13 December 2004
More than a big box o' books
When a new Grand Central Library was first proposed, it was going to be an urban building something that looked like it belonged downtown located in the "East Village" area as a catalyst for development, and tied in with the Centennial Walk, the Tulsa Tablets, and other urban amenities. Now it appears we will be approving a suburban-style spaceship building, complete with useless plaza, designed for easy expressway access and that means no likelihood of stimulating nearby redevelopment, as patrons will zip back home on the expressway rather than venture out on foot.
I don't believe anyone ever considered building the new downtown Oklahoma City library anywhere other than, well, downtown. While motor-vehicle access is a bit cumbersome, the facility, despite a certain similarity to buildings used by the United Federation of Planets, fits nicely into the city's notion of an Arts District along the western edge of downtown: Hudson Avenue southbound will also take you to the Oklahoma City Museum of Art (at Couch Drive) and StageCenter (at Sheridan Avenue), and the spring Festival of the Arts is conducted largely in the middle of Hudson.
Tulsa's growth over the years has been largely to the south and east, so downtown Tulsa is actually rather far removed from the geographical center of the city. Apparently it's been suggested that a Central Library be more, um, central. I don't think so, and neither does Mr Bates:
It makes sense for the main city-county library branch to be near the seat of government for both city and county, especially in its function as repository of government documents. Tulsa needs one densely developed urban district, and within the inner dispersal loop you have the land, the street grid, and the zoning rules that are most hospitable to that kind of development, and you don't have to worry about offending the neighbors. A well-designed and well-sited library could make a significant contribution to creating that kind of place. Better at 11th and Denver than in the middle of a massive parking lot at, say, 51st and Mingo.
Our big worry down here right now is finding places for the two new branch libraries. (We have the funding: the bond issue for them, and for upgrades at three existing branches, passed in 2000.) Right now, residents of far northwest Oklahoma City have to go at least as far as The Village (Pennsylvania north of Britton Road) or Warr Acres (63rd and MacArthur) branches, or to Edmond, and things aren't much better in the southwest quadrant. That new southwest library will be in Cleveland County and will be operated by the Pioneer Library System out of Norman; the 50,000 or so Oklahoma City residents in Cleveland County can get cards at both Pioneer and Metro [Oklahoma County] systems.