2022 Library Design Showcase

The year’s most impressive new and renovated libraries

September 1, 2022

Photo of Fulton County (Georgia) Library System's Central Library in Atlanta
Fulton County (Ga.) Library System’s Central Library in Atlanta Photo: Jonathan Hillyer

Welcome to the 2022 Library Design Showcase, American Libraries’ annual celebration of new and renovated libraries that address user needs in inventive, interesting, and effective ways. This year’s slate—similar to last year’s—features building projects completed during the ongoing pandemic. Despite continued challenges and shifting trends, like the rise in popularity of outdoor programming and convertible features that can adapt to any reality, beautiful new facilities and updated spaces have continued to open to the public. Overhauls and expansions again take center stage, highlighting the innovative ways that communities are honoring existing structures while moving them into the future.

Environmentally sound

Fulton County (Ga.) Library System, Central Library in Atlanta

The interior design of the renovated downtown Central Library prioritizes accessibility, flexibility, and transparency, with large windows, multipurpose collaboration spaces, and a two-story atrium wrapping around a central staircase. The building, which is LEED Gold–certified, also emphasizes sustainability. By renovating instead of building entirely new, the library was able to reuse 95% of its existing structure. PROJECT TYPE: Renovation ARCHITECT: Cooper Carry, Moody Nolan SIZE: 193,000 square feet COST: $44.2 million PHOTOS: Jonathan Hillyer

Charlotte and William Bloomberg Medford (Mass.) Public Library

The new Medford Public Library is the first net-zero-energy public library in Massachusetts, meaning that it creates more energy on site than it consumes. More than 600 solar panels line the building’s curved, hull-like roofs, which were inspired by the city’s rich history as a clipper ship manufacturing hub. The library offers a 100-person multipurpose meeting room, makerspace, tech lab, local history room, and separate reading rooms for adults, teens, and children. PROJECT TYPE: New construction ARCHITECT: Schwartz/Silver Architects SIZE: 45,000 square feet COST: $27.5 million PHOTOS: Paul Burk

Embracing green space

Clinton–Macomb (Mich.) Public Library, North branch

A distinctive dome elevates the profile of this single-story structure, which incorporates wood from beech trees that came down to make way for the property. It is now a hub for collections, meeting spaces, and activities for all ages. The library’s new location, which is adjacent to a civic green and wetland area and includes interactive elements such as outdoor musical instruments and courtyard programming, helps foster connections with nature. PROJECT TYPE: New construction ARCHITECT: Quinn Evans SIZE: 28,000 square feet COST: $19.4 million PHOTOS: Justin Maconochie

St. Joe County (Ind.) Public Library, Main Library in South Bend

This project—the renovation of an 85,000-square-foot library, addition of a 40,000-square-foot Community Learning Center, and development of a garden between them—occupies a full city block in downtown South Bend, its campus serving as a cornerstone for community connections. The new learning center includes classrooms, a makerspace, multipurpose and event spaces, and a 252-seat auditorium. And the courtyard connects directly to the ground-floor event space and main lobby coffee shop, making it ideal for hosting outdoor events and programming. PROJECT TYPE: Renovation, new construction ARCHITECT: Robert A. M. Stern Architects SIZE: 125,000 square feet COST: $40 million PHOTO: Miller + Miller Architectural Photography

Rising from the ashes

Hale Library at Kansas State University in Manhattan

After a fire wiped out much of Hale Library in 2018, library administrators took the opportunity to completely reimagine Kansas State’s main academic research library and meet evolving student needs in novel ways. The renovated library includes a new main entrance, learning commons, and innovation lab alongside preserved areas of the original 1927 structure. (Former Dean of Libraries Lori A. Goetsch wrote about the renovation process for American Libraries in 2019.) PROJECT TYPE: Renovation and expansion ARCHITECT: PGAV Architects SIZE: 405,460 square feet COST: $33 million

Windows to the world

Albert B. Weaver Science-Engineering Library and Main Library at University of Arizona in Tucson

Overhauling two floors of two campus libraries in tandem involved converting areas dense with shelving into airy, versatile spaces for student collaboration. The redesign relied on the buildings’ original concrete waffle-slab construction and incorporated stunning views of the sunny Tucson campus. Service points and wayfinding elements are shared across the two libraries for a seamless experience. PROJECT TYPE: Renovation ARCHITECT: The Miller Hull Partnership, Poster Mirto McDonald SIZE: 105,000 square feet COST: $16 million PHOTOS: Chipper Hatter

Robarts Common at University of Toronto Libraries

The expansion of Robarts Common introduced 50,000 square feet of space for solo and group study over four floors, as well as a new accessible entrance and plaza. The faceted glass façade is a counterpoint to the original concrete structure, bringing in natural light to both illuminate student activity within and invite engagement with the community. PROJECT TYPE: Expansion ARCHITECT: Diamond Schmitt SIZE: 50,000 square feet COST: $31.4 million Canadian ($24.5 million US)

Fostering creativity

Carroll County (Md.) Public Library, Exploration Commons at 50 East in Westminster

Exploration Commons at 50 East is a collaborative learning center outfitted with a workforce development program that includes a state-of-the-art makerspace and a commercial teaching kitchen. The renovation involved retrofitting an existing basement space and adding an exterior elevator, stairs, and a large-format, professional-quality meeting room. PROJECT TYPE: Renovation ARCHITECT: Manns Woodward Studios SIZE: 14,000 square feet COST: $6 million PHOTOS: Maximilian Franz

Pasco County (Fla.) Libraries, Starkey Ranch Theatre Library Cultural Center in Odessa

Biophilic design—or the practice of connecting people with nature in built environments—influenced the layout of this library, a partnership with the Pasco County School District to serve students at a neighboring school and the community at large. Glass walls and skylights maximize views of the wetland preserves surrounding the library, and the main entrance includes a living wall of greenery and natural wood accents. The courtyard between the library and the school features a stage for outdoor lectures and programs, performances, movie screenings, and storytimes. PROJECT TYPE: New construction ARCHITECT: FleischmanGarciaMaslowski SIZE: 28,940 square feet COST: $12 million PHOTOS: Seamus Payne Commercial Photography

For the young at heart

Sevier County (Tenn.) Public Library System, Williams Family Seymour branch

The expansion of the Seymour branch more than tripled the library’s original size, transforming it from a cramped, shadowy space into a bright, open-concept library with a skylight and craftsman-influenced woodwork throughout. The new children’s area includes a whimsical story room with murals inspired by historic events, and the library now devotes spaces to tweens, teens, and all-ages programming. PROJECT TYPE: Expansion ARCHITECT: SRA Architects SIZE: 10,089 square feet COST: $2.5 million PHOTOS: Robin Cogdill

Conyers–Rockdale (Ga.) Library System

This project involved converting a 3,200-square-foot portion of the library’s adult collection into a dynamic place for teens to gather and learn. Working within the constraints of the existing structure, the architects added new angular bulkheads overhead to define spatial zones, create a sense of progression, and provide visual interest (unobstructed park views help, too). PROJECT TYPE: Renovation ARCHITECT: McMillan Pazdan Smith Architecture SIZE: 3,200 square feet COST: $146,000 PHOTOS: Kris Decker/Firewater Photography

Scenic routes

Missoula (Mont.) Public Library, Main Library

The interior main staircase at the heart of Missoula’s new Main Library was inspired by a mountain climb, drawing patrons upward through four floors of books and communal spaces, flanked by views of the Montana landscape. The library is colocated with four other organizations, including two science education centers and Missoula Community Access TV, and features a marketplace, demonstration kitchen, genealogy center, and an exterior patio on the top floor for public engagement. Project TYPE: New construction ARCHITECTS: MSR Design, A&E Architects SIZE: 106,675 square feet COST: $40.7 million PHOTOS: Lara Swimmer

Salt Lake County (Utah) Library, Daybreak branch

The new Daybreak branch was designed to meet neighborhood needs by focusing on outdoor just as much as indoor pursuits. In addition to an amphitheater, the branch boasts a landscaped walking path lined with native plants and a rooftop garden with views of the surrounding mountains. The rooftop space is covered with a solar panel canopy, which has contributed to the library’s LEED Gold certification and distinction of being the first net-zero municipal building in Utah. PROJECT TYPE: New construction ARCHITECT: Arch Nexus SIZE: 27,059 square feet COST: $12.6 million PHOTOS: Salt Lake County Library


2021 Library Design Showcase

The year's most impressive new and renovated libraries