McAllen Public Library does its part to prove the old adage that everything's bigger in Texas.
As the largest single-floor library in the United States, the 123,000-square-foot establishment was formerly a Wal-Mart before being purchased by the city of McAllen in June 2006 for $5 million. From there, it was overhauled by then-Library Director Jose Gamez and city officials to provide a pleasant environment (as well as a top-notch one) for children, teenagers and adults seeking a learning experience they could get nowhere else.
The facility is so impressive that it's already won first place in the International Interior Design Association's 2012 Library Interior Design Competition.
"During one of the first tours we gave before the library opened, someone said that it was like Willy Wonka's factory in there, and that's actually a great way to describe the feel of the area," says Sara Montoya, marketing assistant for the McAllen Public Library system (which includes the main library, the Palm View branch and Lark branch). In the children's department, "the vibrant colors and Children's Interactive Wall are incredibly inviting."
The teen department, known as Area 3918 in reference to its square footage, is a first of its kind. Teens can get help with their homework, play video games, read and spend time with friends. The adult area sports roughly 355,794 items, 14 public study rooms, a genealogy section with special computers, a cafe and even an art gallery.
The library's meeting center consists of 16 meeting spaces filled with state-of-the-art audiovisual equipment that can be rented out for public use.