Thursday, January 17, 2008
After close to a year of construction, San Francisco's Main Branch library reopened its first floor on Wednesday morning.
For $6 million, I was expecting something a bit more fabulous, but the place looks pretty much the same as it always has.
I missed the speeches by various dignitaries but did arrive in time for a smashing performance by a mariachi band called La Nueva Generacion...
...that featured a female lead singer so good she could have been channeling the legendary Chavela Vargas.
The major difference in the layout of the first floor is a large, glass-enclosed room with its own security door for the large collection of DVDs, VHS tapes, and CDs which used to be casually stolen by the local crackheads at an alarming rate.
Unfortunately, the majority of the DVDs and CDs are the same seriously scratched and injured discs they have always had at the Main Library, which has led more than once to a movie freezing on my DVD player at a climactic moment, which can be a serious bummer.
To add to the discomfort, library employees in the "media room" no longer check anything out. Instead, you have to line up at a pair of computers, put your library card under a scanner, and then scan the barcodes yourself.
I had already checked out a P.G. Wodehouse novel which kept setting off all the alarms every time I walked through the media room security portals, but the security staff just laughed and waved me through.
Still, there is one good reason to celebrate the makeover, which is that most of the first floor space is filled with books. In fact, the Fiction section of the library has finally been put into one place for the first time since the move into the new Main branch building in the 1990s, and finding that Wodehouse novel was miraculously simple.