Magazine article American Libraries

Will's World: The Technology That Drives Us All

Magazine article American Libraries

Will's World: The Technology That Drives Us All

Article excerpt

In 5,000 years, when archeologists unearth our civilization, they will discover a quick and easy dating system for American houses. If the garage foundation is the width of one car, the house was built before 1965. If it's two car widths, it was built between 1965 and 1990, and three widths after 1990. Archeologists will also realize that some time after the year 2015, garages became bigger than the houses to which they were attached.

Future historians, in turn, will ascertain that the biggest public works project in the history of the federal government was the construction, expansion, and maintenance of our vast interstate highway system. Finally, future environmentalists will discover that the decline and fall of American civilization in the last decades of the 21st century was the result of the cataclysmic environmental changes precipitated by global warming, which was caused by car emissions.

Speaking of public works projects, the biggest one I have ever been involved in was the design and construction of a 120,000-square-foot public library building. Early on, every librarian whom I consulted told me to plan my new library around technology. They all said that technology was the wave of the future and that I didn't want my building to be obsolete within 15 years. Now that 15 years have passed, it's a good time to reevaluate the library.

It turns out that everyone was right ... and wrong. Yes, the success of the library lay in its adaptability to technology, but it turns out that the critical technology was not digital as predicted. It was automotive.

Reading between the yellow lines

In retrospect, I did three things right and one thing wrong.

The first thing I did right was to put a large drive-up circle in front of the main entrance. This has allowed parents to park in the circle and keep their motors running while they wait for their children to appear. Lord knows that no parent would want to actually park, get out of the car, and enter the library building to fetch the kids.

Second, I provided a veritable sea of parking. Even during our busiest times when we are holding major events at the library, everyone gets a pull-in parking spot.

Third, we have the fanciest drive-up book drop in America. Constructed of beautiful Montana limestone, our designer book drop has a striking pyramidal shape that is angled perfectly so that even the most careless drivers have easy accessibility. …

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