Big A$$ Disclaimer: This is just one woman’s opinion. Which you are free to disagree with because a) beauty is in the eye of the beholder, b) everyone may have a different user experience and the following is just one of that of the 5 billion or so people on the planet and c) everyone has different user needs that change with time and (sometimes) space. Also I do sometimes identify myself as a librarian, however I have never served as a Public Librarian. I have worked mainly in academic libraries and one association library, which are different from public libraries. Also I tend to use academic libraries and the agency library at work for my library needs.
Okay. I was reading in today’s Post “Through Glass Darkly: D.C.’s Poor Vision for Library” and disagreed with a few things. For one, I think, and this is just my subjective opinion, that the Martin Luther King Library designed by Ludwig Mies van der Rohe is a ugly building and just plain ugly inside. To my eye is it just another nondescript ugly officey looking building downtown. But you may disagree, and that’s ok. The author of the article writes that “the library is a splendidly welcoming public building.” Personally, this is just my personal experience, I haven’t found it so. I compare it to other libraries I have used, and so far the best public libraries, in places where I resided, are the Arlington County main library (on a street that starts with Q) and the Gainesville, FL main library (circa early 90s). The MLK Library seems more like a reflection of the rest of DC government, some parts good, other parts not good or a bit horrid, and overall, blah.
Back when I had a subscription to American Libraries, the magazine of the American Library Association (I let my membership lapse because my then new employer does not pay for memberships), I remember there being an article every once in a while about library buildings and design particularly for libraries and the big problem of trying to get non-librarians to understand that we have special needs, and those needs being ignored. I will admit that library building design does not interest me that much so, mainly because I’m not in a position where I will need to design a library. So the the articles I did read, it was a quick read. Personally, I don’t think I have seen the MLK touted as a great example of how a library building should be. It might have been, but I haven’t seen anything coming from the library world (from architects and others but not so much librarians, hum) saying that the MLK is all that. Maybe that was in an article, and if so, please cite it. Another big problem is maintenance, but that’s not the only thing.
Well since I don’t have the Waltha T. Daniels library to go to, I will go to the MLK if I have to. The Washingtonia division is there. And when the copiers, the change machines, and microfilm reader/printers work properly, it’s all good. The enjoyment comes from the materials found and the mood of whoever is in charge of the room, not so much the design and layout, which does not really encourage sticking around. For other needs, the library my agency has at work is good and has the professional literature I need, and wouldn’t expect any public library to have anyway. Also if it somewhat-slightly-maybe-depending on how you think about it, relates to my job I can get the agency library to do an inter library loan for me, to get me the book/ article/ microfiche I need. Then as a dues paying alumni I can use and borrow from the University of Maryland’s library.
As libraries go, I have seen and experienced better.