Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Houston Public e-Libraries

Of special interest to those who love both libraries AND architecture.

Link to October 21 Houston Chronicle article, "The Frank e-library is crucial to community".

Excerpt:   I'd driven in search of the Frank Library because "Public/Service," a new exhibit at ArCH, the gallery at the Architecture Center Houston, intrigued me. Its judges had picked a handful of the Houston area's best new civic projects - generally, projects that gave new life to old institutions, and sometimes, to old buildings. I already knew and liked most of them (Miller Outdoor Theater, the Clayton Library, the Julia Ideson Building, New Hope Housing). But I'd never even heard of the Frank Library.

And I was especially curious about it. I love books, but I'm also fascinated by Kindles and iPads, and I've been wondering: As the Internet nibbles away at the printed word, what will libraries become?

As it turns out, the Houston Public Library was way ahead of me. Eight years ago, it hired m Architects to draw up an e-library prototype: an "Express" branch that would emphasize public computers more than books. Unlike bigger, traditional, built-from-scratch libraries, an e-library would be popped into an existing building: a strip mall, maybe, or an airport. Reusing a building like that is far better for the planet than building one from scratch. And - maybe more relevant to the cash-strapped library system - it would also be cheaper than building and operating the traditional kind.

Since then, Houston Public Library has built four e-libraries. It's inserted two express branches into city buildings (the South Post Oak Multi-Service Center, and the Southwest Multi-Service Center). And it wedged a teeny-tiny version into one of the buildings at Discovery Green.

But the most interesting of the four is the Frank Library: a public place in a private office building, a new idea in an old mid-rise, a library where books are not the main point

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