I am spoiled for libraries. I currently live smack dab in the middle of 2 different library systems, which means there’s 1 library I can walk to, 4 different locations within a 10-15 minute drive, and about a dozen others within 30 minutes.
For the last year and a half, “my” local library (the one I visit the most) has been under construction. Well, reconstruction. A limited selection of inventory was moved to a strip mall, the old building was torn down, and a new building with a parking garage was built.
Monday was my first time visiting the new Dublin Library. I’ve been looking forward to this for the past year, watching as the construction progressed on my daily commute.
I’ve already shared my haul over on my Instagram (@knotmagick), but I thought I’ve give you my thoughts on the new library itself.
Now, the old library was perfectly adequate in most respects, but it was somewhat dark, and needed more in the way of work spaces and power outlets. The YA department was negligible, and parking was very limited, with only about 50-100 spaces, which were also shared with the general community and an adjoining park. This parking lot had a weird layout and was entirely one-way, making it hard to find a space or get around someone if they were doing something stupid.
It was crowded as the community has expanded a lot in the past few years, and more housing was being build immediately adjacent to the library both in the year prior to the reconstruction and during the process. It continues now, as well, with more apartments and condos going in.
And therein is what I feel was the main impetus for the change–the neighborhood has become more affluent, and the library didn’t keep up visually. Which annoys me–they could have saved a lot of money by creating an addition to the existing building (they had the space). I feel like this would have been the more responsible action to take, but I also didn’t work in the building and I know the “behind the scenes” spaces were somewhat limited.
Anyway. The new building is very modern. Not my style, but whatever. The 4 story parking garage was much needed–I was able to find a parking space quickly and easily. But the signage for getting to the library wasn’t great. There was a foot path to a locked door, which meant walking around to the front of the building. Which is fine, but I was expecting a covered walkway or a more obvious connection between the garage and the library–a skywalk or something. Maybe it’s just because of the part of the garage I parked in (I was in the back corner), but still.
The lack of signage continued into the building itself. The basement/”main floor” (entered at street level, which is downhill) has a cafe (not open yet) and meeting rooms.
The first floor is mostly dedicated to patrons 12 and under. I identified the children’s area by the aquarium, tunnel-like lounge seating, and dozens of screaming children climbing all over. It invited play more than study or reading time, there there were areas with work spaces and arm chairs for reading or working. I’m not sure how anyone could work with all that noise, though. The high ceilings and industrial feel of the building compounded the effect, and even the adult areas were very loud. Headphones or the use of a quiet study room (of which there are now many on the second floor) would be a must.
A long flight of stairs led up to the second floor. While the patrons that donated to the library’s construction were clearly marked, the departments were not. I had to ask for a map just to figure out where I was.
The library increased the space for workstations, quiet study, and computer usage by about 3 fold, if not more. The adult fiction section is about double the size, YA increased by 50%, and nonfiction appears to be about 50% bigger as well, but it was hard to tell because rather than the tall shelves they had before, all of the shelves in the adult and nonfiction departments were only 4′ tall.
In fact, only in the YA room did anything exceed a height of 4′. Even the catalog computers were placed exceptionally low. I’m 5’4″, and though I was wearing heels (about 1.5″) I had to crouch to reach the keyboard. This was awkward and uncomfortable, especially combined with the fact that the screen, while larger than at the old branch, was mounted at chest height for me and could not be raised or even tilted to get a better angle. While this set up is great for kids, people in wheelchairs, or those that are just plain short, it would be difficult or impossible for anyone taller (even just 5’7″), using crutches, with a bad back or a vision problem to use. I kept having to crouch to see titles or screens, or even just to figure out what nonfiction department I was in. I feel like a better compromise could have been reached. With the height and industrial look of the ceilings (lots of exposed pipes and supports) it would be easy to hang movable signage, such as what is used in retail stores. Even just placing a table-top marker on top of the short shelves would have been helpful.
The focus of this library is clearly on computer usage, as noted by the increased number of work stations. Comfortable seating for reading or working (i.e. sofas, etc) is a bit harder to come by, especially during busy times. The work station chairs are mostly plastic and modern looking, but surprisingly comfortable from what I’ve tried. They are a significant improvement over the hard, straight backed wood chairs still in use at the Whetstone location.
My last and biggest pet peeve after the lack of signage is that they reduced the number of DVDs and Blu Ray movies they stock, and cut CDs completely. I love going to the library to browse music–I’ve found so many new artists that way, and so much international music I wouldn’t have had access to otherwise. Now I’ll have to go to a different branch when I want to do that–that that was the number 1 thing I was looking forward to when this one reopened. CDs can still be reserved and delivered to this location, but you have to know what you’re looking for in order to do that.
Overall, it felt like the redesign put form over function. While the space is much brighter and more open, it just feels like more could have been done with it, or it could have been utilized better.
Is there a book-related location in the state of Ohio you’d like me to review? Let me know! I’ll also be in Charleston, SC at the end of this month!