The Fairfield Area Library was planned after an overwhelming majority of Henrico County citizens voted in support of the project in the 2016 Bond Referendum. The new library was needed to replace an aging facility built in 1976, serving an historically Black community in Northeastern Henrico. The County’s strategic plan has been to replace the primary library in each of its magisterial districts, and the Fairfield District was the last in the County to receive a new primary, or “area” library.
The design features of the building are at once highly pragmatic and deeply delightful, drawing from the community’s past, embracing its present, and nurturing its future. It seeks to create a place of civic pride that both informs and inspires; and that is adaptable as the needs of the community change and the library service model evolves in response.
The multi-functional spaces support a variety of learning styles and activities, inviting and supporting wide-ranging needs and identities to use and explore within a single building. As a result, the design provides spaces that support the health and emotional needs of the community.
Unique program elements were identified in support of community aspirations and needs for this project design. "We may be poor, but we are proud," was a statement from a participant in one community workshop that characterized broad based expectations for this library, especially relative to other new landmark library projects that had emerged in recent years in neighboring communities. Community feedback significantly impacted the design:
- Group study and meeting spaces were distributed on the second floor in the Children’s and Teens’ areas to facilitate tutoring activities.
- A family gathering area between Children’s and Teens recognized that many multi-generational families use the library, and having an intentionally designed space would enhance their experiences in the library.
- A life skills classroom supports both library and community-driven programming for hands-on learning.
- A one-button recording studio was added to the program offering residents a way to record personal histories to share with family or the larger community. Fairfield is the first library in Henrico with this feature.
- A third conference/meeting space was added to Henrico’s area library prototypical program due to lack of such within the community.
- A traffic light and crosswalk, as well as the extension of a public street, increased community accessibility by foot, bike, or bus.
- A committee of local residents formed to select individuals whose biographies would be shown on library’s interactive digital history wall. This gave the resulting Trailblazers Wall an inclusive, local focus; many of the biographies feature women and people of color.
The library’s intentional location near a growing cluster of municipal buildings represents a significant investment to create an inclusive, inspiring place. Because of sustained community engagement in the planning process, its accessibility to residents, and its central location, the library promotes equity by design.