Saturday, April 30, 2011

Last Gas, 90 Miles, Um, I Mean, Last Books, 90 Days

Today was the last day open for a while for the nearest branch of the Houston Public Library, the one that is only 1½ blocks from our house, the one that supplies us most of our fiction, our movies, our new audio CDs, etc. in this era of, um, limited resources. Starting tomorrow (well, OK, technically it's Monday) our branch will be closed for renovations for approximately 90 days. Damn!

What renovations? The plant is at most 10 years old; what needs renovating so desperately that we have to lose our library for three months? Good question. Stella asked them parts of that question; I asked other parts.

The building is very open-looking, more or less one humongous room under a swoop-shaped space-age roof, glass walls in every direction. They plan to add some more internal glass walls for the sake of sound insulation: apparently, the various age-group-specific events (kids' storytelling, teen book discussion groups, computer workstations, etc.) were not adequately separated to prevent a lot of complaints about crosstalk. This seldom bothered me, but any IT professional who has worked in industrial environments develops an ability to concentrate in the face of almost any amount of noise, so I'm not a good test.

Beyond that, apparently, the topmost parts of some of the windows are not sufficiently sun-blocking, with the consequence that at some times of the day, significant parts of the library are simply unusable for reading or computer use.

There is some good news in all of this. The staff is being temporarily redistributed to other branch libraries (HPL has literally dozens of branches) rather than fired or furloughed, and will return to us once renovations are complete. This is good, because as a former library worker in my younger days, I have high praise for these people: they're good, and I am glad we are not losing them.

Books on hold (often brought in from other branches) will be available for pickup about five miles away at another branch. In sprawling Houston, five miles is like nothing. Indeed, the branch for pickup was at one time our closest library, before the swoop-roofed one was built.

Still, I am having some difficulty getting used to the idea of not having my very own branch library a block away. Let's hope they really do finish the work in under three months.

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