Background and Introduction
In 1784 with 28 members and an equal number of books, a subscription library was established to "promise Knowledge and Literature in the Township of Oxford..." It became a free public library in 1939 but had no permanent home until December 1970 when a colonial style building was erected on Second Street through the bequest of Clyde Alexander in memory of his wife Katherine Bicking Alexander. Today, the Oxford Public Library has a patronage of over 9,000 and a collection exceeding 50,000 items. A small entrance addition was constructed in 2000 in order to facilitate accessibility. Because of the burgeoning and diverse growth of Oxford since 2005, physical expansion is necessary to ensure our Oxford Public Library’s continued quality of services for generations to come.
The proposed Master Plan and Expansion Design consists of a new addition, a renovation to the existing library building, and significant site improvements. The design team of SMP Architects worked with the Library Director and Board of Trustees to set design goals that reflects the Library’s Mission Statement to “provide welcoming spaces for community interaction, access to information and lifelong learning.” These goals follow:
- To support the current and future programs of a 21st Century library
- To foster community engagement, information literacy and life long learning for Oxford’s increasingly diverse population
- To create an attractive, serene and environmentally responsible venue in the center of Oxford Borough.
The existing Oxford Public Library is a split-level building with an undersized elevator lobby that was added in 2000 to conform to federal accessibility requirements. Upon entering one must use stairs or the elevator to arrive at either the main library on the upper level or the children’s library and community spaces on the lower level. The lower level has limited connection to the outside with only a few small high windows on the west wall. There is little opportunity for interaction between the users of each space, a condition that the library would like to change.
The original main entrance to the building, via steps in a lobby located on Second Street, is currently used as a storage area. Outside, pedestrian and parking space is sorely limited. Cars and library users move through the parking lot together. The Library recently purchased a portion of property along Second Street and a property to the rear fronting on Western Terrace in order to address the need for building and site expansion.
Through a series of design workshops, the design team and Oxford Library representatives developed the expansion plan. The plan features a multi-use new wing and entrance. The entrance link will serve as a connector to the existing building, a gathering space for people, and a gallery.
Outside the building, the master plan proposes to expand the parking space and take advantage of the access to Western Terrace. Rain gardens consisting of native plants and designed to sensitively manage stormwater will line the parking areas. The layout will allow two mature Oak trees on the Western Terrace property to be saved. An exterior amphitheater and proposed children’s garden are also a part of the Master Plan.
The project work will be completed in two phases. Phase 1 will include the building addition and work associated with relocating the children’s library from the lower level to the upper level so that it will better connect with the new wing. The Phase 1 site work involves a new parking area, rain gardens and associated plantings, and new entrance terraces.
Phase 2 includes completing the renovation of the existing building, enclosing the original main entry portico and stairs, and constructing an addition on the building’s west façade. Site work on the north side will open the existing lower level to the new amphitheater. The lower level will subsequently be enabled to house community spaces and functions. The amphitheater will connect to the rest of the site through an accessible path and series of steps and congenial exterior spaces.
Phase 1 Design
The work for Phase 1 has been developed in Schematic Design (drawings enclosed). The new addition will be sided with stone and fiber cement, have a metal gable roof and internal exposed wood trusses. The core library functions will occur on the entry level. Its areas will house the majority of the library’s collection and climate-controlled archives. This core space will provide for individual reading and reflection and a flexible technology access (Wi-Fi) lounge; it will also function as a venue for concerts, lectures, and the many cultural events that the library hosts. A smaller shed roof structure on the south side will house staff offices, a small reading space, and restrooms. Its roof will be a vegetated “green” roof visible from Second Street and the new parking lot. It will reduce heat gain during the warmer months while mitigating the “heat island” effect within the Oxford central business district.
The glazed entrance link will connect the core library addition to the existing library. It will serve as the LOBBY and HUB of the new library. Staff members will have a clear view of patrons entering and exiting the facility. High ceilings and display areas will provide a wonderful venue for the work of local artists. There will be a light filled stairway to the lower level community spaces as well as a new elevator providing access to all levels. A wide “reading stair” will provide both a physical and visual connection between the core and children’s libraries. Here patrons will be able to sit and read or gather for meetings and presentations. The existing lower level will house community functions and allow access after regular library hours for evening community events and classes such as our presently popular English as a Second Language class.
New landscaped terrace areas, on both the east and west sides of the link between new and old structures will provide an inviting entry and social space for our patrons. The 20 car parking lot will be on the southern property edge. A book drop will be there for quick returns. Additionally, several short-term parking spaces and a second book drop will be located along Second Street. The site will include porous paving, rain gardens and native plantings—crucial elements in storm water management.
All design decisions have been driven by the three project goals identified above. The following narratives, drawings, and estimates represent our vision for the Oxford Public Library’s future as a vibrant 21st Century Information and Learning Center.