In the midst of an economic slump that has libraries everywhere cutting to the bare bones, it's a special pleasure to be able to present a showcase of new and renovated facilities that can hold its own against any other we've published since the annual feature began in 1977 with a modest story called "Solar Nexus: Library Pioneers in Tapping the Sun's Energy." The article examined the Troy--Miami County (Ohio) Public Library's visionary plan for building a library that could harness solar power "for human use."
I asked Rachelle Miller, the library's current director, how the vision had panned out. "I'm afraid the concept didn't work as well as expected," she said. "Ohio is a relatively cloudy state. The solar system was made up of glass tubing and, during a very cold winter in the late 1970s, most of the tubes shattered and library workers were forced to spend a large amount of time picking glass off the roof; it wasn't the shatterproof kind." The heating system was soon abandoned.
"I think the system is probably a good example of how visionary ideas sometimes need to be either modified or just plain don't work," said Miller. "Also, it's a good example of how you can't think of everything when trying a visionary idea, because you don't have other examples to look at." Which goes to show that being an innovator always involves risk.
Architects and librarians alike have learned a great deal from pioneering examples like Troy-Miami. The architectural showcase in this issue demonstrates that environmental awareness in building construction has come a long way in three decades. …