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Main Library Expansion Project Comprehensive Design Review


The long awaited day is finally here! Our new Main Library will be open to serve you on Sunday, November 8, from 2:00 to 5:00 P.M. We are very grateful for your patience, forbearance, and support over the last five years as we closed, re-located, opened, closed again, re-located and opened once again. The City had never undertaken such a massive library construction project and it would not have happened without enthusiastic participation of the community, leadership from city officials, and the hard work of project staff, library staff, architects, and contractors. A library of this magnificence can happen only in a community that values the mission of the library and endorses its vital work. There are so many individuals and groups who should be acknowledged and thanked. Although I cannot name them all, the following played major roles in its creation.

City Council, both present and past; City Manager Robert W. Healy and Deputy City Manager Richard C. Rossi and their staff; Library Board of Trustees; Cambridge Public Library staff; Friends of the Cambridge Public Library Library; 21 Committee Design Advisory Committee; Alan R. Burne; William Rawn Associates, Architects, Inc.; Ken Amano; Ann Beha Architects; Gianfranco Pocobene; Tom Wojciechowski; Joel Haskell; Michael Van Valkenburgh, Associates, Inc.; Consigli/White, a joint venture; Historical Commission; Purchasing Department; Department of Public Works; Finance and Budget Office; Information Technology Department; Electrical Department; Traffic and Parking Department; Community Development Department; Fire Department; Police Department; Inspectional Services Department.

To celebrate this historic event, our six branch libraries will be closed during the week of November 8. We want the entire staff to have the opportunity to participate in this once-in-a-lifetime achievement. We also know that we will need "all hands on deck" during the first week when we anticipate record breaking crowds.

We hope that you will find your new library to be an exciting, engaging community resource you will want to visit frequently. Please stop by to say hello, check out our fabulous new array of materials, and experience the beauty of our elegant new building and the gloriously restored historic building. We believe it has been worth the wait.

This new library is the community's gift to itself. Come enjoy what you have built!

The Current Economic Crisis Has an Impact on Library Services

The Commonwealth and the City have not been immune to the effects of the past year's economic downturn. Each city department has been asked to make reductions in its operating costs. It is an unfortunate coincidence that these service cuts come at the same time we are opening a beautiful new Main Library.

Rather than close a branch library or libraries, as other communities have, the Board of Trustees and City Council have approved a budget that offers four days of library service at our five smallest libraries: Collins, Boudreau, O'Neill, Valente, and O'Connell. We took care to ensure that there is a library open in the south/eastern and north/western sections of the city every weekday and every evening Monday through Thursday. For now, we have not reduced the hours of the Central Square Branch because it is the center of our very important adult literacy program and home of the Rotary Technology Learning Center. For the time being, hours at the Main Library are intact as the City invested a great deal of time and money in its creation and we want to give the community the opportunity to enjoy it.

We are acutely aware of how beloved our branch libraries are, which is why we did not recommend closing any one of them. Cambridge remains the only public library in the Commonwealth, with the exception of Boston, to maintain a strong branch library system. We look forward to a more robust economy and the hope that one day we can restore five days of service at all of our branches.

Express Lane

You can do it at the market, at you can do it at the new Main Library. When the new library opens, you will be able to check items out yourself! Scan your library card barcode and you will be prompted to follow instructions using the intuitive touch-screen. We know how pressed for time you can be, so the Express Lane is perfect for those of you who need to come and go quickly.

Express Lane stations will be in the Children's Room and near the Checkout Desk (where you still pick up items being held on reserve for you). Express Lane is easy to use! You will be gently reminded if some of your items have not been scanned properly, so don't worry. In case you walk out the door without logging off, there is a timer to preclude others from accessing your account. The new scanners may also be used to manage your account-everything from renewing items to paying for lost or damaged materials.

Using Express Lane is your choice; you can still have your items checked out at the fully staffed Checkout Desk. Express Lane is one more option the Cambridge Public Library is providing to meet your needs. Library staff will always be available to help with questions or problems or to show you how it's done. Come and browse at your leisure, but when it's time to checkout we look forward to helping you be on your way.


The community is invited to an Open House and Ribbon Cutting at our new Main Library building on Thursday, October 29 from 5-7:30 PM. The official ceremony will begin at 6:00. RSVP is required for the ceremony. Please call 617-349-4032. Library services will not be available that evening. On Sunday, November 8, the Main Library will open for library services from 2 -5 and will be open its regular hours from then on. Details to follow. Hours will be: Monday -Thursday 9-9 Friday & Saturday 9 - 5 Sunday 1-5 (November through April) Children's Room Monday -Thursday 9-7 Friday & Saturday 9 - 5 Sunday 1-5 (November through April).


Click to see a short movie of the Library's new brownstone being made at Old World Stone


The opening of our new Main Library is now only one calendar year away. It may be hard to tell from the street, but much has been accomplished in the past year. Thirty seven percent of the project is complete.

The structure of the parking garage, while not visible on the surface, really looks like a garage when you get underground. Excavation and foundation work at the portion of the underground garage that connects to the new addition has begun and will continue over the next two months. There is also still work to be done on entry ramps. In spite of the unfinished work, it's looking quite elegant.

Restoration of the historic Van Brunt and Howe building is underway with the replacement of plaster ceilings, sandblasting of lower level stonework, and creation of new office spaces for staff. Underground utilities have been installed as well. To protect the building from cold temperatures and precipitation, temporary heating has been installed and openings left by the demolition of the 1967 wing have been covered. Dismantling of the stack shelving is underway as is installation of steel to support the structure of the stack wing. The team has been looking for compatible stone to be used to fill-in holes in the western facade that were created when the 1967 addition was built.

Concrete for the foundation and lower floors as well as the elevator shafts and supporting structure for the lower levels of the new addition has been poured. Structural columns for the lower levels are in place and waterproofing is underway. We anticipate seeing steel rise from the ground very soon.

The Mid-Cambridge Neighborhood Conservation Commission had the opportunity to review the materials and design for the double skin curtain wall of the new addition and gave their enthusiastic approval.

We are very proud of the fact that the Main Library project continues to maintain an amazing 98% recycling rate. Thanks to Alan Burne and our terrific project team for everything they are doing to make the city's dream into a reality.


Expansion Project Progress Report


30-60-90 Day Schedule

Over the next three months the General Contractor and their subcontractors will continue the excavation and foundation work at the new parking garage and addition. This work activity consists of drilling into the ground with a large auger and filling the hole with concrete and steel to support the earth around the excavation. One part of this operation also includes the installation of a continuous trench at a depth where the sands layer meets the clay. This trench is then filled with concrete to form a cut-off point between strata. The cut-off serves two purposes: First, to keep ground water from entering the excavation and Second, to maintain the existing water table in surrounding areas. Excavation of the soil at the garage and addition will continue. The concrete foundation work at the garage will commence thereafter.

The selective demolition of the existing 1967 addition will be completed soon. All of the Brownstone has been carefully removed and stockpiled from the '67 addition. The stone will be reused during the exterior restoration by fabricating pieces that match profiles used at the historical building. The demolition debris is being sorted by metal, wood, concrete, in an effort to recycle and to reduce waste. After the High School students leave for summer vacation, the remaining structure of the 1967 addition will be demolished.

By early autumn of this year the new underground garage foundation work should be well underway. The installation of bracing and further excavation at the Library addition will be on going.


Ground was broken this summer and important work commenced on the Main Library Expansion Project. The Department of Public Works and the Cambridge Water Department contributed significantly to the project by preparing the site and making several important utility connections into Broadway. Their combined efforts were designed to take advantage of the summer months to mitigate construction impacts on the students and faculty of Cambridge Rindge and Latin School and the Broadway neighborhood. Their accomplishments will also reduce costs of the main project.

What got done this summer?

  • installation of a new 12" and 15" storm drain line, along with its associated manholes and fittings, for subsequent connections of site and garage storm-water run-off
  • placing roughly 8000 linear feet of 4"conduit (in a 20-pipe ductbank) for future installation and cross-over of existing telephone, data, and fiber-optic lines
  • connection of a new 6" sewer line and manhole from the area of the proposed garage to Broadway
  • placement of a new drainage manhole for future connection for site drainage in the area of the re-located tot-lot
  • installation of a new 6" water line from Broadway that will be the new water service for the library addition
  • cutting and capping of water lines in various locations throughout the site so as to lessen the chance of service interruption during excavation for the new garage
  • disconnection and removal of the old gas connection to the library
  • demolition and jack hammering of certain areas of the sidewalks and entry plazas that require removal during the main expansion project and that would pose significantly adverse noise conditions for the CRLS students and faculty
  • creation of a new, accessible walkway that will provide an alternate egress pattern for emergency evacuation during various times during the library's construction project


Although bids for the Main Library Expansion Project are not due until the end of the summer/early fall, you will see some work being done this summer at the Main Library site. Crews from the City and NSTAR will be relocating utility lines to make way for the entrance to the underground parking garage. Work will be done on the walkway from Broadway to the CRLS main entrance as well.


As part of the new Public Construction law, an extensive prequalification process for subcontractors and general contractors seeking to bid on the Main Library Project was completed in the fall of 2005. Bids from the general contractors were opened on February 23rd. Unfortunately, due to impacts of the new Public Construction Law, only one general contractor bid the job and the sole bid did not meet City budget limitations, therefore the City elected to reject the bid. Alan Burne will be working with the architects to identify areas where costs can be reduced without affecting the library program and the overall appearance of the building and the City will endeavor to determine and address issues which resulted in additional general contractors failing to bid in the last round. A new prequalification process will be undertaken in Spring 2006. We expect to re-bid the project as soon as possible.


Although from the exterior it looks like nothing has changed at 449 Broadway, work has been underway. Removal of hazardous materials in the Main Library has been completed. The boiler room of the 1889 building, which has not been used in decades, has been demolished but the cast iron boiler doors will be saved for display in the new library building. The walls of the stack area slated to be the young adult room have been sandblasted to expose the original brick.


The City of Cambridge will host a special groundbreaking ceremony for the new Main Library Expansion Project Tuesday, June 28, at 4 p.m., 449 Broadway, Cambridge.

For nearly a decade, library trustees and staff, city leaders, and the community have envisioned a state-of-the-art main library for the city. The $50 million construction project is scheduled to begin in August and expected to last 27 months. City officials anticipate opening the new and restored library buildings in late fall of 2007.

Throughout the design process, the architects have been guided by the requirements for excellent library services and the history of the library building, which is listed on the National and State Registers of Historic Places and is located in a designated historic district.

The development of the site, the inter-relationship between the library, the Cambridge Rindge and Latin High School and the neighborhood have all been of critical importance to the design of the new Main Library - a "green" building that will be:

  • A place of pride for the City of Cambridge;
  • A library that serves Cambridge citizens;
  • A creative balance between old and new;
  • A harmonious relationship between the library building and the park;
  • A strengthened relationship between the CRLS and the Library.

The 102,000 square-foot new library will be fully accessible for those with disabilities and will include: a newly created young adult area; silent reading room; a climatically controlled Cambridge History Room; spaces for public meetings and library programs; a spectacular children's room; significantly more public access computers; a computer training center; greatly increased seating and places to work; as well as room to grow for at least 20 years. It will also include a 47,000 square foot, underground parking garage for 70 cars, under what is now the historic building's front lawn.

When the garage is completed, four feet of soil will be placed over it to allow for new landscaping, including several large caliper trees, to be planted.

Library services are amongst the most valued by our Cambridge citizens, and this new facility will aptly serve the needs of our community for the next 100 years, said City Manager Robert W. Healy.

During the estimated 27-month construction phase, the Cambridge Public Library (CPL) will operate out of a temporary location in the Longfellow School at 359 Broadway. CPL re-opened for business at the new location on Monday, June 20. Hours of operation are Monday - Thursday 9:00 a.m. - 9:00 p.m., Friday - Saturday 9:00 a.m. - 5:00 p.m. Children's Room hours are Monday 9:00 a.m. - 8:00 p.m., Tuesday - Thursday 9:00 a.m. - 6:00 p.m., Friday - Saturday 9:00 a.m. - 5:00 p.m.


The Main Library will re-open on Monday, June 20, 2005 at our temporary location, the Longfellow School, 359 Broadway. Main Library hours will be Monday-Thursday 9am-9pm and Friday-Saturday 9am-5pm. The Children's room hours will be Monday 9am-8pm, Tuesday-Thursday 9am-6pm, and Friday-Saturday 9am-5pm.

Also, as of Monday, June 6, 2005, the Central Square Branch will resume its normal hours: Monday, Wednesday, & Friday 10am-6pm, Tuesday & Thursday 10am-9pm, and Saturday 10am-5pm.


The day we have been waiting for/ dreading is soon upon us. We are planning to cease library operations at the Main Library building on Sunday, March 13. We hope that you will save the date as we are planning s suitable celebration for that day. We will keep you apprised as plans are finalized. If you have any suggestions as to how we can commemorate over 100 years of library services in the Main Library, please let us know.

After the building is closed to the public, staff will begin preparing all library materials, equipment, and furnishings for relocation to the Longfellow School The move to the Longfellow School is scheduled for the week of April 18 – 22. At this time, we are uncertain as to the official date of reopening at the Longfellow School.

The density of library shelving and the extraordinary weight of books require structural support that exceeds general construction standards. Therefore, we will not be able to accommodate the entire library collection in the Longfellow School. Librarians are now in the process of identifying what library materials will be kept in storage while we are there. The Main Library collection currently has approximately 225,000 volumes. Our intent is to select the most heavily used items in our collection and to make them available throughout construction. We will also continue to acquire and circulate new books at our normal rate during construction. Over 60% of our print collection, all subject areas, all audio-visual holdings, all reference volumes, and all periodicals will remain accessible during construction which is significantly better than what comparable libraries have been able to offer. As always, Cambridge Public Library patrons will have access to all the collections in the Minuteman Library Network and we will be happy to borrow any title you want through inter-library loan.

While the Main Library is closed, the Central Square Branch will expand its hours to the Main Library schedule. The Rotary Technology Learning Center will be expanded for that full schedule as well.

Library staff members are determining how to handle Main Library requests, returns, etc. while we are closed and they will inform you as soon as the details are worked out. Please be assured that other libraries in the Minuteman Network have been through this process and we are learning from all of them. We hope to make the transition go as smoothly as possible.

We are planning to cease access to the Cambridge History and Local History Collections on February 1 and they will not be available for public access during construction. Due to the fragility and uniqueness of many of these materials, these collections will require exceptional preparation and an inventory before the move. The new Main Library will have the first ever publicly accessible Cambridge History Collection. Given that this will be a new service, and that our collection has not been properly cataloged and/or preserved, we plan to spend the next two years doing that so on opening day all materials will be accounted for and available for public use.


Plans for the new main library are progressing. We anticipate the temporary closure of the Main Library sometime in mid-March. After the library is closed, the staff will prepare the collection and offices for the move to our interim home at the Longfellow School at 359 Broadway. At this time, we do not know how long the Main Library will be closed. All branches will remain open during the Main Library closing and materials not available in Cambridge will be borrowed, as always, through the Minuteman Library Network.

Many of our Minuteman neighbors, including Brookline, Lexington, Needham, and Wellesley have been through this very same process. We have spent many hours learning from them what works and what doesn’t. We will try very hard to minimize the impact on our patrons. Please let us know what we can do to make the transition go smoothly for you.

We will keep you informed as plans develop.


The last few months have been busy ones for the library staff, our architectural team (William Rawn Associates, Inc., Ann Beha Architects, Michael Van Valkenburgh Associates, Inc.), and the Design Advisory Committee.

The School Committee has approved the use of the Longfellow School as the temporary site of the Main Library while the new building is restored and expanded. Although definite dates have not yet been set, we plan to close the Main Library and relocate to the Longfellow School sometime in the late summer or early fall. We do expect that the library operations will be suspended for a short time while we make that transition.

The City Council gave final authorization for full funding of the Main Library expansion project at their February 23 meeting. The architects have completed design development and have been authorized to begin construction documents.

The Mid-Cambridge Neighborhood Conservation Commission voted unanimously to grant a certificate of appropriateness for the Main Library project. The Commission stated, “the construction described… is not incongruous to the historic aspects or architectural character of the building or district.” Final approval of the design is contingent upon the submission of final construction drawings and a final landscape plan, approval of construction materials, the relocation of the tot lot on the site, and the development of a passage between the rear of the library and CRLS. The Commission will also review our traffic calming plan.

The Arts Council has selected artist Liam Gillick to create a piece for the Main Library project. Mr. Gillick lives and works in London and New York. He was nominated for the Turner Prize in 2002 and he received the Paul Cassirer Kunstpreis in 1998. His work is frequently characterized by the use of text, bold color, and industrial materials. Mr. Gillick has done a major work for the Fort Lauderdale airport and recently had an exhibition at MoMA Projects in New York. He is an adjunct assistant professor at Columbia University and the author of Literally No Place: Communes, Bars and Greenrooms.

In a cooperative venture between the Women’s Commission and the Arts Council, artist and Cambridge resident Ellen Driscoll was selected to create a work to celebrate women’s contributions to the life of Cambridge. Ms. Driscoll met with women throughout the city to gather their remembrances and ideas. Her work will include the creation of a historical database, a Women’s Heritage Trail, and a permanent art piece in the new Main Library building. She has been recognized by the Institute for Contemporary Art in Boston with the Englehard Award in 1985. Her past work includes 13 mosaic murals for the New York Grand Central Station Terminal Project. She is currently a professor of sculpture at Rhode Island School of Design.

Last but not least, the Main Library Expansion Project will be presented to the Planning Board on May 4, 7:30 P.M. at the Senior Center in Central Square. The meeting is open to the public.


Meeting notice: The Expansion Project's Design Advisory Committee will next meet on Wednesday evening, March 3, 2004, at 6:00pm, in the Cafeteria at the Morse School, 40 Granite Street, Cambridge. The architectural team will present an update of their design development. The public will have an opportunity to speak prior to the Advisory Committee's discussion.


Cambridge residents used their public library in unprecedented numbers during the past year. For the first time in history, circulation topped 1,100,000. In the face of dramatic increases in library use, the library staff worked even harder to manage the growing demand without compromising the quality of library services. The ability of the library system to respond to increasing public demands for materials, services, and programs will be enhanced by the timely completion of the Main Library expansion project.

CPL by the Numbers in FY03

  • library use increased by 12%
  • 1,116,012 library materials were loaned out (759,282 adults and 356,730 children's)
  • library staff checked out an average of 70 books per hour
  • 32,310 new books, compact discs, videos, tapes, and other materials were added to the collection
  • 50,452 cardholders
  • 358,655 hits to the library's web page
  • 90,346 reserves processed - a 23% increase
  • 86,433 public computer sessions, a 13% increase
  • 2546 programs presented to 64,199 attendees
  • 60,032 children's books checked out during the summer reading program, a 14% increase


Cambridge Public Library Expansion Design Viewed With Enthusiasm

by Janet Axelrod, Chairperson, Cambridge Public Library Board of Trustees

The Cambridge Public Library Main Library expansion project represents an extraordinary opportunity for our City to create a new, vibrant, civic heart for the community. The connection between the new construction and the historic library is one of the major challenges facing the architectural team for the expansion.

The design team of William Rawn Associates Architects, Inc., Ann Beha Architects and Michael Van Valkenburgh Associates, landscape architects, recently presented an approach to the link that respects the historic building while offering ease of access from the new addition. The proposed connection would be fifteen feet wide and two stories high, touching the existing building in limited areas and constructed principally of glass. Terraces at the first floor would provide a visible link between the two halves of the building and incorporate outdoor reading spaces.

The design team also proposed a redistribution of the building area to reduce the overall length of the addition from 192 to 161 feet. The revised scheme enables the existing school parking garage and tennis courts along Ellery Street to remain in place and brings the overall project costs more closely in line with the established budget. At the same time, it preserves key organizing principles of the Conceptual Design: the front of the new addition projects no further southward into the park than the front of the historic structure; the rear façade of the addition allows pedestrian traffic behind; the height of the addition is limited to three stories; and the third floor is set back along the front façade.

The new design redistributes approximately 11,000 square feet of library functions within the addition by creating a second basement level. With this change, over 25% of the overall building area would be at the level of the existing Library basement or below it. This is a relatively high percentage of lower level space for a public library, but it allows for the new structure to minimize its impact of the adjacent park and school facilities.

In response to the design changes, Design Advisory Committee co-chair Ruth Butler said that she “…very much likes the design of the connector to the historic structure….” Committee member Roger Boothe stated, "I am delighted that the team is creating an extremely elegant solution to an extraordinarily challenging design problem," while Hugh Russell noted that “It seems like a clear map, showing how the pieces can all fit into an exciting and functional library.”

The Conceptual Design Phase, completed in January 2003, followed a step-by-step process to incorporate the comments and advice of as many individuals and organizations as possible. Over a six-month period, city representatives and the design team held more than two dozen meetings with residential abutters, neighborhood groups, representatives of the High School, state and city agencies, the Cambridge City Council, and the citizens of Cambridge, as well as patrons, staff and trustees of the Library.

The 18-member Design Advisory Committee for the Cambridge Public Library Expansion project was appointed in June of 2002 by City Manager Robert W. Healy to function as a representative group of Cambridge residents and city staff. The City and the design team presented seven alternatives in Conceptual Design for the location of a new wing that, when combined with the renovated historic library, will offer approximately 94,000 square feet of library space. The DAC voted unanimously in December 2002 to approve a Conceptual Design scheme that located the new addition to the east of the existing building. In a letter signed by co-chairs Ruth Butler and Elizabeth Gibb, the DAC noted many advantages of the design, among them

:• “It offers the clearest possibility for a creative design solution, one that will give the City a distinguished new building facing Broadway.”

• “The plan that best addresses the historic preservation of the original building.”

• “It improves the look and legibility of the park, and makes it possible to fully integrate Cambridge Rindge and Latin with the Library.”

The Board of Trustees encourages all residents of our city to participate in this exciting venture and help us plan and create an exceptional, state-of-the-art library for the community. The next meeting of the Design Advisory Committee will be Tuesday, July 29, 6:00 - 9:00 P.M. at the Morse School, 40 Granite Street. All DAC meetings are open to the public and include a public comment period.

The Expansion Project's Design Advisory Committee will next meet on Wednesday evening, 30 April 2003, from 6:00pm until 9:00pm, at the Citywide Senior Center, 806 Massachusetts Avenue, Cambridge. The architects will present an update of their current status in the schematic design phase of the project. The public will have an opportunity to speak prior to the Advisory Committee's discussion.


I'm pleased to inform you that a panel discussion, recorded on February 13th, about the plans for the Main Library Expansion Project is being aired this month on "Cambridge Uncovered" on Cable TV, Channel 10. The panel is moderated by Susan Flannery, the Director of Libraries. The panelists are Fred Fantini, School Committee and Library Design Advisory Committee (DAC) member; Ruth Butler, Chair of the DAC; John Gintell, DAC member, and Alan Burne, the City's project director.

The show times for the remainder of the month are Thursday and Saturday nights at 9 pm, and Wednesdays at 3:30 pm.

It is a one-hour program. I hope you find it interesting and informative.


Following a City Council decision to expand and restore the Main Library Building on Broadway, the City selected William Rawn Associates and Ann Beha Architects as the designers for the project. Alan Burne was appointed by the City Manager to be the Project Director. The Manager advertised for volunteers and selected an 18 member citizen's Design Advisory Committee (DAC) to work with the architects to ensure the very best new library for our city.

The DAC developed design objectives for the library building, the site, Cambridge Rindge and Latin School (CRLS), and parking. Some of their objectives are:

  • A place of pride for the City: a place of surprise, a "wow" building with public art inside and out
  • A library that serves Cambridge citizens
  • A creative balance between old and new
  • A harmonious relationship between the library building and the park
  • Strengthen the relationship between the school and the library
  • Minimize the impact of ramps (for underground parking) on pedestrian traffic within the park

Throughout the process, the architects have been guided by the history of the library building, the development of the site, the inter-relationship between the library and the various Cambridge secondary schools that have shared the site, the critical importance of open space to the Mid-Cambridge neighborhood and the service/programmatic needs of the new library.

In response to the committee's recommendations and the community's input, William Rawn Associates, Ann Beha Architects, and the landscape design firm of Michael Van Valkenburgh Associates developed a total of seven conceptual site massing alternatives. Each option addressed the goals outlined by the DAC and the service needs of the library. They also included underground parking and the assumption that a tot lot would be located on the site. In each instance, the design team attempted to minimize encroachment on available open space.

After 6 months of community meetings, multiple presentations, and intense dialogue, the DAC made its recommendation to the City Manager. The Committee preferred an addition to the east side of the historic building with 2 stories in the front and three stories in the rear. In addition, the design calls for a new underground parking garage to be built in front of the historic building. The retaining wall now separating the library from CRLS will be removed, and with the exception of the ramp to the new garage, the park will extend and will be traffic-free from the school building to Ellery Street. The 1967 addition to the library building will be demolished, uncovering the historic side of the original Van Brunt and Howe stack wing and creating an open plaza facing the main CRLS entrance. The proposal also calls for the relocation of parking spaces, currently housed under the tennis courts, to the new garage which will be shared with the library. This will allow the tennis courts to be rebuilt at ground level.

The current Main Library is on the National and State Registers of Historic Places and is located in a designated historic district. As such, any changes to the building must be approved by the Mid-Cambridge Neighborhood Conservation District and the Massachusetts Historical Commission.

We anticipate that the project's design will be completed by the summer of 2004, with construction ending with a grand opening for a Happy New Year 2007. Starting this summer, we hope to stagger portions of the overall construction activity to take advantage of those times when students are on vacation. During the major expansion work, the Library will be closed, with some of its functions being relocated to a place as yet undetermined.


At our most recent Design Advisory Committee meeting on the 20th of November, three additional alternates for the Library expansion's conceptual design were presented by the architectural team of William Rawn Associates, Ann Beha Architects, and Michael Van Valkenburg Associates. Our efforts thus far have been directed at trying to narrow our building massing/location schemes to a single, preferred approach. At the first October meeting, several members of the public audience asked us to look at alternates to those four approaches previously presented. Following the meeting, the team went back to work and developed modifications to alternates numbers 4, 5 and 6, and investigated a new concept in which the existing structure was moved forward, closer to Broadway. Please note: Photos of the models associated with each proposal as well as the individual drawing plan can be seen on our web page.

So, on the 20th, the Advisory Committee discussed the three additional options after they were described by the architect, and commented upon by the public audience. Their opinion was nearly unanimous, with only some reservation, regarding the proposed ramp location by the members representing CRLS, in strong favor of the modified massing alternate #4. This approach has the 2- and 3-story addition extending eastward with its front elevation in line with the front line of the existing building. The eastern edge of the expansion would extend to roughly where the first (of the three) tennis court begins. In this plan, the parking area under the tennis courts (not under the field house) would be replaced by a new underground parking garage, which would be located in front of the existing library. The 25-foot wide by 110-foot long ramp to this garage would be perpendicular to Broadway, and parallel to the north-south line of the school. (fyi: I've marked out the location on the ground with orange paint and stakes.)

Our next steps involve discussions with the School Committee, the Mid-Cambridge Neighborhood Conservation District Commission, and both the Cambridge and Massachusetts Historical Commissions, in order to get their input, and hopefully their concurrence with our moving forward. Depending upon the outcome of these meetings, we will consult with a cost estimator, and make a recommendation to the City Manager as to the way we should proceed to the next stage of the process - Stay tuned.


During the last month or so, the design team from William Rawn Associates, Ann Beha Architects, and Michael Van Valkenburg Associates have been busy refining their four massing schemes and presenting their plans to various groups in the City. Our efforts are directed to try to narrow our building location schemes to a single, preferred approach.

With significant assistance from Alan DerKazarian and Jule O'Donnell, all the text and graphic material from our meetings to date have been posted to the Books and Mortar web page. Both Microsoft and HTML formats have been used so that anyone visiting our site will be able to access all of the project information that we've generated thus far.

The graphics postings have been accomplished through a link with one of our design team's - Ann Beha Architects - web site . . . It's rather exciting, as well as informative! Take a look.

On the design progress side of things, you may have noticed the "little dig" that took place at various spots around the building and in the park recently. With a back-hoe (the tractor-looking thing), four "test pits" were dug close to the outside walls of both the Library and CRLS. We dug down around nine feet in order to see how far down the wall and its footings went, and also to see what materials were used in the construction process, since there were several different time frames involved in the overall evolution of the site. At the same time, we were drilling holes with two boring rigs that extracted soil samples from each five foot layer of earth going down to around 35 to 40 feet. The information that we get from those borings (not really 'boring' from an engineer's perspective!) will be used by the Geotechnical and Structural engineers for designing the foundations of the building and the garage. All in all, this is a very big part of the design puzzle - the process has really begun!

Stay tuned. Alan Burne, Project Director


Design Advisory Committee Meeting notes:

  • June 27, 2002 meeting
  • July 23, 2002 meeting
  • September 12, 2002 meeting
  • September 19, 2002 meeting


We have added four documents relating to the new library:

  • Revised Building Program
  • Space Needs Summary
  • Seating Distribution Summary
  • Collection Distribution Summary


The Library expansion project is moving forward. Its architectural program - the study that determines the space requirements of the project - has been completed and approved. The designers are using those spatial quantities to proceed with their next steps in the process, which is the development of several (ultimately three) massing alternatives to show the different possible build-outs on the Library site. Those alternates will be presented to the City Manager's appointed Design Advisory Committee on September 12th at 6:00 P.M. at a public meeting to be held in the Sakey Lecture Hall, Main Library. Using input from the Committee, various City agencies, and the public, a selection will be made as to the singular direction in which the design effort will continue. That will be the "Conceptual Design Approach". Next a cost estimate will be made, and after adjustments, the design team will start the "schematic" phase of the "phase II" design process. Hopefully this will occur by the latter part of November. Concurrent with the activity described above, the design team has also been busy with the development of an "Existing Conditions Survey". It documents such things as each tree and shrub on the project site, all of the artifacts that have been placed in various locations around us, and even the conditions of the roof tiles, and structural framing of the building itself as seen by crawling through the attic spaces and the turret. Also you might have seen a young woman and her associate flying around the outside of the building and zooming up and down a lift in the adult stacks and Sakey Hall. They were inspecting the condition of the building's exterior and taking paint samples from the interior walls and ceilings, so that we will be able to restore some of the areas to the design intent of the original architects . . . . . . Stay Tuned.


The next working meeting of the Main Library Expansion Project's Design Advisory Committee will be held on Thursday, September 12, and will begin promptly at 6:00pm in the Sakey Lecture Hall.

Architects will present several design alternatives for the library expansion. The City is seeking input from the Design Advisory Committee, city agencies, and the public.

The meeting will be open to the public and a comment period for those attending will be reserved at the latter part of the evening.

This will be the third public meeting of the 18-member Advisory Committee which was appointed in June of this year by City Manager Robert W. Healy to provide comment and advice to the Architectural Team of William Rawn Associates, Ann Beha Architects, and Michael Van Valkenburg. It’s input regards the issues of both building and landscape, both important to the Library expansion design.


City Manager, Robert W. Healy, has appointed Alan Burne as the Project Director for the Main Library renovation and expansion. Mr. Burne comes to us with many years of relevant experience as an architect, project manager for state government and private industry, and as the senior project manager for Gilbane Building Company on the recently completed Cambridge Hospital expansion. He served as Project Director of the Boston City Hospital expansion and as the Director of the Corrections Special Unit as well as Director of the Office for Project Management for the Commonwealth's Division of Capital Planning and Operations. Mr. Burne is a graduate of UMASS Amherst and the Boston Architectural Center.

The City Manager will be appointing a Citizen's Design Advisory Committee to work with the library's architects, William Rawn Associates and Ann Beha Associates, to create a new library that is tailored to the unique needs of the Cambridge community. All committee meetings will be open to the public and there will be opportunities for public comment at the conclusion of their meetings. As soon as their schedule is set it will be posted on the librar'¹s web site, listed in local newspapers, and posted in all libraries.