Modern Times | Year in Architecture 2018

Library spaces that honor the past while moving full steam ahead

There can be a quaintness to restoring old architectural elements, a sense of history regained and legacies appreciated, but this year there is nothing nostalgic or old-fashioned about our compilation of academic and public library building projects, completed between July 1, 2017,  and June 30, 2018. They shout “today” and embrace a  21st-century aesthetic even in historic structures.


The David K. Hill Family Library at Harper College, Palatine, IL, took a dark half-century-old library and turned it into a light-filled heart of the campus, with window walls extended for an additional 3,500 square feet.

Pepperdine’s Payson Library, Malibu, CA, honors its Spanish Revival roots but remodeled for the demands of digital integration and “diverse learning styles.” The New York Public Library’s Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture updated its research and gallery spaces while adding an exterior signage system connecting the community to activities within the building.

The Sterling C. Evans Library at Texas A&M University,  College Station, was purpose-built for multifunction, multimedia, and active learning while remaining alert to the need for a quiet study environment.


Anchoring a new commercial district, the Madison Public Library, AL, was inspired by historic cotton mills. Corrugated metal, brick, and exposed trusses open up to a large sweep of glass. Public art is a highlight of two LA County branches. “Lady Artesia” by Sonia Romero, in the Artesia Library, is a silk-screened ceramic tile mural symbolizing the area’s agricultural and dairy industry roots, while the Los ­Nietos Library displays Louise Griffin’s 3-D mural “Everyday Places.”

A reworked senior center is the foundation for the new Hilliard Branch of the Columbus Metropolitan Library (CML), OH, with existing structural cross-bracing ­reimagined as reading nooks and an existing floor opened to create a light well enhanced by a grand staircase.

Another Buckeye library, the Middleburg Heights Branch of the Cuyahoga County Public Library, has the largest number of people with autism in the system’s service area. The new design, layout, and color palette are intended to be compatible with how members of this community “experience the world.” Sensors prevent extreme sunlight in the space, while the children’s section includes interactive items for literacy and motor development.

The George W. Hawkes Downtown Library, Arlington, TX, has a children’s DISCOVER wall interactive art installation with reading nooks, while teens get stadium seating.
Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design (LEED) Platinum certified, the Central Library of the Austin Public  Library, TX, encompasses a rooftop butterfly garden, a 350-seat special events area, a cookbook bar and café, a technology petting zoo, and a 200-item-capacity bicycle corral.

The Colby Community Library, WI, sits on a five-acre lot in the city famous for cheese, with an outdoor amphi­theater for programming and performances. There are stained glass windows, a fireplace, and hand-applied magazine ads from the 1930s–60s as wall coverings, in addition to a full kitchen in the community room and STEAM ­activities.


The Columbine Library, Littleton, CO, met the Jefferson County Public Library’s vision for a 21st-century presence by focusing on the user experience. It also exposed the barrel-vaulted ceiling from the building’s initial design.

Along with a world languages collection including Hindi, Telugu, Tamil, and Mandarin, the Sharon Forks Library, Cumming, GA, features a Hot Spot room.

The Hamilton East Public Library, Fishers, IN, has among its collection a kit library, with supplies and tools for an array of activities, and a Maker in residence area to support Indiana artists. Renovations to the Anderson Public Library, IN, include an early literacy room with computers, a play kitchen, and a nursery gym play structure. As well, there is a Mamava lactation pod for nursing parents. A nursing lounge has also been incorporated into the Richland Library Wheatley, SC.

The Daniel Boone Branch of the St. Louis County Library, Ellisville, MO, entertains young patrons with a pneumatic tube maze and an interactive light wall, while teens and business folks have dedicated spaces.

With a nod to what’s trending, the Livonia Public Library, NY, remodel encompasses reading nooks for kids, a healthy habits concession area, refinished hardwood floors and wainscoting, and a reading lounge.

For that open airy feel, retractable glass walls are big at the Sycamore Plaza ­Library, Pickerington, OH, as well as the addition to the Franklin Public Library, MA, which was established with 116 volumes donated by Benjamin Franklin. The Franklin County Library, Winchester, TN, has a STREAM Lab for its patrons.

The Cuero Municipal Library, TX, added a clock tower entry in keeping with its modified Spanish style, along with a 6,000 square foot outdoor pavilion.

It’s all here: classic design, fresh features, meeting the future of libraries.

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