Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Meet Me in St. Louis

No cliche is safe from me.

I was in St. Louis for the Library Journal Design Institute a few weeks ago, a happy but tiring trip, as I drove down one afternoon and back the next night. We are embarking on some major space consideration which will lead to some big projects in the next three to five years. I hoped the institute would give me some forward-thinking ideas, and I also wanted to see the grand Central Library in its newly renovated state.

The director, Waller McGuire, is quietly charismatic (OK, dreamy), and you can see how the community - residents and city leaders - were compelled by his vision of a reinvented downtown and a magnificent library to serve the people. 

Honestly, my pictures are kind of crappy, so you should just go to the Central Library's site and enjoy the gorgeous pictures of the original Beaux Arts building and the amazing 2012 renovation.

The original ceiling in the Fine Arts Room re-creates the La Badia Church in Florence, Italy.

Exterior of the original building.
Ten foot high original alabaster floor lamps, valued at $250,000 apiece.
One of many ceiling medallions, this quote from Kurt Vonnegut.
Their new shelving is self-lit with LED bulbs . . .

 . . . and was designed just for St. Louis.
All of the quotes throughout the building were chosen by patrons of the library.
Original leaded glass book cases in their special architecture collection.
For all your wallpaper research needs.
I can't agree with all of their practices - for example, I never saw any desk staff (except for Circulation) actually helping anyone - but the building was packed with patrons. The security staff was friendly and knowledgeable and told me lots of fun things about the building. Their new auditorium was once a coal bin that served the massive boilers in the original building. 

The Design Institute was quite interesting. They had general panel discussions of construction, furnishings and space trends, and breakout sessions where they analyzed a particular project with the audience participating. Library Journal hosts these institutes twice a year, previously in Denver, Seattle and Cleveland: basically anywhere with an interesting library big enough to host 150 people. Librarians can attend at no charge, and the institute is underwritten by participating architects and vendors. 

Because there would be all of those architects and designers there, I fussed over my outfit. I also had to travel in the van for ten hours in whatever I wore. I chose neutrals and my most avant-garde jewelry and hoped for the best. 

No pictures, sorry, but it was basically this outfit, with camel pants:

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