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.

Philosophy is everywhere

Last weekend I attended two cultural events that were both fun and thought provoking. On Friday, The Currier Museum of Art and Rivier College presented a discussion with curator Kurt Sundstrom and painter James Aponovich.  On Saturday, Red River Theatres screened Answer This!with post-film Q&A with director Christopher Farah and a mini-lecture on some themes in Shakespeare’s sonnets by legendary University of Michigan Professor Ralph Williams, who acts in the film as well.

Both events got me thinking about some of the questions philosophy helps us deal with. The conversation about works of art made me wonder: What is beauty? What is the purpose of art? How does it inform our humanity? Can art make our lives more meaningful? Can it change the way we live? What happens at the intersection of art and commerce?

Answer This! provoked more questions, such as: What are more important in life, “small” things, or “big” things? What’s the difference? Is engaging with great books (in this film it’s the Bible) an act of creation? Does what we do define us? How can we know what to do with our lives?  If you think about the most recent film or exhibit you’ve seen, music you’ve listened to, or book you’ve read, you can probably think of similar questions. Philosophy is everywhere.

If you enjoy wrestling with ideas but think philosophy is intimidating or scholarly, try the popular culture philosophy guides from Open Court and Blackwell.  Why do philosophers engage with pop culture? Blackwell editor William Irwin’s “Fancy a Pop?” addresses this question; he points out that popular philosophy, like popular science, introduces the discipline to a wider audience “by showing people how philosophy is relevant.” A great example: Paul Pardi has written an interesting piece on philosophy and the Kevin Spacey film Margin Call, which opened nationwide last weekend.

Want to engage with others who are interested in examining our world through philosophy? Check out the Society for Philosophical Inquiry for information on Socrates Cafe, or tune in via radio or online to NHPR’s Socrates Exchange.