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A NEW CHAPTER

The new main library opens this weekend.

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While the design of the NBA arena may not include a lot of glass due to safety concerns, the new $70 million central library has nearly five floors of it. From the outside, the library, all glass and polished metal, looks as though it is going to feel more like a technical manual than a cozy novel, but library representative Bobby King says that was never the intention of the architects. "It is designed to be self-orienting, with lots of primary colors and comfortable spaces," he says. And though it has a modern feel, the building is stocked with soft chairs, private study rooms, and many other conveniences. The new library boasts the largest fiction collection in the Mid-South, a teen center, a genealogical center, a children's section that looks like the inside of a Dr. Seuss book, new travel and health sections, and nine privately funded works of public art from local and regional artists. The library comes loaded with sleek black IBM computers with flat-screen monitors on every floor and tables with ports for laptop users. The Memphis and Shelby County Room comes complete with climate-controlled archives and reproductions of windows and refurbished tables from the original Cossitt library building downtown. The new library is designed so that the noisiest activities which require the shortest visits -- check in/out, periodical shelves, children's section, and the Friends of the Library used bookstore -- are all located on the main floor. "As you go up, the length of the stay increases," says King, "so that people who are doing genealogy research or searching the archives in the Memphis and Shelby County Room will have less traffic and noise to contend with." Though crews continue to scrape and sand and buff and haul, and the staff is probably losing sleep and developing ulcers, the grand opening is this Saturday, November 10th, at 9:15 a.m., beginning with a truck parade from the old central library at 1850 Peabody to the new one (less than two miles away) at 3030 Poplar. At 10 a.m. there will be a ribbon-cutting ceremony before library officials open the building to the public for the first time.

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