The main branch of the Cambridge Public library is a thing of beauty. It reminds me of the kinds of facilities you’d expect on upscale college campuses; it doesn’t really even feel like the libraries I’m used to; beloved but decrepit, slightly funky smelling spaces filled with battered paperbacks and scratched DVDs and CDS.
There’s a new wing of shining glass and steel, and an old wing, all gothic and castle like; the new wing is all international machine-for-living style, cool but clean and efficient, with some comfortable seating in front facing the giant eco-window facade, a complex wall of glass and automatic sun-shades which supposedly make the building cheaper to heat and cool.
It also looks great, and is easy to sit and read near. One of the many failings of the glass-box style of architecture has been sun-related, with miserably dazzled employees shoving whiteboards and cabinets up against windows to shield themselves from atomic-blast-like sunlight. Not so here.
There’s a teen room, with diner-booth like seating and tons of YA books, graphic novels, manga, DVDs, even a few video games. There is a whole other room of graphic novels in the basement, next to the mystery and science fiction ghettos, but a nice subset lives in the teen room; likewise the children’s floor also houses some some stuff for older kids.
For parents of young children, the children’s floor is a dream of community come true; a huge rug with soft sculpted river-bottom-rounded-rock pattern in tans and browns, dominates one end of the floor where the board books and picture books live, and parents with infants and toddlers and preschool aged kids hang around up there, doing that total immersion parent thing.
On their own floor. You can’t hear them from anywhere else in the building. I would have loved to have used this room with my kids, but they were small before the renovation; now that my kids are teens, I like to go upstairs and watch the parents wrestle with their little creatures now and then. Long enough to remember how exhausting that was, as well as fulfilling, and then slip away back downstairs.
The old brown castle, which was once the whole library, is now a space filled with long wooden tables with plenty of electrical outlets (some don’t work; check before you fully unpack.) One room houses the computers, each cluster of four with it’s own color laser printer. (!) The other room is for people with books, magazines, newspapers, laptops, ipads.
They’re relaxed about food and drink; there are places where conversation is allowed, and quiet areas. The staff is great. The DVD library has thousands of titles, as does the audiobook section.
It’s a great place to be; to write or simply stare into the void.