Canton Public Library   

Building Renovation Project

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Historical Background 

In 1902, the great Canton philanthropist Augustus Hemenway donated the land and building we know today as the Canton Public Library, one of his most enduring gifts to the people of Canton.  Hemenway personally supervised the design and construction of this building.  This muscular building of marble floors and vaulted ceilings impressed residents, and a soaring domed vestibule topped in bright copper crowned a jewel for this community. Hemenway’s library remained largely unchanged until 1962 when a substantial addition nearly doubled its size. 

Over the last forty years, changes in population, technology, and public interest have tested the building meant once to house only books.  Hemenway’s small community of 5,000 has now grown to a population of over 20,000 people.  Sixty percent of the residents have library cards and the demands on the current facility are great.  To respond to the changing needs of this community, the Library Director and Board of Trustees began developing a building expansion plan in 1998.  The style of the addition will remain sympathetic to the existing building, while providing for technological advancements, full accessibility and new spaces to meet the needs of a modern program of service.

A three-level design has been developed, which will balance and maintain the scale of the original building.  The new site plan greatly expands the parking, bringing it further into the site and creating new accessible routes to entrances.  The proposed architectural design expands the existing building towards the rear.  Although the original front entrance is retained the design centers on a new entrance arcade at the south side of the building, incorporating a ramp to the accessible main entrance.  Beyond the arcade is the new Research Room, which is placed at an angle to the original building.  The parking wraps around this wing and slopes down the back of the site to provide an accessible entrance to the Junior Library on the ground floor.  Book stacks, Young Adults, com- puter services, and staff areas comprise the balance of the addition on the first and second floors; the ground floor of the addition houses the Community Room and related facilities.  The original reading rooms will be restored as quiet reading areas. 

The design allows the meeting room facilities to be used at times when the rest of the building is closed.  Adjacent to the Meeting Room is the interior entrance to the Junior Library, which occupies the southwest corner of the building and is visible from the parking areas. 

Like the original building, the exterior is finished in brick, limestone, and copper roofs to harmonize with the original library.  The roof forms echo those of the old building, with the massing and details developed to preserve the position of the original library as the centerpiece of the composition. 

Energy efficiency is achieved throughout the building.  Schematic design has been developed to comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act, and the Massachusetts Architectural Access Board.

The wired and connected world of the new millennium is transforming the way we gather and interpret information.  The library project will provide quiet space and computer carrels for up to 40 users.

Whether it is the WWW or the OCLN the speed and access to the information resources is critical.  Buildings designed even 10 years ago are sometimes inadequate for today’s technology.  The new building will meet the challenges of  an interconnected world head on.  Lighting, power, flexibility and ergonomics are all part of the equation that will make this space a success.



The award-winning architectural firm of Burt Hill Kosar Rittelmann Associates has extensive experience designing and building libraries in Massachusetts communities, including Bridgewater, Brockton, Malden, Medfield, Springfield, Swampscott and Wrentham.  Each of these projects has been awarded a State Library Construction Program grant.

For expanded views of the model and the Architect's Executive Summary Click Here

Personal Spaces, Public Places

The expanded library is designed to provide the spatial flexibility necessary to anticipate the needs of a growing community and dynamically changing technology.  The plan addresses the many and various ways that people use the Library both as individuals and in groups.  Space for community events will be an important element of the expanded building.  A fully accessible 144-seat Community Room will enable programs to be presented for the first time to popular-sized audiences.  A soundproof divider will double the number of meetings that can run simultaneously.  A Conference Room and small study rooms will further relieve the lack of meeting and function space town-wide.  All town clubs, organizations, committees and individuals will be welcome to use these rooms for personal study or small group meetings.


Prospective View of the Reference Room

Teens will have space to call their own with casual areas acoustically separate from those used for quiet study and adult reading.  A Homework Center will provide access to computer stations for research and curricular assignments.  Staff will be available in this area during after-school hours. 


View of a model of the Proposed Library Expansion

A New Children’s Room
A space for Dr. Seuss

For the past 35 years, the Canton Public Library Children’s Room has been the first stop for children learning how to read.  It is here that they meet Captain Hook, Nancy Drew, Horton, Gulliver, Pippi and   Stuart Little.  The Children’s Room is a place to travel to far off places like Never Never Land, Treasure Island and Sesame Street.  Kids have special needs    in a library, consider the size of the furniture, the height of the shelves, and even a place for a puppet theatre.  The new home of the Children’s Room will have its own access, plenty of play space, and an acclaimed design.  It will be a very special place for Canton’s children. 


Prospective View of Children's Study Room




View more interior views of the Library produced by 
a graphic artist in collaboration with the Architect.


At the turn of the century, the town depended upon the generosity of Augustus Hemenway, today we need your help to insure that the Canton Public Library remains a vital and substantial institution.  There are varieties of ways in which you may give to the Canton Public Library.  The following are general guidelines on giving:

Gifts of cash may be deducted on your income tax returns, so the cost of your gift is reduced by tax savings usually equal to 28%-39% of the gift, depending on your income level.

Stocks, bonds, and mutual funds that have appreciated in value make ideal gifts because you can usually deduct the fair market value of the stock and avoid the capital gains tax associated with selling it.

Specific property can be given to the library through your will, usually by adding a simple amendment.  Before making any gift, consult an attorney for the best giving option.

Naming opportunities are available throughout the handsome building addition as well as the historic original library to accommodate the interests and generosity of many donors. 
Naming opportunities will be memorialized by brushed aluminum signs and engraved plaques.  Gifts may be made outright or in honor or memory of loved ones.  Please refer to our brochure for particular naming opportunities.

The Library Building Committee
Betty Chelmow, Chairperson, Library Board of Trustees
George T. Comeau, Chairman Building Committee
Susan Cogliano 
Marcia Connors
Al Cronin
Nancy Mark
Peg Mead 
Elizabeth Parker
Vincent Shea

 Members At-Large
Tony Braconi
Chris Clark
Stephen Connolly
Bob Findlen
Deni  Garabedian
Jan Hagan
Irene Kelley
Tara Lynch
Stephen O’Connor
Don Salive

Ex Officio Members
Mark Lague, Library Director
Roger Nicholas, Town Planner

If you are interested in serving on the committee or wish to comment on any aspect of the Library Building project as it proceeds please contact
Mark Lague, Library Director, or
George T. Comeau, Chairman, at 781.828.6980 or by email


“Of the many discouragements and delays which Mr. Hemenway and his co-adjutors have met and overcome the general public know nothing, but it does know that thanks to the open-handed generosity of its honored citizen, the town owns a library building which they may well be proud to exhibit to anyone from any quarter of the globe and all only hope the time may come when they may show Mr. Hemenway how acceptable his gift has been and how highly it is appreciated.” --
Canton Journal, August 1, 1902

Augustus Hemenway insured that the Canton Public Library would be the center of literary culture for generations to come.
Now we need your help.


Priority goals of the Building Renovation Program

Access Issues · provide ADA compliant entrances/exits
· install an elevator to serve all levels
· increase ADA compliance in restrooms
· improve the accessibility of all services
General Design
· balance quality of design elements and materials with affordability
· stress affordability of operational costs
· maintain aesthetics and style of exterior facade
· alleviate congested traffic patterns
· consolidate services to one level as possible
· consolidate staff and improve supervision and building control
· inject design flexibility to adapt to changing technologies & services
· build in energy efficiency
Children’s Library  · alleviate dangerous, overcrowded conditions
·  proportion space to meet growing population
·  introduce suitable areas for private and group storytelling and crafts
Reference area  · increase space for public workstations
· add work area to central information desk
Quiet areas · enclosed personal study and group discussion areas
· furnish noise buffered areas for relaxed atmosphere
Meeting/Program space · introduce sufficient and flexible area for community functions, meetings 
          and performances
Work & Storage areas · expand common and private work areas for work efficiency, space for 
          materials and equipment
Parking · provide in proportion to Meeting Room capacity,
          building size, and by local zoning
Heating & Electrical · replace outdated systems that have been postponed
          in anticipation of an expanded building
 Thank you for reading about the Canton Public Library Building Renovation Program
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Mark Lague, Library Director
©Canton Public Library, May 15, 2000