the Carnegie-built former Dallas Public Library
While we wait for Anne Simmons’ next dispatch from ARLIS-NA, take the next available chance (I suggest the Whole Foods checkout line) to browse the May issue of Saveur , where the regular “Kitchenwise” feature offers C.M. Reinhardt’s storybook-like account of life/space transition: giving up a fast-paced life as a New York television producer to work freelance and live in rural Burwell, Nebraska, there remodeling an abandoned, outdated Carnegie Library building into a sleek, modern living space. (And no, the story’s not online, but you can get a detailed account of the remodel from Burwell’s Independent. Registration required, but I was able to read it from the Google cache.) Reinhardt even went so far as to purchase a card catalog cabinet at a prop auction, which she notes is an excellent kitchen amenity, for storing matches and her bottle-cap opener collection.
Although the limitations of Carnegie buildings became unavoidable to the last generation of public library administrators, their endearing qualities are obviously not lost to the world. The canonical building style thus gave us expectations for the form and function of a library, and many systems, including NYPL, still operate out of theirs. Indeed, many other Carnegie buildings are living on in various reincarnations: Mud Bay Granary, an organic pet food operation, houses their offices in the former Carnegie in Olympia, WA. As demonstrated with Reinhardt’s renovation, people feel ownership and intimacy with library buildings that often isn’t a part of blah residential architecture. (As a child, I told my mother I wanted to go live in our neighborhood public library, but ours was a more high-modern affair.)