Written by Penny Neef
You know that satisfied feeling you get when you solve a difficult problem, when an important piece of the puzzle fits, or when you know things are coming together for you in just the right way? We are all going to feel like that very soon, in January of 2015, when the new Slover Memorial Library opens in downtown Norfolk.
1. The Space of It All
The new Slover Memorial Library on Plume Street has 138,000 square feet of space that includes the magnificently restored Seaboard Building and the soaring new building designed by Newman Architects. There are places you can settle down with a newspaper for the afternoon, use a green screen for your latest YouTube production, get a cup of coffee and lunch, meet with a study group, research your long dead relatives, game with your friends, get married, and much, much more. There are outdoor terraces with lovely views and a patio for dining.
2. This Place Will Soothe Your Soul
One of the keys to a great city is public art and architecture. The Slover Memorial Library is a work of art itself, and contains uplifting works of art. Sculptures by Kent Bloomer [right] clad both the exterior and interior spaces of the library. The architecture and interiors of the new spaces are designed and executed with great thought and attention to detail. Look up to the very top of the new building and you will see an open book, inviting everyone inside. The inside and outside of the historic Seaboard Building are restored and lit to perfection. Donald Trump would be lucky to conduct business in “The Boardroom” of the Seaboard side of the building. The Slover Memorial Library is a destination for art and architecture.
3. A Techie’s Dream Come True
David Sullivan, Director of Information Technology for the city of Norfolk, knows his tech and has made sure that the Slover Memorial Library has leading edge technology. As you enter each floor, Mr. Sullivan points out there will be a “digital way-finding system.” There are public computer labs and Wi-Fi throughout, of course, but also interactive digital displays, interactive digital archives of historic documents, a specialized digital media lab, a computer training lab, a video production room, a video gaming room, and everything you might need for a collaborative meeting room. Businesses and schools in Norfolk will want to use the library for their meetings.
4. Make Mine Old School
Maybe you prefer the look and feeling of a historic library’s central reading room, like the magnificent New York Public Library’s Rose Main Reading Room. The Slover Memorial Library offers a beautiful gem of a reading room in the old Seaboard side of the library. Surrounded by the original marble columns and intricate plaster detailing, you can read, study or research the Sargeant Memorial Collection with a beautifully lit glass atrium above you. But there is also a digital interactive experience on the 3rd floor cortile above the reading room that allows you to interact with thousands of searchable artifacts from the historical collection. Mr. Sullivan calls it “a three century library – 19th century, 20th century and 21stcentury.”
5. From Birth to 100
It doesn’t matter how old you are. You are going to love this library.
There is a whole floor devoted to children in the new space – books and other materials for kids, a Playscape for young children, a KidZone for the next age group, a Pre-teen space, a computer lab, an art studio and a room for story times and programs. Teens, young adults and adults will have study rooms, the gaming room and other places to study and interact. Everyone will feel welcome.
6. Environmentally Friendly
Everyone involved in the design and construction of the Slover Memorial Library are interested in the environmental impact of the building. The Library is hoping for LEEDS certification when complete:Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) is a set of rating systems for the design, construction, operation, and maintenance of green buildings. There is LED lighting throughout, some on zone control; the heating and cooling systems are state of the art; and the historic part of the building has been made as environmentally friendly as an 100 + year old building can be made.
7. A Community Anchor
Another key to a great city are public spaces, both indoors and out. The Slover Memorial Library is one of the anchors of MacArthur Square, in the center of the city. The Tide station, MacArthur Center, and the MacArthur Memorial surround a nice patch of green trees and brick walkways. You can shop, sit and relax, research, read and catch the light rail towards home all within a few steps.
8. Your Tax Dollars at Work
Libraries are basically free in this great country of ours, unless you owe money on an overdue book or want to rent out a fancy meeting room. Not so true in other parts of the world. This library would not be nearly as magnificent but for a huge ($40 million huge) donation from Frank and Jane Batten, a commitment to excellent libraries ($21 million commitment) from the city of Norfolk, and ongoing gifts and donations from the public through the Slover Library Foundation. The city and the library staff worked together within a public/private partnership to produce this exceptional facility. Are you looking for a way to give to your city that will make a difference for everyone? This is a great option.
9. On Time and On Budget
Good job everyone. It’s beautiful, high tech, on time and on budget. There’s not much more to say about that.
10. This Place Will Win Some Awards for Sure
Did I mention I am a librarian? I have been to beautiful, historic, high tech libraries all around the country. When the American Library Association and the Public Library Association hold their big conventions, I’ve always taken the opportunity to tour the local library. I’ve seen the main libraries of Detroit, Seattle, San Francisco, Boston, New York, Chicago, Minneapolis, Pittsburgh, New Orleans, Miami and probably a few I have forgotten. I’ve never been as impressed as I am by the Slover Memorial Library. Norfolk, you are going to be proud.