McAuliffe Library gains national attention
Published in The MetroWest Daily News on November 16, 2016
By Jim Haddadin, Daily News Staff
FRAMINGHAM – It’s been praised for months by patrons. Now, the new Christa McAuliffe Branch library on Water Street is coming to the attention of a national audience.
The $8.6 million building appears on the cover of the newest edition of Library Journal, a venerable trade publication that covers technology, management, policy and other issues relevant to librarians.
Released Tuesday, the Journal’s annual architecture issue features a photo of the metal-and-glass exterior of the new McAuliffe branch. The building is pictured at dusk, with its signature prow extending over the front lawn and stacks of books visible inside.
In a brief description of the building, the Journal notes the McAuliffe branch was “inspired by the life of teacher McAuliffe, the first lay astronaut (and a Framingham native), who died in the Challenger space shuttle disaster in 1986.”
Conceived by Finegold Alexander Architects of Boston, the library’s design references “flight and a nod to the stars,” the Journal notes, melding its unique exterior with pragmatic features such as an “expansive children’s space that flows into the adult reading area underneath a soaring roof.”
Bette-Lee Fox, Library Journal’s managing editor, said architecture has been a focus of the publication since at least the 1940s. Each year, libraries around the country submit details about infrastructure projects that were recently completed, such as cost, square footage and special features of their new buildings.
With the country marking the 30-year anniversary of the Challenger disaster – and with the new McAuliffe building’s architecture aimed at capturing the Framingham native’s pioneering spirit – Fox said her art department quickly coalesced on the idea of featuring it on the cover of the architecture edition.
“I think all that combined made the cover just a natural for us,” she said.
At nearly 17,000 square feet, the L-shaped building is about triple the size of the old McAuliffe library it replaced on Nicholas Road.
Sam Klaidman, chairman of the library’s building committee, said the group worked for months with architect Tony Hsiao to fine-tune the design, emphasizing that the library should reflect the spirit of someone bold enough to give up a teaching career to fly into space.
“If he came back with something that was too traditional, we would just say, ‘No, this isn’t the North Framingham Branch. It’s the Christa McAuliffe Branch.'”
While it’s gratifying to see the new building receive national acclaim, Klaidman said he takes more satisfaction from praise within the community. He recalled shaking the hand of a Town Meeting member about one month after the formal opening as the man’s eyes welled up with tears.
“He said, ‘I never thought I would live to see a building like this in Nobscot. Thank you,'” Klaidman said. “That was a lot more rewarding than a picture on the front of a magazine.”
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