6 cool libraries for events and education

If you haven’t stepped foot in a public library since the dawn of the digital age, you may be missing out on some of the most energizing meeting and event venues in North America.

We know what you’re thinking: What? Libraries? Those hardbound hallowed halls where only whispers are allowed?

Turn that page, planner: Public libraries have evolved, renovated, and expanded in recent years into high-concept works of art and theater, designed for large meetings and events, often with the added convenience of popular food and beverage outlets nearby.

These six event-worthy public libraries epitomize the selfie-worthy new face of modern meeting venues, attracting a wide range of special events with their appealing ambiences and cutting-edge technology. Each was recently honored with a Library Building Award, presented annually by the Architecture Institute of America and the American Library Association.

(Photo by Naho Kubota)

Stapleton Branch, New York Public Library
Staten Island, New York

The single-room Carnegie Library, which had served this Staten Island community for a century, now throws its doors open to the world with its 12,000-square-foot Stapleton Branch expansion, which combines the rhythm and richness of exposed wood with the conviviality of its glazed façade. Andrew Berman’s design team worked with the site’s sloping grade to improve access by eliminating the need for steps. Contact: 718.727.0427 

(Photo by Christian Columbres)

Allan Price Science Commons & Research Library
University of Oregon, Eugene, Oregon

How do you make a facility more inviting when the bulk of your 48,000-square-foot library lies below ground? The University of Oregon’s solution was to add 4,000 square feet above ground, including an entry pavilion, social commons, and a coffee shop. Small groups welcome. Contact: 541.346.3075

(Photo by Timothy Hursley)

Rosa F. Keller Library and Community Center
New Orleans

Following the devastation of Hurricane Katrina, the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s recovery program funded this stunning makeover to what was once a 1917 bungalow in the city’s Broadmoor neighborhood. The project also involved the reconstruction of the adjacent 6,300-square-foot library and a glass corridor to link the buildings. Inside, the cheekily named Green Dot Café skewers a former mayor’s unsuccessful “green dot plan” to return some of the Crescent City (Broadmoor included) to green space instead of rebuilding post-Katrina. Contact: 504.596.2660

(Photo by Hedrich Blessing)

Chinatown Branch, Chicago Public Library

True to the cultural heritage of its neighborhood, the two-story, 16,000-square-foot circular Chinatown Branch features a feng-shui-inspired interior, as well as a partial “living” roof and captivating views of the city. Opened in 2015, the facility also includes a rentable community room that holds up to 70 people. Contact: 312.747.8013

(Photo by Robert Benson Photography)

Central Library, Boston Public Library

Built in 1895 and long an anchor to Boston’s pedestrian-friendly Avenue of the Arts, the Central Library has stepped boldly into the 21st century, transforming its 156,000-square-foot expanse to cater to patrons of all ages. Planners also enjoy a range of venues within, including a 340-seat auditorium, conference center, and open space for performances, as well as an in-house caterer. Contact: 617.536.5400

(Photo by Doublespace Photography)

Ryerson University Student Learning Centre

The distinctive modernist façade of this Garden District landmark merely whispers at the wonders within. As you ascend the eight-story tower from its ground-floor amphitheater, 93 collaborative and group work rooms are interspersed with expansive open study spaces. Enjoy the views! Contact: 416.979.5000, ext. 3485

Jay MacDonald

Jay MacDonald

Jay MacDonald is an award-winning journalist, author and blogger who incorporates humor and human interest into a broad range of topics. Follow him on Twitter @omnisaurus

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