Libraries today are not just a place for reading and quiet study. With new advances in technology and communications, the traditional library is becoming a public hub of learning and communal activity. That’s why when the city of Tustin, located in Orange County, Calif., needed to update and expand its 1970s-styled library, officials reached out to Field Paoli, a San Francisco-based architecture firm specializing in community-focused architecture, to help create a effervescent and appealing new library for the community to gather, study, and socialize.
“We wanted to create a vibrant new library that would be a real attraction for the residents of Tustin, providing access to information through a broad range of media, as well as a place for social and educational gatherings,” says Mark Schatz, FAIA, LEED AP, principal at Field Paoli. “The new library also is the largest and most technologically advanced branch in the Orange County system.”
Completed last August, the new 31,500-sq.-ft., one-story Tustin Library features a central entrance “marketplace” –with information desk, self check-out, sky-lit gallery, and two community meeting rooms—that separates two distinct, specialized wings. “Our design concept was a simple one,” Schatz explains, “to create a single main space for the library that is entered in the middle, with adults to one side and children to the other.”
Wing One houses an adult library (complete with a 92-station computer lab/training center) and glass-walled quiet rooms. A teen alcove is sectioned off on one side with its own computers, study rooms, and age-appropriate books, while the opposite side features a homework center where students can complete after-school assignments and host high school tutoring sessions. Wing Two features a community room and children’s library, which is 10 times larger than in the previous facility and has its own homework area for K–8 students and a story room.
On the building’s north side, the spaces surround three outdoor patios to provide additional areas for interaction and study. This central plaza also serves to host a variety of outdoor programs and events at Tustin Library.
Inside, Field Paoli interior designer Marie Fisher chose to keep the coloring warm and welcoming. Caramel colored carpets work to keep a consistent, neutral palette throughout, while varying patterns in each alcove serve to help diversify the tone of the adult and children’s sections.
“It was also important for us to differentiate the children’s area from the adults, even though they share the large main volume of the library,” says Schatz. Field Paoli accomplished this by adding to the children’s area three large ceiling “umbrellas” to add definition, incorporating more vibrant accent colors and adding bright orange light fixtures, as well as framing the moon gate entry into the storytelling area. Playful graphics, picture-book shelving, and movable stool seating lend additional youthfulness.
The building also incorporates many sustainable design elements, even though the facility is not LEED certified. The building’s layout was conceptualized to maximize daylighting. Full-length glass windows—which proved a particular challenge to the design team due to the landscape’s natural sloped surface—are featured on the north-facing wall and skylights and smaller windows were included with exterior shading. Recycled materials were used throughout the building, including steel framing, exterior pre-fabricated panels, and carpeting. Other features include operable windows in staff areas, daylight harvesting dimmers, a raised floor area for efficient air distribution, and water conserving plumbing fixtures with electric eye controls.
In the end, Field Paoli’s true reward was to see how much the Tustin community loved the outcome once it was open and ready for use, according to Schatz. “Every time I’ve visited, I’ve seen people out reading or visiting in the patios, and the kids love the small-scale furniture there,” he says. “The library has proven very popular, and that’s the best thing we could ask for.”