Austin’s new Central Library provides innovative services to students

Stephanie Adeline

Austin’s 200,000-square-foot new Central Library opened its doors to the public on Saturday, 11 years after voters approved of its funding.

Residents have long waited for the library’s opening, which was originally scheduled for November 2016, Mayor Pro Tem Kathie Tovo said at Saturday’s event.

“I have overheard people talking about the central library in the grocery store, in the hair salon, in my children’s elementary school,” Tovo said. “I feel a little bit like Charlie in ‘Charlie and the Chocolate Factory’ in the moment before he walks through the gate into the doors of Willy Wonka’s factory and encounters the wonder and magic of that place.”

The city commemorated the building’s grand opening with performances, speeches from city officials and a ribbon cutting.

“I was here on shovel day, so this day is pretty special to me,” Interim City Manager Elaine Hart said. “Today, we celebrate the bold vision of those who imagined this aging industrial site … (to) be transformed into the vibrant grounds we now stand on.”

The six-story library is located downtown with a view of Lady Bird Lake and provides innovative services such as iPad and laptop checkout kiosks, 3-D printers and a computerized sewing machine.

The library will provide such services to everyone in Austin regardless of their backgrounds, Tovo said.

“While Austin’s new Central Library is a library of the future, it is also going to fulfill well the democratic mission that our public libraries have long undertaken, of making information freely available to everyone in our community,” Tovo said.

The new library’s uniqueness includes its Platinum LEED rating, which certifies its energy efficiency, Austin Mayor Steve Adler said at the opening event.

“It’s harder to get a Platinum LEED rating on a building like this than it is to get into Franklin’s Barbecue,” Adler said. “Despite all of the windows and open spaces in this building, stretching six floors, the power bills here (are) lower than what (they were) at the older and much smaller central city library.”

Psychology senior Sami McKenzie said students should take advantage of the library’s technology services.

“(The library) is just really innovative and futuristic,” McKenzie said. “There are lots of students who don’t have computers, and they might live further away from campus, so they might not make it to the PCL. I can definitely see students coming here to study and to use the different facilities.”