Sunday, July 31, 2011

Ebooks, Netflix, and Library Building Projects (Part 95, Richard M. Daley Branch, Chicago Public Library)

Sunny and Welcoming, Providing Books and a Safe Place. (The New York Times, 7/31/2011)

Excerpt: The building’s namesake and his successor, Mayor Rahm Emanuel, were dedicating the shiny, 16,000-square-foot, light-drenched building, the 58th library set in motion during the former mayor’s 22-year tenure. It had opened three weeks earlier and had already been host to 10,000 visitors.

“It gives the younger kids an alternative to being on the corner,” said Kelvin Thomas, 18, a high school graduate with hopes of going to a city college, who was standing a few feet away. “They don’t have to worry about the gangbangers.”

This concise observation struck me more than the library’s litany of features: tons of natural light, a green roof, permeable paver parking lot, 38 computers, a creative digital space partly financed by the MacArthur Foundation, a big room for neighborhood meetings, and $500,000 in books and magazines, as well as a certified teacher and a “cybernavigator” to help visitors with computers, both sponsored by Wal-Mart.

And there’s more to this one-story, customer-friendly, energy-efficient, well-landscaped steel-framed building with a brick-and-cast-stone-veneer exterior.

“One of the challenges in the inner city includes security concerns while making it open, attractive and visible,” said Dirk Lohan, the building’s co-architect and the grandson of Ludwig Mies van der Rohe.

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