Thursday, January 17, 2008

New Library!

I'm writing this from the new Central Library, and this place is gorgeous. I don't even know where to start, so I'll start with the old and familiar. The original Cret building is much like it's always been: stately, granite-and-oak, traditional. The desks even have extremely traditional lamps with green glass shades. The adult fiction collection now lives entirely in the Cret building, and is organized as well as you can expect of any alphabetical collection by genre spread across three huge rooms.

The five-story glass-and-steel atrium connects the original library building to the modern expansion. It's framed with tubular steel arches, and there's not a harsh line in it anywhere. The desks are curved, the carpet pattern is organic, the layout is open and friendly. The atrium houses the main checkout and return desk and a cafe and coffee bar, and the east wall opens onto an outdoor garden. The entire building is as impressive as it is friendly. And there are computers everywhere.

The new addition is seven stories of books, digital media, and computers. It's amazingly well designed. And crammed with computers, did I mention. There's a public computer area on every floor, probably 300 computers spread out over seven floors, and that doesn't even count the actual computer lab. The books are organized in such a way that it's easy to find whatever you need. And two of the lower floors have conference and meeting rooms you can reserve or just wander in and use. The place is rife with comfortable seating, work tables, and excellent interior design. And the north and south walls are floor-to-ceiling, wall-to-wall glass everywhere there's not a structure attached. There's good natural light everywhere, and subdued indirect lighting to supplement it.

A few noteworthy features:
  • The bookcases all have LED strip lighting along the top edges; it makes excellent task lighting for looking at books.
  • I'm writing this at one of the many work tables scattered around the library. I've been noticing that the chair is extremely comfortable; I flipped it over and checked the label, and realized I'm sitting in a $750 HermanMiller Aeron Side Chair (model AE500P).
  • The view from the top floor of the new building might be one of my favorite views of downtown Indy.
  • The computers, which are everywhere: two years old. They were apparently purchased before the construction fiasco and resulting legal traumas expanded the timeline by two years. It's no big deal; they're mostly for word processing, internet, and access to the library catalog and databases. Still, they paid full price for machines that were two years from new when they opened. (UPDATE: a bunch of the computers are brand new. I took my sample set in the wrong part of the building, apparently; but still, a pile of their "new" computers are two years old.)
  • The glass atrium? It leaks. Speaking as someone who works in a big glass building that leaks like a sieve every time it rains, I found this a little gratifying.
  • Free wifi access everywhere. Free fast wifi access everywhere. I have no idea how filtered it is; I'm not willing to surf for pr0n just to find out.
  • The top floor of the new building houses a special-collections section full of rare books. And it's accessible by the public; anyone can wander in and touch the cool obscure expensive books.

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