Boston Public Library, second only to the Library of Congress in collection size, has a history like no other. With 24 branches, some of which date back to the 19th century, this ongoing experiment in public service is a shining example in the importance of shifting to meet the needs of changing populations. When the Jamaica Plain location required more space to accommodate young families and adolescents, BPL looked to the minds at Utile to lead the charge in a $10 million renovation and expansion. Designers at Utile then selected Acentech to provide acoustics consulting services for this exciting opportunity to provide a safe, inviting areas to learn and grow for all ages.

Acentech’s consulting services focused on several aspects integral to the success of this project: maximizing usability and historic integrity. Relatively small compared to other BPL branches, Jamaica Plain’s library renovation needed to have multiple community services offered within a tighter footprint than usual. Much of the original building was also renovated with sensitivity to the original design, which in turn meant that acoustical finishes required aesthetic selections that would seamlessly fit into the surroundings. In the new addition, there was a similar interest in integrating a smooth white finish that could also provide sound absorption, which was accomplished with a stretch fabric product. With wall-to-wall glass panels and poured concrete floors, this new area provides ample natural light leading into the historic spaces of the original building. The Children’s Reading Room also required special acoustical attention. Since its location is directly below a staff-community meeting room, additional sound isolation was required to ensure rumpus time and storytelling sessions would not interfere with important discussions happening above. More efficient ventilation systems were needed within this building as well, which in turn reduced the library’s community noise impact within this bustling neighborhood of Boston.

As the world continues to change, organizations that serve families must keep pace. The updated BPL Jamaica Plain branch is a stellar example of how to adapt spaces to new uses while preserving historic details.

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