abundant natural light, a geothermal system, and daylight harvesting strategies that minimise the building’s energy use. Inside, a spacious two-story lobby brings together all of the core patron services in a hub and spoke system. Out are the imposing book stacks, the massive circulation desk and the security systems at the doors; in are shelves, friendly checkout kiosks scattered throughout the building and a busy coffee shop. A 24,000sqft publicly accessible green roof is a prime spot for library programs and community events.



Cedar Rapids Public Library (3)

Cedar Rapids Public Library (2)

Mission Branch Library (San Antonio, Texas), designed by Muñoz and Company


The library is a single story building with a 30ft tall reading room and a shed roof that is covered with locally made barrel vaulted clay tiles. Visitors enter the new library through a pair of over-sized copper clad doors that are embossed with a decorative pattern pulled from Mission San Jose. The interior brick bovedas are mirrored on the exterior roof of the lobby volume with stucco clad vaults each with a skylight illuminating the lobby space below. The exterior of the building features a locally sourced San Saba Sandstone wainscot that wraps the entire perimeter of the white stucco walls.


Hillary Rodham Clinton Children’s Library (Arizona), designed by Polk Stanley Wilcox


This community embedded, supportive learning centre offers not only books and performance space, but also a teaching kitchen, greenhouse, vegetable garden and an arboretum that allows children to cultivate, harvest, prepare meals and sell products in a planned farmer’s market. It is the state’s first library holistically imagined as a children’s education destination and a safe zone.

Hillary Rodham Library  (2)


While this library exceeded expectations by achieving LEED Gold, the true measure of success beyond points is the neighbourhood’s feel, which shifted from dangerous to full of life and pride.

Hillary Rodham Library  (3)

Slover Library (Norfolk, VA), designed by Newman Architects with Tymoff + Moss


The new public Slover Library is a restoration of the 115-year-old former courthouse and city hall building, a new seven-story glass-walled addition and a renovation of an adjacent commercial building – the Selden Arcade. A central court surrounded by an arcade and a ring of enclosed rooms is mirrored in the design of the glass addition.

Norfolk Public Library: Slover Memorial Main Branch, Location:Norfolk VA Architect: Newman Architects

Norfolk Public Library: Slover Memorial Main Branch, Location:Norfolk VA Architect: Newman Architects

Norfolk Public Library: Slover Memorial Main Branch, Location:Norfolk VA Architect: Newman Architects

Norfolk Public Library: Slover Memorial Main Branch, Location:Norfolk VA Architect: Newman Architects

The library embodies the principal roles of today’s library: as a treasure house for the region’s history and artefacts, as a portal to digital access and as a community gathering place. Renewing the civic life of Norfolk, the library reflects a synthesis of the old and new.

Vancouver Library, designed by Miller Hull Partnership

Vancouver Community Library (2)

This new five-story urban public library in Vancouver, Washington redefines what a library can be by not only increasing services with a larger facility but in playing a central role in the resurgence of a city’s commercial core. A ‘drawer full of knowledge’ metaphorically describes the design concept, with a dramatic multi-story glass atrium serving as an open drawer exposing the library’s contents and encouraging exploration.

Material selections such as glass, concrete and terracotta rain screen link between new and historic neighbourhoods while offsetting regional climate realities of rain. The LEED Gold library provides performance efficiency and represents a holistic approach to sustainability.

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