Mississippi Library Commission Headquarters

The project scope is a 60,000 square foot new facility to house the Mississippi Library Commission which is both a State Library and a library service agency. The building, located on a State-owned education and research campus, houses the State Library and its associated librarians as well as the offices of the Library Commission, an agency which serves all of the State’s public libraries.

Housed in a strip mall for twenty-three years, the organization was desperate to establish a positive, prominent presence to renew its public service mission and increase access to collections and services. Planning for the facility involved analyzing the past, acknowledging the present, and creating a future for a very diverse library with collections, experienced staff, and varied programs serving numerous constituencies statewide. Now in the first years of operation, the transition and renewal have proven overwhelmingly successful. Marked increases in usage of services and collections have occurred. Meeting and training facilities are in constant demand, averaging thirty events per month. The gallery spaces host bi-monthly exhibits of the works of artists within the state.

Institutionally, the building fosters a welcoming, expansive experience for each individual. The form of the work, the shape, composition, materials and sequence of spaces, is intentionally indirect. An exterior surface with ever-changing patterns of light and shadow, an interlocking composite shape, and an inviting, tactile interior create character that is enticing, yet elusive. Public spaces, offices, and the exterior are intertwined. Natural views and vistas are intrinsic to every public space and every office.

Inexplicable conditions of natural light are cultivated: cool highlights and patterned shadows on warm surfaces, reflected light in shadow, and interiors colored by light from multiple orientations. As a place for individual research and discovery, the design invites inquiry with sectional, diagonal, and indirect connections between spaces and between the interior and exterior. Each space provides both pause and horizon.

Every design decision was considered carefully to extend the investment of public funds. To last in this region of high humidity and heavy, wind-driven rains, the enclosure assemblies were designed to perform through redundancy and durability. Sealants are limited, protected and secondary to performance. Architectural laps, dams and drips are primary. To avoid the built-in obsolescence of fashion and rely on a history of performance, the palette of materials was primarily limited to a complimentary and durable set of natural materials; concrete, steel, zinc-coated copper, wood, aluminum, glass and stone. To assure longevity and flexibility of use, structural systems allow library loading throughout the building; mechanical, electrical, and data systems achieve comfort, efficiency, flexibility, and a healthy environment for people and library materials; systems offices accommodate future programmatic changes.

The green lawn exemplifies the comprehensive planning of the project. As a designed end, it is a statement about institutions in our society, an offset public center, an extension of the main reading room, and a space for children’s activities, special programs and receptions. As a means, it was a strategy to preserve the existing woods by providing a well-placed but limited crane and staging area during construction.

The 60,000 square foot building includes library, office functions and a computer data center. All library areas must maintain an archival environment (50% relative humidity, 70 degrees Fahrenheit +/-2%). The data center creates a large internal load. Despite these energy-intensive requirements, the building systems were designed to be highly efficient. Many passive strategies were incorporated into the design to reduce loads, including a building shape and orientation that limits direct solar gain and cultivates natural light and an envelope that is high-performance yet economical.

The building, designed in 2003 with construction completed in 2005, achieves an EPA Energy reduction of 17% and a total site Energy Use Intensity of 135kBtu/sf/yr. These are remarkable achievements given such a diversity of high performance uses and the building’s location in a southern hot, humid climate.

The building materials are local and recyclable. Concrete, concrete masonry and local wood were used extensively. Each offered the ability to minimize waste and achieve long-term durability in use. The site planning carefully directs storm water into use for planted and wooded areas. In a state that is accustomed to ranking last, the library, its headquarters and the process of its construction are all examples of excellence. An intentionally educational construction process promoted an increase of local craft, skill and knowledge that is already benefiting the quality of other public buildings, and the finished building now supports the library’s renewed public service mission.