In contrast with other Contra Costa communities, the new Hercules Library in 2006 was not a replacement. It was the first library in that community.

Hercules Public Library. Photo by Coro.

Tapping into monies allocated by the year 2000 state library bond measure, the city of Hercules and Contra Costa County commissioned the architects to design a 21,500-square-foot, $10.4 million building that would double as a library and a community center. Open shelving for periodicals, stacks for books and DVDs, open access computers, and reading areas for adults, teens, and children were to be supplemented by a homework center, multipurpose meeting rooms available to public groups, a small kitchen for a coffee shop, and a generous lobby. Additionally, the city requested that the building be highly visible.

The San Francisco office of Hammel Green and Abrahamson (HGA), in collaboration with Phoenix-based Will Bruder+Partners was responsible for the project. HGA and Bruder used the slope of the site and a range of design strategies to give the relatively small building a civic presence and identity while at the same time making it humanly scaled. To bulk up the structure, the architects aggregated the modest program into a single volume and expanded the footprint by inserting a generous, oval-shaped light court into its middle. An asymmetrical butterfly roof shelters a lower wing that modestly faces a parking lot and entry at the rear, and a taller wing that soars to a height of 44 feet above the street corner, perhaps the only building in Hercules to hold the street edge in this way. At this corner, a randomly patterned earth-tone palette of vertical brick tiles clad the exterior of the building’s steel structure, helping the library stand out against its drab neighbors.

Supplementing state bond money, the Hercules Library received support from the Hercules Community and Library Services Commission, the Hercules Library Foundation, and the Friends of the Hercules Library. In addition civic organizations and individuals provided substantial donations to support its construction.

The library’s 21,500 square feet include a Teen Homework Center, two meeting rooms, three study rooms, a Sky Garden, a Children’s Garden, a children’s story area called the Story Cone, the Friends of the Hercules Library Bookstore, and a reading area with comfortable seating around a fireplace

John King, the San Francisco Chronicle’s architecture critic gave the new library a glowing review (12/17/2006)

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