Magazine article American Libraries

Testing the Times

Magazine article American Libraries

Testing the Times

Article excerpt

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."

[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

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. …

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