Austin Central Library

Austin’s new Central Library is finally open…and it’s wonderful!

I got my first look at the new library during Saturday’s grand opening. The main entrance is on Second Street, which is actually the second floor. The Service Desk and checkout machines are just inside.

A soaring light-filled atrium is the focal point of this six-story building. As you can tell from my photos, hundreds of people were walking around when I was there. However, the place is so massive that it didn’t feel uncomfortably crowded.

The floating staircases and walkways are the coolest part of the building. These have been described as “Hogwarts stairs” (a Harry Potter reference) and that’s really true. They criss-cross every-which-way through the atrium. I just kept following the crowd upward, but someday I want to figure out where all these staircases actually go. (By the way, the library has elevators, too.)

A three-story red Grackle Clock is mounted on one wall of the atrium. The pendulum moves back-and-forth, but I didn’t understand how to tell the time from this thing.

The Children’s Room on the third floor is bright and spacious, with plenty of cozy spots for reading. A large circular play area was set up with Legos, but I suspect this space can be reconfigured for story times and other purposes.

Teens have their own separate space on the third floor. Their room has lots of desk space for doing homework…although they might be slightly distracted by the video games and board games that are also available.

Back when this project was in the design phase, the community was asked “What should be included in a new central library?” The top answer was “Books!” Well, here are rows and rows of them in the building. Fiction is on the fourth floor, non-fiction is on fifth and sixth. Plenty of comfortable seating is scattered around each floor.

Shared Learning Rooms (think: conference rooms) can be used on the upper floors. Most have glass walls overlooking the atrium.

The Roof Garden on the sixth (and top) floor is spectacular. Comfortable outdoor seating is interspersed among large native plants. There are nice views of Lady Bird Lake and Shoal Creek.

A small amphitheater is tucked away down below the Service Desk. Because it’s intended for cooking demonstrations, this is called the Demonstration Area. I bet it will be used for some musical performances as well.

The second floor also has a Gallery room. Their inaugural exhibit is Lance Letscher: Books. As the title implies, this is a display of books made by collage artist and Austin resident Lance Letscher. In January, the library will host a screening of a documentary film, The Secret Life of Lance Letscher.

A Special Event Center on the first floor can be rented for meetings and events. A few other smaller spaces, such as the Roof Garden and the Reading Room, can be also rented when the Library is not open.

Let’s see…I’m sure that I’ve missed a few things. A Technology Petting Zoo featuring new technologies sits on the fifth floor. Laptops are available for checkout. The building includes a Periodicals Room, a quiet Reading Room, and even a gift shop. A coffee shop will soon open on the northeast corner. Underground parking and a bike storage area are almost finished.

I’ve been diligently following the building’s construction over the past four years. I attended the groundbreaking ceremony on May 31, 2013 and witnessed the pouring of the building’s slab a year later. My periodic Construction Update posts have always ended with the latest news about the library. It was so exciting to finally walk inside!

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