Don’t get me wrong, the new main branch of the Dayton Metro Library is wonderful. It’s bright, innovative, and inviting. Mostly, it’s well suited for Dayton. This last aspect is something that I hadn’t felt until I visited another city’s new central library in Austin, Texas. It’s easy to see the beauty of the Austin Public Library, and want all of its features for the Dayton Public Library without much thought about the important differences between the cities.
The Austin Public Library Central Branch is more than bright. It’s a 6 story vibrant sanctuary, with a “technology petting zoo,” listening stations, and three outdoor decks. After my visit, I walked out wondering why Dayton Metro Library main branch didn’t also have a rooftop deck. The envy faded in a few days, and it became clear why these libraries are different and why they should be.
Often the solutions for creating long lasting, sustainable solutions to design are viewed as interchangeable, regardless of location and time. For example when cities look to implement more sustainable transportation solutions, they may find protected bike lanes are an effective, low cost solution. However, does that solution work in Cleveland? Similarly, I naively wished for outdoor decks and a solar paneled green roof. I am writing this back in Dayton, on a not so atypical morning that greeted me with brisk 27 degree winds; the fireplace on the second floor of Dayton’s library now feels like a much better way to bring people together than an outdoor deck.