Library Design Showcase 2012: Building for Accessibility

February 28, 2012

Ensuring that all people can use a library regardless of age, background, or physical ability is one of the profession’s central tenets. These projects have put special effort into making sure that the finished building is accessible to all.

Strathcona County (Alb.) Library

Building for Accessibility: Eleven “living room” spaces, sprinkled throughout two floors, offer services and materials targeted to a range of user groups. The seniors’ living room features custom shelving with angled lower racks to improve visibility and accessibility for patrons with mobility challenges. Separate areas target early learners, school-age children, and teens, while the second floor includes a popular fireplace lounge.

New Construction
Architect: HFKS Architects Inc.
Size: 64,000 sq. ft.
Cost: $25 million
Photo: Sally Neal

East Central College, Beuscher Hall, Library and Learning Center, Union, Missouri

Building for Accessibility: The existing library in Beuscher Hall was a multi-level space that provided little natural light. To improve accessibility to people with limited mobility, the renovation in-filled large depressed sections of the floor and removed interior demising walls to create an open floor plan. Specialized rooms for group and private study, testing services, adaptive labs, and instruction ring the perimeter of the space.

Architect: Lawrence Group
Size: 8,650 sq. ft. (library), 11,500 sq. ft. (learning center), 60,000 sq. ft. (full building)
Cost: $10.9 million (total)
Photo: Alise O’Brien & Alex Duenwald

Sacramento (Calif.) Public Library, Colonial Heights Library

Building for Accessibility: Signage at the Colonial Heights branch was designed with a font chosen for visibility and readability. Merchandising techniques showcase and attract patrons to bestsellers and a Lucky Day collection of popular materials that turn over quickly. A special section, also near the entry, houses books on hold for customers and self-check machines. The library combined the reference and circulation desks into a single point of service for all customer interactions.

Architect: N/A
Cost: $136,000
Size: 12,211 sq. ft.
Photo: Don Burns

Greenfield (Mass.) Community College Library

Building for Accessibility: Greenfield Community College is the only institute of higher education in its county. The renovation and expansion of the campus Core, which includes the library and several other services, eliminated a physical and emotional barrier to entry in the form of a 44-step staircase at the main entrance. A patio replaced the stairs, and elevator access from the ground floor enables access to any space within the building. Extensive use of glass allows natural light into the library, offering views of the surrounding area to library patrons and inviting people into the building.

Renovation and Expansion
Architect: Gensler
Cost: $31.5 million (full building)
Size: 19,695 sq. ft. (library only), 67,000 sq. ft. (full building)
Photo: Paul Franz

Houston Public Library, Ring Neighborhood Library

Building for Accessibility: The renovation of the 1964 Ring Neighborhood Library was originally intended to bring the building into compliance with ADA standards, but additional funding made it possible to expand the project’s scope with a community meeting space. Other improvements include revised parking, a relocated entrance, rubber flooring, a new teen area, and refurbished furniture.

Renovation and Expansion
Architect: Bailey Architects, Inc.; Natalye Appel + Associates Architects, LLC
Cost: $839,000
Size: 6,497 sq. ft. total, 856 sq. ft. expansion
Photo: Jud Haggard

Montgomery County (Pa.) Library District, North Wales Area Library

Building for Accessibility: In renovating a former factory to serve as a new library, North Wales installed handicapped-accessible sidewalks and an access ramp connecting the handicapped parking area with the main building. Inside the building, each area is demarcated by furnishings, but they are not physically isolated from one another.

Architect: CADFM Design
Cost: $2.3 million
Size: 9,750 sq. ft.
Photo: North Wales Area Library

District of Columbia Public Library, Georgetown Neighborhood Library

Building for Accessibility: A fire severely damaged the Georgetown Neighborhood Library in 2007. The ensuing restoration of the 1935 building made it possible to upgrade lighting and accessibility. The project maintained the historic look and feel of the original building while incorporating sustainable materials such as cork floors and linoleum countertops.

Renovation and Expansion
Architect: Martinez & Johnson Architects
Cost: $16 million
Size: 26,000 sq. ft. total, 7,000 sq. ft. expansion
Photo: DC Public Library

San Francisco Public Library, Visitacion Valley Branch

Building for Accessibility: Prior to this construction project, the Visitacion Valley Branch had been in leased or temporary spaces for 75 years. The library is seismically safe and ADA accessible, while incorporating public computers, wireless, self-checkout, and a flexible design to accommodate future technologies. Benches and tiled patios surround the building to offer a welcoming space for the neighborhood.

New Construction
Architect: San Francisco Department of Public Works Bureau of Architecture
Cost: $13.4 million
Size: 9,945 sq. ft.
Photo: Michael Kromat

San Francisco Public Library, Golden Gate Valley Branch

Building for Accessibility: Renovation of the 1918 Beaux-Arts structure brought the building up to current seismic safety codes and ADA accessibility requirements. The project refurbished a downstairs meeting room, replacing an old staircase with an elevator. The library now has a solar panel array on the roof, an energy-efficient heating system, and low-flow water fixtures.

Renovation and Expansion
Architect: Paulett Taggart Architects; Tom Eliot Fisch
Cost: $8.5 million
Size: 7,432 sq. ft. total, 695 sq. ft. expansion
Photo: Bruce Damonte