From PSFK, a great story about the decision in McAllen, Texas to turn an abandoned Wal-Mart into an award-winning library.
In the Monitor, a local newspaper, Dave Hendricks wrote:
A massive canopy, the kind often found at fancy hotels and Las Vegas casinos, shades the building’s main entrance. Towering above the canopy is a translucent tower of glazed glass, which will glow with color-changing lights at night. Stucco walls now soften the building’s boxy exterior, replacing the retail giant’s signature blue with shades of brown.
“The only comparison to Walmart is the size of the building,” said library Director Jose Gamez, who donned a hard hat and safety vest Wednesday to show off the library-to-be.
Inside, walls have divided the cavernous, 123,000-square-foot space into conference rooms, computer labs and room for more than 300,000 books. Both a coffee shop and copy center will operate inside the new library.
I like the idea of transforming familiar, well-known centers of commerce into vibrant, educational meeting grounds. It helps, I think, that they were extremely forward thinking both in the physical / UX design of the space and the selection of books, technology, and amenities within the building. Seems like a good template for future libraries — a confluence of traditional library services with the amenities of big-box bookstores that draw people in. The McAllen library seems to go one step farther, elevating both the interior and exterior to the level of art - a place that needs to be experienced.
The gamble (of around 25 million USD) seems to have paid off. According to a later story by Hendricks, 2000 people lined up for the grand opening of the 129,000 square feet library, which claims to be the largest single floor library in the US. 48,000 visitors roamed the space in December, with ~1600 new registrants and 8000 account updates.