In the historic context of New England, the Walpole PublicLibrary is a rare new building sited adjacent to the town hall and historicBlackburn Hall and just steps away from downtown. LLB Architects had beenworking with the Walpole community since 2007 when we were asked to re-envisionand improve upon the previous library design, accepted for a construction grantfrom the Massachusetts Board of Library Commissioners. After a long, twenty-yearprocess and funding approval by a slim margin, the community of Walpole can beproud of their new library.
The design of the new 32,000 sf building uses traditionalarchitectural textures, colors, and fundamentals of traditional architecture torespond to the New England context. The library program is organized aroundfour masses encased in fiber cement panels which anchor the building’s entries.In between them, generous circulation paths, a sculptural staircase, andskylights create a feeling of openness and lightness. The difference intreatment and fenestration on each side of the library appropriately respondsto 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 andsecurity with the minimum number of staff. There are areas dedicated for youngchildren, which includes a program room for community events; young adults, withcomputers and comfortable seating for lounging; and patrons looking for newbooks and media, or reference materials, or any of the 110,000 items (andcounting) in the library’s collection. One of the areas in the library that hasgrown in popularity is the quiet study rooms, designed with floor to ceilingglass, which allow for a sense of privacy and territory, but a sense ofsecurity as well.
The building is expected to receive LEED Silvercertification and makes use of both passive sustainable strategies as well asactive strategies. The incorporation of a green roof over the one-story wingcreates a better insulated space for the program area. Natural light floods theinterior spaces through the surrounding glazing and skylights and reduces theneed for artificial lighting. The use of a photovoltaic panel system hasassisted in generating over 5% of the building’s utility features onsite, aswell reducing the baseline energy use by nearly 25%. A rain garden at the entryof the building creates a small stream of rainwater from the roof to feednative plantings and remain within onsite in a retention pond. To furtherpromote sustainable design, significant efforts were made to use both local andhigh-recycled content materials.
The library’s past location was built in 1903 thanks to agrant 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, hasbeen made possible by various contributions including a generous grant from theMBLC, charitable donations from the community, and optimism from the taxpayersof Walpole. Since its dedication in April 2012, the Walpole Public Library hasseen circulation levels dramatically increase and continues to welcome patronsoffering endearing compliments.