Tuesday, January 10, 2006

The Library as Entertainment

So today we went to visit a local library. Well, semi-local anyway. But this wasn't just any old library. It was the Cerritos Library.

The city of Cerritos is a little-known burg that sits rather uneasily between Los Angeles and Orange counties. It has a huge tax base, and overall is a very nice city. It also boasts the best high school in the state, based on API rankings. It has also been held at various times to be one of the best high schools in the country.

I suppose the thinking in the city was, well, since we have these great students, let's build a great library for them. And boy, did they ever.

The structure itself is an architectural award winner, which cost the taxpayers a cool 40 million. It is three stories of glimmering titanium tiles, the first in the country to display such finery. It has, count them, 5 fountains on the outside plaza, which it shares with City Hall. This place is almost 90,000 square feet, with over 200 computers and 1200 laptop ports. The 300,000 volume collecton is tracked with a circulation system that uses radio frequencies.

When you walk in, the first thing that grabs you is the 15000-gallon saltwater fish tank that comprises one partial wall of the children's library. As your gaze wanders to the right of the tank, there is a large facade of book spines about 20 feet long each that heralds the entrance to the children's section. But wait, what is on those television monitors? Why it is showing anyone that sits in front of a special "green screen" nook they have on the other side of the entrance. The background morphs between Harry Potter's Gryffindor study to sitting in the English countryside with Mother Goose. As you pass through this entrance, you see a life-size replica of a T-Rex skeleton, which today was replete with Santa hat and candy cane in one bony grip. It also boasts a 40 foot lighthouse with reading nooks, an art room, 50 or so computers, a full scale theater, and lots of cozy reading chairs sized for the younger set.

This my friends, was just the small Children's Library portion of the building.

As a lover of all things printed, I was in overload. So many books! So little time! So many soft velvet covered wingchairs that beckoned me to relax with a tome in the "Reading Room." Which even had, I kid you not, a holographic fireplace.

Even if you don't like books that much, tell me that isn't cool.

Then I got to thinking, is that what it takes to get people to read in our society these days? An almost themed experience with the Library as a "destination?" Because do not doubt that is exactly what this place was built to be.

And even though I pondered that for a while, I got sucked in by the escalators and the California Mission style mahogany and marble book displays.

Hey, whatever gets people reading more, I'm all for it.


chichimama said...

Sure beats our 1970's era wood and teflon coated square chairs...I long for a library that at least has someplace comfortable to sit.

Suzanne said...

Wow. This sounds amazing. My town just got a new library that I find totally cool. But it's nothing compared to this!

WordsRock said...

The Boy and I used to go to the library regularly, the same old hometown library I went to as a kid. We'd hang out and browse and read and share. Good times, good times.

That library sounds pretty cool. But as long as there are books in it, I don't need anything more to be entertained in a library. :)


Anvilcloud said...

Sounds way cool, not like any library that I've ever visited.

Heather said...

Hate to make generalizations, but it does sound like a California approach to a library :-)

Our city finally finished its three year project to rebuild the main library, and, quite frankly, my first impressions were a little disappointing - a few too many bare concrete walls. But it DOES have a lovely large wall of windows to let in the natural light.

I'm with wordsrock, though, just give me a room full of books and I don't need dinosaurs or mahogany to convince me to stay.

Mel said...

Very cool-sounding library. Sounds like a tourist attraction! (Imagine how many books $40 million would buy!)