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Libraries in mixed use buildings?

Last Sunday, deep in an article about possible market-rate apartments in a redevelopment project here, the Concord Monitor broke the news that city leaders have expressed interest in renting space in the new building if the winning proposal includes a 40,000 square foot library. A library in a mixed use building with apartments and possibly retail, restaurants, etc.? My first thought was “I want to live there!”

But it does pose a quandary: what would people think of our main library being in another building, rather than in its own stand-alone building? Either way it would be a purpose-built main library for the city. Not that an existing building — like this former Walmart — can’t be converted into a gorgeous and very usable library.

Supporters have been lobbying for a new library for years, and if this is the best opportunity, I personally* think it sounds pretty forward thinking and appealing. The location of the site on South Main St. is not far from our indie theater, Red River Theatres, very near the Capitol Center for the Arts, the “Smile!” building, which houses the League of NH Craftsmen headquarters & gallery, and another new building opening this spring, anchored by New Hampshire’s oldest indie bookstore, Gibson’s. This would mean a library located right in the heart of a “creative corridor” in Concord’s South End, well within walking distance of the State House, the rest of Main Street, and residential neighborhoods.

As I said, when can I rent an apartment?

ALA’s professional wiki only lists four U.S. libraries in apartment buildings, two of which are in Seattle and all branches of systems with standalone central libraries. Does anyone know of a main library that’s in another building? How have people reacted to it? Do the other tenants of the building contribute in any way to the library’s mission — for example a cafe that hosts readings or book groups in partnership with the library? Have numbers of people visiting the library changed? I’d love to hear what your experience has been as a patron or staff member of a library in a mixed use building.


*My blog represents my own opinions and not that of my employer.


About Deb Baker

Deb Baker is a writer and insatiable reader, and library director at a community college. She muses about library issues at The Nocturnal Librarian ( and blogs about books, reading, and life at bookconscious ( Her family includes two awesome offspring, a husband, and the cat who adopted them. And a crazy rescue kitten.

2 responses to “Libraries in mixed use buildings?

  1. I don’t have an example where a main library has residential and/or retail space, but many libraries near my location share homes with other buildings, frequently the courthouse or community center. With one exception of a small-to-medium-sized city, the rest are all in rural areas. From my observations, it just seems normal to patrons. If there were residential or retail space within the building, it could be different.

  2. Alex in DC ⋅

    Portland’s Hollywood Library is also a branch library with mixed-use. I have no main libraries in my list at the moment but I’m looking. Let me know if you find one!

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