The Jack Russell Memorial Library was operating for over twenty years from a “temporary” location on the top floor of City Hall. The Library Board worked towards an independent building for nearly a decade and retained PRA in 2007 to assist with developing an assessment of future space needs. Our initial work delineated how collections may be distributed to meet service targets, re-assessment of traditional library areas and identification of special program spaces. This resulted in suggested space needs and an estimate of construction and operating costs. A focus group was convened to review a draft report, develop and administrate a community survey and debate issues. The final report, presented in January 2008, recommended a new 42,000 sq. ft. library be built prior to 2012.
The design concept provides a two-story facility that is oriented on the site to provide views to the adjacent mill pond park, augment downtown parking, and maximize natural day lighting while controlling solar heat gain. Popular collections and children’s areas are located on the first floor while non-fiction, reference, and other typically quiet functions are clustered on the second floor. Two innovative spaces, a “History Exploratorium” and a “Learning Lounge” provide immersive and interactive experiences that introduce patrons to the history of the Hartford area and the opportunity to learn about the wealth of library services.