We finally got to visit the new central library here in Austin and it’s better than I had even hoped for. A stunning building full of spectacular views and wonderful spaces. We had to bribe the kids with lollipops to get them to leave.
The atmosphere was different from that in other public buildings. Unlike a museum, it had no price of admission, and the security guards were unobtrusive; the stacks were open, and the books were there to be picked up and leafed through. There was also a more mixed crowd than one finds in a museum or a concert hall: groups of teenagers, elderly men and women, college students, street people. In a period where even art museums are beginning to resemble shopping malls, this library stands apart. It didn’t make me feel like a consumer, or a spectator, or an onlooker; it made me feel like a citizen.
Feeling like a citizen. That’s it. Walking around this building might be the first time in a decade of living here that I’ve actually felt real civic pride. In his opening remarks, Mayor Adler called it “our cathedral… nothing less than a holy place for your imagination and collaboration.” I love that.
In a garbage year full of so many losses for democracy, this feels like a win.