Solving Cities

Walmart store turned into largest library in the United States

Walmart store turned into largest library in the United States

Posting in Design

The short lifespan of big-box stores has left ghost lots scattered across America. Will libraries be the next big takeover venture?

The McAllen Public Library main aisle (photograph by Lara Swimmer)

When it comes to libraries, it turns out size does in fact matter.

The McAllen Public Library just won the the International Interior Design Association's 2012 Library Interior Design Competition, and it spans the size of 2.5 football fields.

The debate over what to do with the not-so-sightly, cavernous, unadorned boxes left scattered across America by corporations like Walmart has been raging on for the past decade.

Julia Christensen spent six years documenting creative uses for the abandoned buildings in Big Box Reuse. While she noted how 10 communities turned vacant big-box stores into schools, a courthouse, church, museum and other civic organizations, the looming empty boxes are not always given a second chance.

The interior of the McAllen Public Library in McAllen, Texas - now the largest single-story library in the United States - was redesigned by Meyer, Scherer & Rockcastle, Ltd. of Minneapolis.

The McAllen Public Library before the renovation (photograph by Lara Swimmer)

The walls and existing ceiling were cleared and a laser-cut wood entryway grandly welcomes confused would-be shoppers and library goers alike.

There is an auditorium, computer labs, classrooms, meeting rooms, and adult and teen reading lounges - which are conveniently acoustically separated.

The McAllen Public Library service spine (photograph by Lara Swimmer)

Most importantly, within the first month of opening public library registration went up by 23%.

To quote Wayne's World - quoting Field of Dreams - "If you build it, they will come."

Images: Lara Swimmer; PSFK

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Sonya James

Contributing Writer

Sonya James is a multimedia producer based in New York. With creativity and innovation in mind, she speaks to diverse voices on topics from racism in the art world to the patriotic nature of southern food. She holds a Masters Degree in Community Development. Disclosure