M.N. Spear Memorial Library


Oudens Ello Architecture was selected in 2009 as architect for a new, 5,800 square-foot library in Shutesbury, Massachusetts, a small rural town located just west of the Quabbin Reservoir. The town has long outgrown its existing library building, a 700 square-foot, jewel-like building constructed in 1902, and is in desperate need of a new facility which serves the needs of a growing community and collection. The new library aspires to serve as a hub of social and cultural exchange for Town residents – a welcoming community center as much as it is a library. The building program is organized into two parallel gabled volumes, one containing library program and the other housing multi-purpose community program space, with library stacks and support spaces occupying the middle zone between these two wings. Maximizing the flexible use of the library, this arrangement allows for separate off-hours access of the lobby, community program room, kitchen and restrooms while the rest of the library remains secure. A generous covered front porch ensures that residents always have access to common space – and the library’s wireless internet connection – even when the library is closed.

As part of a five-month study leading up to and in pursuit of a construction grant from the Massachusetts Board of Library Commissioners (MBLC), OEA’s early efforts focused on the analysis of two different building sites – each with its own assets and challenges. Out of this analysis, a preferred site was chosen for which a range of planning options were then developed. Out of that exploration came a final, preferred scheme, which was further developed with the Building Committee, the Town of Shutesbury and the MBLC.

The project was one of twenty-eight submissions by towns throughout Massachusetts for grants through the MBLC’s Public Library Construction Program, which provides up to 60% of eligible construction costs. Shutesbury was ultimately one of eight towns – along with the Town of West Tisbury, the site of another OEA public library project – to receive a grant from the state and received the maximum amount allowable. OEA’s ongoing work with the Library is guided by strong support for cost-effective green building technologies such as geothermal heating and cooling and on-site power generation through photovoltaic array, striving to achieve net-zero energy goals within the bounds of a demanding budget.