Last week, I was lucky enough to take an all-access tour of Austin’s New Central Library branch, which is currently in the final stages of construction along Cesar Chavez Street next to the new Seaholm District on the west side of downtown. John Gillum, facilities process manager for Austin’s library system, showed me nearly every inch of the building. I’m a big fan of its look, and tried to take as many photos of specific design elements as possible.
We’re already familiar with the building’s biggest features — in fact, we’ve been hearing about them for years — but it’s something else to see them taking shape in the real world. After four years of construction, the library is set to open in 2017. Once you see the photos, you’ll understand why we’re excited to see this building in action.
Of course, with a site like this in downtown containing so many public spaces, the elephant in the room is the issue of vagrancy.
Gillum says the library is a friendly space open to everyone who wants to use it for its intended purpose, but also points out that past court rulings have made it difficult until recently to remove individuals from public property who are committing criminal activity. The library, he says, will have a full-time security staff that should handle any major problems without making the space too unfriendly.
Like most issues related to the city’s underserved populations, there are a lot of gray areas — and Gillum says that in the end, compassion is key, just so long as it doesn’t interfere with public safety.