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West Branch Library Renovation

Following an extensive renovation, the West Branch Library (40 College Ave.) reopened to the public in July 2021 as a fully ADA-accessible building.

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Cathy Piantigini
Library Director
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Background, Goals, & Improvements

The historic West Branch of the Somerville Public Library is located at 40 College Avenue in Somerville, Massachusetts. The Library is in close proximity to the MBTA’s Davis Square T stop as well as many cafes, restaurants, theaters, clothing shops, office space, and Tufts University.  The area hosts a widely diverse and growing population with a variety of services and needs. 

The West Branch Library building is more than one-hundred years old, is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, and is classified as a Carnegie Library. The Somerville Public Libraries were constructed with the assistance of funds from Andrew Carnegie. The West Branch, completed in 1909, was designed by Maclean and Wright. It is a fine example of the Neoclassical architecture of the early 20th century and a civic landmark in the Davis Square area. Constructed of limestone and buff brick, the richly detailed cornice, entry gable with acroteria, corner quoins, and lamps flanking the entrance underscore the high social purpose of the library.

In its current condition, the West Branch Library is unable to meet the needs and expectations of the community and staff. The staff and patrons face daily challenges given the age of the building, ongoing maintenance issues, and lack of overall mobility in the space. Due to the various challenges, the Library is facing, the following goals and improvements to the property have been identified, below. These goals and improvements outlined below were developed over the course of the past several years, via meetings with numerous stakeholders within the community, including library staff, Trustees and Friends, members of the community, the Historic Preservation Commission, elected officials, and City administration.

View Project Synopsis

Programs & Resources

  • Create multipurpose & flexible spaces
  • Develop spaces to host a variety of library-sponsored programs and events, for all ages, and meeting space for use by the public 
  • Maintain & expand children’s programs
  • Create designated quiet reading and study areas
  • Construct separate bathroom for use by children and their caregivers
  • Increase educational opportunities, community partnerships, & adult offerings
  • Improve workflow and reduce distances between workspaces where possible
  • Deploy self-serve holds shelf and checkout station
  • Construct an indoor/outdoor book drop
  • Restore the skylight on the second floor
  • Unify collections and improve browsing capability
  • Develop a design which respects the neighboring properties and boundaries

Exterior & Landscape

  • Construct an accessible & appealing entry while maintaining historic integrity of Carnegie Library
  • Honor the Library’s civic significance and accessibility to the public
  • Create a landscape that provides ample green and open space, and which respects the historical aspects of the building


  • Improve entry sequence, security issues & staff spaces
  • Increase restrooms to meet code requirements & add dedicated family & staff restrooms
  • Install elevator
  • Modernize mechanical, electrical, plumbing, and computer networking systems & address envelope issues





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