Gazette opinion: Check out Billings’ new library

2014-01-07T00:00:00Z Gazette opinion: Check out Billings’ new library The Billings Gazette
January 07, 2014 12:00 am

Awesome! Cool! Wow!

There were lots of admiring exclamations when the public got first looks at the new Billings Public Library Monday.

Within an hour of opening, more than a dozen patrons already were using library computers or had plugged their laptops into desks in the second-floor great room. Readers sat amid some of the best views in Billings, overlooking snow-flocked Rimrocks and the downtown streetscape through floor-to-ceiling windows. The silvery metal scrim on the building’s north and south sides keeps people outside the library from seeing inside. But the view from inside is great.

Most of the dozens who turned out for the “soft opening” on a blustery, 10-degree morning, simply walked around and gawked.

Although open, the library is still a work in progress. The main entrance on the southeast corner won’t be useable until after the old library is torn down and the parking lot is constructed over the next several months.

Meanwhile, the temporary main entrance is on Sixth Avenue North.

No parking is available along Sixth Avenue, so library visitors should be prepared to walk a bit. And this week, they need to be prepared to walk through some snow and ice.

The library was designed with comfort in mind. Chairs and tables are carefully placed throughout the two floors and all were chosen for comfort and functionality. Even the transparent plastic chairs are as comfy as they are pretty.

Throughout the 20 years that Cindy Patterson has been the children’s librarian, she has wished for space where children can enjoy story time without disturbing library patrons who want quiet.

On Monday, she was excited to show visitors the 48-foot-high story tower that will enthrall youngsters while keeping the sounds of stories and children’s voices within the children’s library section. A multicolored light show plays on the story tower’s wood-paneled walls above green carpet and built-in seating. At the top of the tower, sky and snow were visible through a transparent dome.

On the other end of the children’s section, a spacious crafts area features a sink, easily cleanable concrete flooring, colorful tables and chairs and a wall of windows that overlook the secret garden that will be accessible only from the children’s section. The garden area is surrounded by blue, green and amber translucent panels that let in light but prevent people outside from seeing into the children’s section.

The $20 million capital project didn’t include additional staff or library materials. However, the new library has room for more books, videos and technology.

With all library offices and services on two levels, the staff will be able to work more efficiently. Also, the new library features sorting machines and automated checkouts that will free librarians from those tasks so they have more time to talk with people and answer questions.

Congratulations to the hardworking library staff who navigated the new building planning, the move and the opening with professionalism and good humor. Congratulations to the volunteers on the Library Board and the foundation board who donated many hours and some of their own money to build this library. Congrats to architects, led by Will Bruder, who designed a library that is beautifully functional. Thanks to the many individuals and businesses who donated to the library capital campaign. Thanks to the voters who said yes to building a public library for our city.

Come see the library you built, Billings. It’s a place to learn, to research, to catch up on the news, to meet friends, to spend lunch hours and family time.

It’s your place.

Copyright 2014 The Billings Gazette. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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