Friday, June 20, 2008

Houston Proud! HPL Central Library!

I staged a great escape yesterday. Instead of dutifully reporting to my office, I picked up one of my favorite traveling companions, Dr. Holly Weimar, and we headed for Houston. Our destination was supposed to be the newly renovated downtown library. On the way, I realized to my horror that I had left my Nancy Pearl action figure at home! I could not visit the library without one. I had recently seen her at Cactus Music and so we went by there first. Then on to the library by way of Whole Foods for a quick lunch. By the way, Houston area folks, if you were as sad as I was to hear of Cactus Music closing down, cheer up! The store is back in a new location, and very easy to reach not that far from their old digs.

After lunch, with Nancy in tow, we moved on to the library and had a great experience. They did an outstanding job of renovating. The floors are a lively orange/red color and springy. They feel like they are made of recycled tires, something like some walking tracks. Everything is new, new, new! There are computers everywhere. On the first floor there is someone standing at the entrance to welcome you. Our greeter was a library assistant, easily spotted as are all staff members, who wear bright red shirts. After she learned we wanted to see EVERYTHING she cheerfully waved us on. If we needed direction she would have provided it.

We had a great time on the first floor, where there are many computers, great displays, and fiction/biography sections. Also, on the left as you enter you will find the extensive music collection. Clearly this floor is first stop for most patrons. I was interested to notice that information desks were labeled CUSTOMER SERVICE and were very much out in the open and approachable. In fact, all librarians' desks were more like islands with space all around rather than the bastions of remembered days.

The 2nd and 3rd floors offered reference, and also the main stacks other than fiction/biography. Again you saw many computers and the same style of desks and counters from which patrons can receive help. Of course as you climb, the view out the windows improves.

The fourth floor is the one that has gotten a great deal of attention in newspapers and on TV broadcasts. On one side you find the children's area with wonderful shelves, furniture, and displays. There are also areas for electronics. One boy was using a wii for batting practice. This was fun to watch. In another area on the other side of the room, a gaggle of girls with a mom or two were enjoying Playstation karaoke. I did not take pictures in this area due to privacy concerns, but encourage anyone who can do so to go visit. I might add that visitors can walk through and take a look around, but then must leave unless they are with a child. This is, of course, for children's security and privacy.

The other side of the fourth floor is the teen room. This was the area I was most eager to see, and I was not disappointed. The electronics area is fantastic, with the sound pods which I show in a pic and a great area for playing games. There are also books, of course, and new, shiny, wonderful books at that. Snack and drink machines are also available with a sink nearby. The kids were in another room for a program when we were there, so we got to look around at our leisure. Otherwise we would again have had a VERY short visit, because Director Sandy Farmer made it clear that this was THEIR area and not to be intruded upon. One other neat feature was that the librarians' desks here were off to the side and behind beaded curtains. Thus the adults had the aura of being there/not there. Very clever!

All in all, I was very impressed and pleased to see my old friend back up and open again, and in such fine fettle. My one question was, where is the geometric mouse? Not to worry, the wonderful Claus Oldenburg sculpture has just been moved down to the corner of Smith and McKinney, which is actually a more prominent spot. It is newly painted and spiffy. My daughter and I were regulars at the HPL downtown back in the '80's, even though it meant a drive in from Spring Branch. She will be wanting to visit again when she is in town, especially for the music section.

I am again uploading pictures to flickr, this time of our visit and the great facility. Clicking on this entry title will take you to the pictures, and clicking there on detail will reveal my comments. Also, here is the link to HPL:
Want to see the mouse??

1 comment:

  1. Wow! It warms my heart to see my hometown library so hip & happening! How cool is it that the place to hangout for teens is the library :)
    And I love that adults aren't allowed to "lurk" in kid areas.
    Regarding the self-checkout- I love the self-checkout & self serve holds section at my local library. At my old library you had to wait in line for your holds. Librarians have much better things to be doing - like helping people with more complicated/interesting tasks.
    Thanks for the photos Dr. Bell!