Concord Free Public Library Expansion

For this important expansion project, we involved the community and library staff during planning and design, and we gave numerous presentations to provide progress updates during the design and fund-raising phases. Our team also worked closely with the Concord Historic Commission to make sure that the addition would be appropriate in the context of the surrounding historic structures.

While the library hosts numerous public programs, there was no dedicated meeting room prior to the renovation and expansion. So, the former children’s room was transformed into the Goodwin Forum (a community meeting space) — in honor of historian Doris Kerns Goodwin, who donated her collection of over 1,500 presidential biographies to the project, which are now housed in the Forum.

We linked the original library (c. 1873) to the historic Heywood-Benjamin house next door — which had been extensively renovated with numerous additions of questionable quality over the years. The historic portions of the house were restored, and subsequent additions were removed to allow for the new Children’s Library. The backyard of the house has been transformed into

a Children’s Garden, which can serve informal reading and story hours, and small performances for both children and adults. The house now contains makerspaces (including a music/podcast recording booth and a video recording room with green screen), administrative offices, and meeting spaces. It also hosts an author-in-residence program.

Sustainability was paramount to the project. Features include heavy timber structure, all-electric HVAC system (using primarily air-source heat pumps), ample daylight, adaptive reuse of the house, and the inclusion of native/drought-tolerant plantings. We achieved an 80% reduction in energy usage.

“Joining a major construction project at the very tail end can be complex. I stepped into the Library Director role at the very final stages of a $12 million renovation project of our Main Library. The project connected our existing mixture of historic and modern library facilities with an adjacent historic residential home. The work was completed during the global pandemic and supply and labor shortages, and while the library remained open for public use — a very challenging set of circumstances.

In this particularly challenging environment, Johnson Roberts Architects was the pinnacle of supportive and responsive partners. The architects provided excellent communications about the project as it proceeded. They were responsive to the library’s needs and understanding of the design challenges a public building presents. For this particular project there were substantial challenges presented by the existing conditions of the facilities and the vision different stakeholders had for the final results. The architects were able to listen to a variety of stakeholders’ voices and suggest compromises that achieved the Library’s and the Library Corporation’s goals, while remaining under budget and on time during an unprecedented global pandemic and supply chain challenges. 

It was a pleasure to work with the team at Johnson Roberts Associates. The project has been very well received by the staff, the community and the stakeholders, all of whom are proud of what we accomplished together with Johnson Roberts Associates and our build team.”

– Emily Smith, Library Director

“I really loved working with Johnson Roberts Architects. As the Library Innovation and Communications Specialist, I had the opportunity to film the architects lead a storytime for children about architecture. This was during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, and the virtual storytime reached many children at home who were unable to enjoy storytime at the Library. The architects were warm, sincere, and easy to work with, and that translated into their storytime, too.

Since we opened the expansion, I have witnessed numerous patrons turn the corner into the new wing and audibly gasp – the work completed by Johnson Roberts Architects is literally breathtaking. We have a beautiful new space that perfectly blends the historic, the modern, and the future. I am thrilled by Johnson Roberts Architects’ hard work and vision of our expansion wing, and I believe that gratitude extends into the entire community as well.”

Andi Graceson (Concord Free Public Library Innovation & Communications Specialist)