A Library Worth Checking Out

Sept. 25, 2006
Citation of Excellence in Buildings’ New Construction Awards 2006: The New Library at Middlebury College, Middlebury, VT, submitted by Lee Kennedy Co. Inc.

How do you achieve smart library design for today’s students and tomorrow’s growth? By lots of planning. Middlebury College began discussing the possibilities for its new library in 1995.

It has now been 2 years since completion, and the students and faculty at this Middlebury, VT-based learning institution couldn’t be more pleased with the facility. At the onset of planning, a modernization of the existing Starr Library seemed possible. However, the planning committee quickly saw that a new library would meet their mounting list of goals better than the existing facility. The college wanted a building that would:

  • Express how central the library is in the life of the college.
  • Serve the long-term needs of the library.
  • Be user-friendly.
  • Recognize the changing nature of information sources, storage, retrieval, and communication.
  • Provide the widest range of uses.
  • Be environmentally sensitive and foster efficiency and comfort.

Ground broke in Spring 2002 and construction began on the new library, a facility with the seating capacity to accommodate 30 percent of the college’s student population. The architecture of this 3-story building reflects the classic, academic integrity of the college and takes full advantage of Vermont’s scenery. The facility’s large, open rotunda offers amazing views to both the outside as well as to the library’s three floors. Each of the floors is approximately 1 acre in size and holds books, journals, microfilm, microfiche, and media collections (totaling more than 1 million items).

The main level features a café, a 24-hour study area, as well as staff offices, circulation services, a 30-seat lecture hall, an 18-seat seminar room, video-viewing rooms and an editing lab, central information desk, and more. The upper two levels house the majority of the circulating collection. Group and individual study areas are located throughout the library.

To meet the planning committee’s goal of efficiency and environmental sensitivity, green-building materials were used throughout the interior and exterior, including triple-glazed windows. Only wood from trees harvested using sustainable forest-management practices (Vermont-harvested hardwood totaling 150,000 board feet and 11,000 board feet of local, certified maple and beech wood) were used. To maximize efficiency, lighting controls work in concert with daylighting to either dim or brighten lights when and where it’s necessary. Additionally, the integration of building envelope, mechanical system, and artificial lighting components results in total building energy use that exceeds ASHRAE standards by 30 percent. “Environmental impact was integral in shaping our decisions over the 7 years of bringing this dream to fruition. It’s apparent in the natural lighting and the extensive connections to the outdoors throughout the building, but it’s also embedded in the materials and systems that are the backbone of this amazing community information hub,” explains Barbara Doyle-Wilch, dean of library and information services, Middlebury College.

The grandeur and superb functionality of the facility today are a testament to the planning team and project team’s determination. Construction was not without its challenges, especially during Winter 2002-2003 - one of Vermont’s coldest on record. From those who frequent the facility today, the planning and perseverance are appreciated. The library is a superb example of how clearly defined goals and smart planning can result in a highly functional design.

JUDGES’ COMMENTS: “The project is one of the best models in approaching functionality with a smartness to the design. Because of its forward-thinking sustainability approach, the university should be seen as a cultural leader and an institution that has raised the bar for other universities to follow.”

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