New Library to be a Gathering Place for the Community

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Austin is in the midst of a great undertaking, the creation of a new central library to serve its growing community.  Voters approved  funding for the project in the 2006 G.O. bond election, and library enthusiasts showed up en masse at the design input meetings that followed in order to share their vision of the form and functionthat our city’s main library-to-beshould take.  What has emerged from thislively interaction between citizens, architects and librarians is a building program appropriately and boldly named “The Library of the Future”, for the world has truly not seen its like before.  Will Austin’s new central library stand as sustainable, landmark architecture?  Yes, but there was little doubt of that outcome from the moment our Council picked Lake/Flato as the design architects for the building.  Will the new central library  serve as a destination for regional residents and visitors alike?  Based on what we know about the amenities to be offered, we would have to reply in the affirmative. Beginning with its location in the heart of the Seaholm Development District, Austin’s fast growing new civic/cultural center, those attractions include incredible views of Ladybird Lake, Shoal Creek and  our exciting urban environment from unique reading porches and the building’s Green Roof, a large and fresh collection of materials noted for its variety of downloadable items, easy computer access throughout the facility, an art gallery, a special event center, a café, and bookstore. Equal parking opportunities for vehicles and bicycles will be provided, as behooves a public building sited at the major intersection of Austin’s lakeside hike-and-bike trails, including the Lance Armstrong Bikeway. The qualities of design which truly define this building as “the Library of the Future”, though, will be the depth and breadth of its technology rich environment, the “future-proofing” of the building by insuring that interior spaces can be readily modified as library services change, and perhaps most significantly, the great number of meeting spaces provided in varying sizes and configurations.  The trends we track indicate that libraries are fast becoming that great third place between work and home where everyone in the community is entitled to congregate and communicate, leading to one of the more rewarding phenomena of modern life:  education through conversation.

On Monday, October 1, 2012, architects and staff involved in the New Central Library Project will make an important Design Development presentation to the Library Commission at the Austin History Center (810 Guadalupe Street), beginning at 7:00 PM.  Please plan to be in attendance and see the future.

John W. Gillum
Facilities Process Manager
Austin Public Library

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