Chirp Logo with a Bird

Meet the Architects

Earlier this spring the Library hosted architects Stew Roberts and Natalie Eringros from Johnson Roberts, Associates, Inc. who presented the preliminary design for the Children's Room and Large Meeting Room renovation. The session was recorded and is accessible on the Library's YouTube channel.

Children’s Room Project & Large Meeting Room Transformation

(Including replacement of the HVAC system on the Lower Level)

Public libraries in the United States have evolved over time, responding to the needs of the communities they serve. Library services to young people, and in fact for all ages, have changed significantly since the library’s major renovation and expansion project was completed in 2004. While our Children’s Room and Large Meeting Room were state of the art for their time, they do not work as well for today’s more participatory, people-first service models. 

Among the factors driving our Children’s Room (ChiRP!) & our Large Meeting Room renovation project are: 

21st Century Learners Need 21st Century Spaces:

Our current spaces were designed in the late 1990s when children’s programs were primarily “passive” and included story times and other performances where children came to sit quietly and listen, not be active participants.

Our services for young people are informed by the work of early childhood educators and researchers who study youth literacy and development. Today we have a better understanding of children as active learners and our programming reflects this. In education circles, early literacy skills (talk, sing, read, write, play) and kinesthetic learning practices strive to engage whole bodies as a way to promote the learning process. 

Library services for older children have also changed. Instead of offering only reading and research activities, we now offer all kinds of experiential learning opportunities for older children. New youth spaces in libraries are flexible, allowing for programs in art, science, technology, and making. These types of programs build 21st century literacies such as creativity, critical thinking and problem solving, scientific reasoning, and cultural awareness.

Better Accessibility Benefits Everyone:

One of our Guiding Principles is to make the library “a space that works for everyone.” To achieve this goal, we are embracing the principles of Universal Design that improve access for individuals with disabilities and also make spaces more comfortable for everyone.

To this end, our renovation project will lower shelving heights for some collections and expand the width between shelves to improve accessibility. Restrooms will be improved and the Service Desk will be reconfigured for better service to children and individuals with disabilities. 

Safer Spaces for Our Youngest Library Users:

Our Children’s Room was designed without clear sightlines from the service desk to the preschool play space and other areas. The room was configured to maximize the size of the collection, at the expense of staff oversight. This project reconfigures our spaces to put people and safety first.

20 Years of Being Well-Loved:

The Children’s Room has the highest use/square foot of any space in the library and it has not been updated since the building opened in 2004. It’s well loved and well worn and in need of updating so that it can serve the next generation of Lexington kids. New carpet, more appropriate lighting, appropriately sized furniture, and a dose of whimsy will make the space more comfortable and inviting.

And an Updated Large Meeting Room:

When our building was designed, the Large Meeting Room was envisioned as an adult programming space, and intended to be used for auditorium style for lectures and performances. 

Over the past two decades, much has changed, including a huge community demand for “hands on” programming such as cooking demonstrations, gardening workshops, and crafting sessions. In addition, most of our Children’s Programs have outgrown our small Story Time Room and are now being held in the Large Meeting Room, so this space needs to function well for use by children.

What we need is a space that includes an improved kitchen area for cooking and science demonstrations, with storage to hold all of the equipment needed for craft and making programs, and updated technology to allow us to host programs in person as well as virtually. This is a space that will serve children, teens, and adults.

Our guiding principle of making the library work for everyone extends to our redesign of the Large Meeting Room. We plan to install an adaptable lighting to help improve the experience of our patrons with sensory challenges. An updated hearing loop system will be installed to accommodate individuals with hearing loss.

A New Clean Energy HVAC System:

The Library’s HVAC system will reach end of life later this decade. As part of this project, we will go ahead and replace the HVAC system on the Lower Level, changing this floor of the building from a fossil fuel system to a clean energy alternative. The remaining floors of the building will have HVAC systems replaced at a later date.

This is the report we gave to Town Meeting this year about the project and our plans moving forward:


This is the architect's feasibility study and preliminary design report:


The Cary Library was designed in the late 1990s and constructed in the early 2000s. At that time, Children’s Rooms were designed to maximize collection space and only minimal space was dedicated to programming. Over the past 20 years, the design of youth spaces has evolved to better match the types of activities libraries provide today. The Cary Library is looking to redesign the current Children’s Room space to better meet children’s needs. Our library is not alone in updating its Children’s Room - the communities of Newton and Wellesley (both with late 90s vintage buildings similar to our own) have recently completed renovations of their youth spaces.

The current configuration of the Children’s Room lacks flexibility with rows to shelving that are too tall and too closely arranged. The space also lacks the sightlines needed for oversight of children in the room. While the space meets minimum ADA requirements, staff have observed multiple accessibility issues that will be mitigated with this project.

The Children’s Room sees more foot traffic per square foot than any other space in the library. More than 50% of all materials borrowed from the library are checked out in the Children’s Room. It’s a space that is well loved by families and the wear and tear is beginning to show.

The Library has added Youth Services staff over the past 20 years and the staff workroom cannot accommodate current staffing levels. Adding desks into the existing space has compromised the accessibility of the workroom which should be addressed by this project.

Physical Description:

The Cary Library Children’s Room is located on the lower level of the three-story building.  Entry is in the approximate center of the long wall from a corridor in the middle of the bottom floor. The corridor wall is glazed.  Half the Children’s Room, from the entrance to the Circulation Desk, is open lengthwise from end to end; the other half is divided into approximate thirds by partitions that create staff office and work space. Two exterior walls feature large windows above grade level; the fourth wall is an interior wall dividing the Children’s Room from the recently created Teen Space. A door connects the two spaces but there are no sightlines between the Children’s and Teen Spaces.

Along the exterior walls, granite block buttresses create niches approximately sixty-five (65) inches deep of various widths. Windows in the niches create a greenhouse effect often making the spaces uncomfortably hot. To one side of the office are restrooms and an enclosed story-hour room.  Immediately behind the office, but not accessible from within it, is the emergency exit. Within the office space is the Head of Youth Services’ Office, also defined by block buttresses, and a storage closet tucked under emergency exit stairs. To the other side of the office are the nonfiction and graphic novel collections, a small study room also defined by block buttresses, and table space for eight children. A glazed meeting room, the “Learning Center”, is located at the far end of the corridor wall and contains both under-stair storage closets and plumbing equipment required for the in-floor radiant heating.

Square Footage:

  • Children’s Room Total sq. ft.: 12,000
  • Learning Center sq. ft.: 375 sf
  • Preschool Play Space: 500 sf
  • YS Staff Room: 500 sf
  • Story Time Room: 350 sf

Functions Performed:

The Children’s Room houses the entire collection of children’s materials including print, media, periodicals, toys and games. This space also provides seating for children and their caretakers, a room for small group programs, and tables for individual tutoring or homework help.


  • Public   30-50
  • Staff      10

Current Patron seating:

  • Tables: 18 seats at tables for school-age students (2 tables in Graphic Novel section, 2 tables in front of main service desk, 1 table in one of the granite buttresses along the outer wall)
  • Preschool Play Space: 10 seats. Combination of benches, chairs, ottomans
  • Alcoves: 6-8 seats. Combination of tables, benches, and lounge seating

Existing service point:  

There is one large L shaped desk that was built to accommodate 4 staff. One section of the desk is currently unused.

Needs to be addressed by this project:

Clear sightlines throughout.

  • The room is oriented in the shape of a “U” with staff space in the center. This positioning of the staff workroom divides the space into segments that cannot be easily seen from the service desk.
  • The nonfiction and graphic novel section is blocked from sight from the areas of the room serving younger children. Multiple participants in surveys and forums indicated that they did not know the nonfiction space existed until their children became old enough to use it.
  • Shelving heights are too high for the collections serving small children. Higher shelving heights also impede the staff’s ability to oversee the room.
  • The Preschool Play Space is tucked in the back corner outside the story room and out of sight of the service desk. This is not ideal for safety reasons and should be changed as part of this project.

Logical and well-designed “flow”

  • The location of the staff office space in the center of the back wall chops the room roughly into thirds. Patrons and staff alike are forced to walk around the office partitions to travel from the non-fiction collection to the restroom and Story Hour Room.
  • This orientation makes it especially difficult for families with multiple children using different sections of the library. It makes it challenging for caregivers to keep an eye on their children who may be in different areas.

Clearly designated areas for various ages and activities

  • The uniform decor of the Children’s Room includes shelving in wood tones, all carpeting uniform, all walls painted pale blue, and little variation in shelf height does not indicate much distinction among spaces.  The overall ambiance it creates is an adult room adapted for youngsters by equipping it with smaller furniture. The renovated space should be lighter, more colorful, and more youthful.
  • The current preschool play space is not visible from the service desk. For safety reasons, this needs to be corrected in the renovation.
  • The Story Time Room is too small to be useful for most youth programming. Expanding the size of that space as much as possible should be a goal.
  • There is space for older children back by the graphic novel collection, but the two large tables aren’t inviting. New reading and study areas that work for grade school children are a must.
  • The room currently lacks spaces for activities such as board games, puzzles, or coloring. Positioning the Story Time Room so that it can be open for these activities when not in use is an important part of making the Children’s Room more flexible.
  • Consider putting some shelving on wheels to add flexibility.  

A variety of seating to accommodate multiple sizes and needs of children

  • While there is a clear “play space” for the little ones and there are adult chairs and ottomans for parents and caregivers, the seating for school-aged children consists of four very large tables in two locations with chairs that are too small for the tables and arguably too large for some of the kids. The room needs a combination of furniture (including some chairs with arms) to accommodate all ages and body types.
  • Sensory friendly furniture (such as pod chairs) should be integrated.
  • Several benches placed in alcoves and in front of the fiction shelving are well-used but they are neither comfortable nor inviting.

Assessment of the Story Hour Room and the Learning Center to determine their continuing usefulness as they exist now. 

  • The Learning Center is not currently considered part of the Children’s Room but could be incorporated as part of this project.
  • Not only do the uses of these spaces need to be considered but also the structural and architectural elements that could have an effect on redefining or repurposing them. 
  • Currently the Story Hour Room is used only for book clubs for older kids because attendance at baby, toddler and preschool programs is so large that they must be held in the Large Meeting Room across the hall from the Children’s Room. 
  • Can the Story Hour Room be expanded into the existing library space to accommodate the larger attendees? 
  • Appropriate storage is an ongoing issue that will need to be resolved as the larger plan is designed.

Updated service desk

  • The current service desk is too large, designed with 4 workstations. The new service desk should allow for two staff, with space for a third staff person to work at the desk when the room is very busy.
  • The service desk needs good storage and counter space and better ergonomics for staff. Desk must be fully functional and accessible.
  • The service desk should have easy access to the staff workroom, holds shelves, and storage areas for kits. 
  • Patrons and staff agree that the orientation of the current desk, facing the entrance of the room, should be preserved. This orientation ensures that families feel a sense of welcome when entering the Children’s Room.
  • Adequate storage space is needed to house technology (laptops and iPads) that may be checked out for use in the room. These could be stored in cabinetry directly behind the desk.

A staff office and other staff workspace that is flexible enough to be able to be reinvented in the future.

  • The staff room was originally designed to seat 6 people, and the current staffing level is 9 people. The new staff space must be fully accessible (the current space is not because desks have been added for new staff).
  • A concern expressed by library staff is that there is no direct access from the staff room to the emergency exit located behind the office. The space is currently a “dead end” with only one point of entry. Ideally, staff would prefer a room located between the Children’s Room and the Teen Space with egress from both sides.
  • Staff desks lack storage space. New desks should have shelves above for project work.
  • Book carts hold supplies and equipment that should have permanent work and storage locations.
  • There is currently no central workspace. Prepping story times and crafts requires space to spread out.
  • Counter space with a refrigerator and sink
  • Printer/copier
  • Storage closet

Additional Considerations

Room Furnishings: 

Current aesthetic looks like an adult space that has been modified for children. Furniture has been added/subtracted at different times so there is a lack of cohesion. A more youthful, interesting, vibrant space will be most welcome!

  • Shelving: should be consistent for each section of the collection (currently picture books are on low and high book stacks, etc.). Different types of shelving for media, board books, kits, should be explored and may be used to break up the current configuration of book stacks
  • Smaller tables that are easier to move and more hospitable to children
  • Some lounge seating should be incorporated for recreational reading
  • At least some seating with arms for the Preschool Play Space to make it easy for older patrons to get in and out of chairs
  • Depending on the final layout, some shelving could be mobile to add  flexibility


All early grade collections should be on low shelving units no more than 3 shelves high. Older elementary collections may be shelved on taller shelves but shelf stacks should be arranged for better visibility.

Architectural Features:

The décor should relate to the library as a whole, yet hold its own identity. 

The Children’s Room should:

  • Be welcoming, joyful, and playful in nature
  • Use color as a finding aid
  • Use texture and natural elements to create a relaxing space (not looking for a primary-color preschool aesthetic)
  • Have good and appropriate lighting, both general lighting and task lighting
  • Lighting should be dimmable and the various areas of the room should be controlled individually for sensory friendly programs
  • Be open with good sight lines from the service desk
  • Have surfaces designed for easy maintenance and clean up
  • Have two dedicated non-gendered restrooms for family use, including one with an adult size changing table
  • Include a stroller parking area
  • To the extent possible, no permanent barriers should be constructed, in order to allow for flexible use of the space over time.  If a toddler barrier is included, it should be easily un-installable if necessary
  • Include display case for the popular Lego display
  • Include tables with power/USB for use by patrons
  • Sound absorbing materials must be considered on the floor and ceiling
  • Design space for self-check stations either in the room, or in the adjacent hallway
  • Consider placement of staff workroom so that it could be accessed through Teen Space or Children’s Room
  • Accommodate the Friends Book Sale cart
  • Accommodate the popular LEGO display

The Service Desk:

Must provide variable height workstations for 2-3 staff members with 5 linear feet of counter space for each station.  At least one of the stations must be wheelchair accessible. It must serve as a focal point easily identified by patrons entering the space as the location where they can ask questions, check out, and return books.  It must be welcoming for patrons but also functional for staff.  It will be designed to staff specifications. It must:

  • Provide clear sight lines to allow staff to see all sections of the room
  • Be well designed for ergonomics and accessibility
  • Provide space not accessible to patrons for secure storage of laptops, lost and found, etc.
  • Allow staff to move in and out easily to assist children
  • Have appropriate accommodation for electronic equipment out of sight of patrons but easily accessible for staff maintenance
  • Have sufficient power supply for current and future needs
  • Have sufficient storage for all the functions of the desk
    • Library cards and registration materials
    • Cash drawer
    • Shelving for various items
    • Office supplies
    • Small and large drawers
    • Phone
    • Printer/paper storage
    • Trash/recycling


Slide-out drawers or bins for games and toys; bins for headphones; secure storage for electronic devices, all easily accessed by children and parents.  Storage for office-type supplies at Circulation Desk; Secure storage for e-readers and tablets. Storage for book club and summer reading materials.  Storage for program materials of various sizes including large posters/white boards; Legos; puppets, etc. 

Youth Services Workroom:

The Youth Services Workroom should have workspace for 9 staff as well as a private office for the Head of Youth Service. Ideally, this space should be adjacent to the Children’s Room and the Teen Space. The room must include sufficient and secure storage for all required supplies and equipment to support staff functions including secure personal storage for staff.  Ideally, this space should include a sink and include a project/meeting table and space for 8 library carts.


  • Public:  0
  • Staff:  8-10

Staff seating: 

At desks or at project table


Desks should be equipped with a minimum  of 1 lap drawer, 2 storage/file drawers (one lockable); Convenient electrical outlets to plug in computers/laptops/phones; appropriate mounting for computer screens; easily reachable wall-mounted shelves at each workstation; chairs for desks; desk lamp or appropriate lighting for each desk

Shared space:

5 linear feet of counter space with sink of sufficient size to allow hands and items to be washed.  Storage cabinets above and below counter for cleaning supplies and other materials as defined by staff. There should also be a shared area with a networked printer and storage for paper, a paper cutter, and small laminator.


Storage cabinets/closets (you can never have enough. Need a coat closet or area. Need space for laptop/iPad overnight changing (lockable).


Telephone, lamp and computer workstation/laptop at each desk; networked printer/scanner.

Relationship to Large Meeting Room

Because the footprint of our Children’s Room cannot be expanded, we will still need to rely on the Large Meeting Room across the hallway for larger children’s programs. That room, also being redesigned as part of the renovation project, needs to meet the needs (especially safety) of our youngest users.

Aesthetic Considerations

The Teens Space was renovated in 2016, with bright colors and furniture to meet the needs of our young adult population. The Children’s Room and Large Meeting Room finishes, as well as those selected for the Lower Level hallway that connects the three spaces, should combine to create a cohesive feel on the Lower Level.


Document created: March 23, 2020, Updated 1.20.22, 3.15.23



Designed as part of the library’s 2004 expansion, the Large Meeting Room was originally imagined as a lecture space, to be used primarily for adult programs. Over the past twenty years, Cary Library, like public libraries everywhere, has increased and expanded program offerings for patrons of all ages. In the past decade, our emphasis has shifted to more active programs that encourage library users to work, play, and learn together. Today, Cary Library offers an enormous array of interactive programs such as cooking, science, gardening, crafting. We need a kitchen space and storage fore equipment so that we can better deliver these very popular offerings.

The Large Meeting Room has several deficits that impede our ability to offer accessible programs for users. The room currently includes a cochlear hearing loop which must be upgraded as part of the project. Lighting configurations are limited, making it difficult to make the room suitable for patrons with sensory issues. As demand for Children’s programming has grown dramatically, the Large Meeting Room is being used with increasing frequency for children’s programming, which will only continue into the future.

During the pandemic, the library was forced to move all of its programming offerings online. Some programs, such as lectures and discussions worked well in the virtual environment, and patrons have asked that we continue to offer programs virtually. This is especially important to patrons with accessibility issues, those who do not want to drive after dark, and anyone whose busy life makes it easier to attend a program from home. In order to meet these needs, upgraded Large Meeting Room technology should be installed to facilitate both virtual and live programming.

Physical Description:

The Cary Library Large Meeting Room is located on the lower level of the three-story building. The room is located across the Pierce Gallery hallway from the Children’s Room. The Room is rectangular with windows on two walls. There is a very small kitchenette, a storage room, and a community television broadcast booth. 

The room is currently configured facing one of its longer sides, with a stationary podium. There is a retractable screen set into the ceiling along the long wall. The room has a cochlear loop that has been well used and appreciated by the community but now is end of life. Part of the room is paneled in wood, making it dark. Ceiling heights are low in places due to ductwork and there are structural pillars that break up the space. Lighting is fixed, limiting flexibility. Overall, the room feels dark and unpleasant.

Square Footage:

1,500 sf not including kitchen/storage/booth

Functions Performed: 

This room is the largest of the library’s enclosed meeting spaces, seating approximately 90 people in a lecture format. In the past, attendance at library programs used to exceed the capacity of this space, leading us to create the “Living Room” on the Main Level (which will seat 125+ people).


  • Public   90
  • Staff   3

Current Patron seating:

  • Lecture seating: 90 chairs
  • Workshop seating: 8 tables with chairs

Needs to be addressed by this project:

Greater flexibility for programming moving forward:

  • The Youth Services staff need to be able to use this as an open space for all manner of children’s and teen programming. Staff would like to be able to lock all equipment and furnishings away during programs
  • All programming staff want to be able to use this space for crafting or making activities. The Library does not have a dedicated Maker Space but would like to be able to offer maker programs. The room needs sufficient storage to allow for this equipment to be stored when not in use
  • Consider flooring options that work for all uses

Greater accessibility for all users:

  • Implementation of a flexible lighting system that will enable the Library to provide more sensory friendly programming
  • Updated cochlear loop to provide greater accessibility by hearing impaired users

Updated meeting technology to facilitate a range of programming:

  • Modern AV equipment suitable for live and virtual programming.
  • Ease of use for broadcast by LexMedia
  • Mobile podium to enhance programming flexibility
  • Cameras to capture demonstrations for virtual programming

Teaching Kitchen

  • Expand and transform the existing kitchenette into a teaching kitchen with a mobile island to facilitate cooking, science, and other related programming
  • Ensure adequate ventilation
  • Install a dishwasher and washer/dryer to provide for enhanced sanitation
  • Ensure adequate space and equipment for catered events
  • Determine how the kitchen can be closed off when not in use (safety issues with children attending programs in this space)
  • Ensure cameras are positioned to film cooking programs

Updated furniture and storage

  • Provide new workspace/seating opportunities to facilitate cooking/science/making activities
  • Provide maker space equipment to facilitate science/maker/crafting programs for all ages
  • Build in adequate storage for all making/craft supplies
  • Increase kitchen cabinetry in kitchen for storage

Relationship to Children’s Room

Because the footprint of our Children’s Room cannot be expanded, we will continue to rely on the Large Meeting Room across the hallway for larger children’s programs.

Aesthetic Considerations

The Teens Space was renovated in 2016, with bright colors and furniture to meet the needs of our young adult population. The Children’s Room and Large Meeting Room finishes, as well as those selected for the Lower Level hallway that connects the three spaces, should combine to create a cohesive feel on the Lower Level.


Document created: March 23, 2020, Updated 1.20.22, 3.15.23

To view a full-size image of this design, please download the floorplan [PDF].

Cary Library Floorplan Design

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