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The Next Chapter: McAllen plans to open new library Dec. 10
[October 31, 2011]

The Next Chapter: McAllen plans to open new library Dec. 10


MCALLEN, Oct 31, 2011 (The Monitor - McClatchy-Tribune Information Services via COMTEX) -- Workers put the finishing touches on McAllen's new library last week, planting palm trees, testing the arch-shaped fountain and wheeling computer gear into the server room.

Inside, row after row of white-metal bookcases now fill the cavernous adult reading area, waiting for books. Nearby, plastic sheets cover couches and other furniture destined for several reading areas nestled among the shelves. And inside the adjacent computer lab, neatly arranged tables await 64 new terminals.

While tantalizingly close to completion, the new library still needs a few things.


Over the Thanksgiving holiday, McAllen will pay Houston-based Library Design Systems $37,000 to move 400,000 items from the McAllen Memorial Library, 601 N. Main St., to the new library near the intersection of 23rd Street and Nolana Avenue.

"And like anything complex, it takes more time to finalize," Library Director Jose Gamez said. "We're almost finished." If all goes according to plan, Gamez said, the new library should open at 10 a.m. Dec. 10.

It's unlikely anyone who attends the ceremony will recognize the former Walmart building, which McAllen purchased in January 2007 for $5 million. Gutting the warehouse-like structure involved numerous surprises that bumped the expected opening from June to December.

To date, McAllen has spent $26 million, including the Walmart purchase, transforming the building into what's believed to be the nation's largest single-story library, according to a city spreadsheet outlining the costs.

In addition to bookshelves and reading nooks, the library also contains an auditorium, computer lab, conference rooms, a coffee shop and a copy center -- amenities similar to those found at research universities. The library's computer lab will open with 64 terminals, and McAllen will add more based on demand.

"That's the biggest reason people walk into old main or any public library these days," Gamez said, adding that the lab has space for 120 terminals and a lounge for people who bring laptops. Smaller computer clusters have been scattered throughout the library.

With access directly off the library's main lobby, McAllen will have the ability to keep the new library's computer lab open after the library itself has closed.

"We think there may be that demand," Gamez said. "And if there is, we're ready for it." To fit the new library, McAllen will debut a new library logo and undertake a re-branding campaign.

McAllen will replace the library's existing "flying book" logo with a modern-looking, multicolored design that resembles the irregular arrangement of glass-and-metal squares on the new library's tower. The colors, drawn from the library's interior design, are linked by white space.

Along with the new logo comes a tagline: "Where people & ideas meet & connect." "The new library is the new strategy in a way," said Reference Librarian Cesar Garza, who's handling the new library's marketing efforts.

McAllen undertook a similar branding campaign in February, when McAllen Express Transit received seven new buses and adopted a new name: Metro McAllen. The lime-green buses have raised the bus system's visibility, and ridership has dramatically increased.

"We're a library, sure," Gamez said. "But we're trying to convey the message that we're more than a library." -- Dave Hendricks covers McAllen and general assignments for The Monitor. He can be reached at (956) 683-4452.

-- BACKGROUND Click here for more on the new library Earlier chapters in this story: 2010: New McAllen library plans unveiled 2011: McAllen's new $25.7M library expected to open by year's end ___ (c)2011 The Monitor (McAllen, Texas) Visit The Monitor (McAllen, Texas) at www.themonitor.com Distributed by MCT Information Services

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