The City of Austin has more residents than the cities of Boston (although the Austin MSA is smaller than the Boston metropolitan area), Seattle and Nashville. Austin’s central library is 110,000 square feet – 1/5 the size of Boston’s main library, 1/3 of Nashville’s, and 1/5 of Seattle’s. The Austin central library seats 300 people while Boston’s library seats 4,400. Austin has 75 public computers vs. 550 in Boston and 400 in Seattle.
Right now, the City is actively working on plans for a flagship central library to be located where Shoal Creek crosses Cesar Chavez facing out over Ladybird lake. The project is slated to be designed by top notch Texas architects Lake|Flato. Additional details are scheduled to be released when the proposal goes before the City Council in February.
Lake, who leads the design of Austin’s new central library for Lake|Flato, said the design team is currently reconciling wish lists with budgetary realities. Collaborating architectural firm Shepley Bulfinch is leading the programming phase; the work reflects ideas and input gathered from Austinites and library staff at a series of meetings in November.
According to the Chronicle, the design team is also considering how the library will interact with the site and surrounding urban fabric. “We are keen on making this library a gateway to Downtown, Lady Bird Lake, Shoal Creek, and the trail system,” said Lake. The building will be sited right on the shore of Shoal Creek, across Cesar Chavez from the lake. “Libraries are becoming more public-spirited buildings – a city living room,” he said. “For Austin, it makes perfect sense to engage the creek and the river. Wouldn’t it be great if people could sit out on the library’s porch?”
The City’s pitch for a new central library is based on the argument that a Central Library with a rich collection of materials and a wide range of services is vital for the continued health of the Austin library system. The hope is that a new library would “foster intellectual energy and excitement among its citizens. It would become a community destination, bringing citizens of all ages to the central business district for pursuit of leisure reading, social interaction, lifetime learning experiences, and for the experience of being in a cultural showcase for the arts.”
The current list of ideas envisioned for a new Central Library
– A building located in the emerging civic/cultural center of downtown which would be an architecturally and aesthetically important destination for both residents and visitors
– At least 300,000-400,00 square feet of space to accommodate an in-depth and growing collection for current and future needs
– Rooms for community events and meetings, as well as a public auditorium seating up to 300 persons
– Exhibit and display space
– A separate space for children’s programs
– Additional public computers and classrooms for computer-aided instruction and distance learning for the public and library staff
– Connections for customers who bring in their own laptop computers
– Expanded seating space including designated quiet study areas, group study areas, and lounges
– Parking for 350-475 cars
– Coffee shop, gift shop, and book sales areas
– Drive-up window for quick book return and pickup of reserved materials
– Expanded collection of periodicals, journals, and newspapers
– Collections in world languages and services for non- English speakers and new immigrants
We’ll continue to track the library’s progress as new details emerge over then next month.