Today was my weekly trip to the public library. I returned some books, picked up one that was on reserve, and found three others. I’m a huge book nerd (what good librarian isn’t?), but books aren’t the only reason I love my public library. My local public library is huge; I choose to go to the library one suburb over because the whole library experience is just so much better there. For example, as I walk through the entry and a sign about Italian catches my eye. Looking closer, I see that’s it is an opportunity for Italian speakers to chat in their own language. Apparently this is once-a-month gathering that features a new language every month. My dad speaks Italian (I do too, sort of) but we never speak it at home. This would be the perfect opportunity to brush up our skills and meet some people in the community who also speak Italian.
This is such a great programming idea. Language in libraries is pretty common, but it’s mostly directed at ESL and learning Spanish. While that is super important, it’s also ignoring other languages and their native-speakers in the area. While I don’t live in a huge hotbed of cultural activity with lots of different languages and ethnicities, I know there are plenty of German, Italian, French, Japanese, and Mandarin speakers around. If they are library-goers and hear about this, then this is a perfect program for them.
My public library has an amazing selection and an even better staff. I smile every time I’m there. The library must be banking on patrons like me, because they have recently (within the last year) created the most amazing space. They call it the Plaza and it features the friends of the library bookstore, a small café, a small newsstand, a meeting room, a large area perfect for author events and musical performances (both of which happen frequently), and lots of seating space for adults and children. I’m usually not a huge fan of this sort of area in a library (except in academic libraries where coffee is necessary to create functioning students) because it tends to create a lot of noise and commotion. Most of the time when I’m at the library I’m either browsing for books or trying to get some work done, so I don’t like a lot of hubbub. But my local library has created a space well removed from the main part of the library. A breezeway (and plenty of well-displayed signs) directs patrons to the plaza. I’ve visited it before, just to look around, but today I took full advantage of it. After perusing the stacks and checking out my materials, I made my way back there, bought a great panini for lunch and spent a very relaxing few moments enjoying my newly checked out books along with my lunch.
The situation had a very Barnes and Noble feel to it, which I normally dislike in my library. A library is not a bookstore in my opinion. But this felt very different. Everyone around me was either on a computer or looking at library books and the two small children I saw were exclaiming over the books and DVDs their mother had found. While separate, the plaza was obviously designed to promote the library. Because all of this activity is removed enough from the library, it doesn’t interfere with anyone looking to use the library for study or research space. Designing this space was a great idea; the staff has created a comfortable place for events which so far outdistances usual library meeting venues. There is plenty of room to have a small meeting or spend time with friends; it’s a great community space all within the library. Plus, the coffee wasn’t half bad.