The photos here (also from the Municipal Government Photograph Collection, NOPL Series) were taken shortly after the opening of the Main Library, when the building and everything in it was shiny and new. Forty years later, the building is no longer new and no longer quite so shiny. Nevertheless, the Main Library is, in fact, still functional, still vital, still evolving, and still fulfilling the design promises made forty years ago.
After the photographs are links to documents concerning the public's reaction to
the new building and quotations from contemporaries.
The first floor, taken from the "bridge."
The first floor, looking toward the lobby
The lobby, taken from the circulation desk.
The information desk, first floor.
The "floating stairs" in the lobby.
A light just beyong the lobby staircase.
The second floor "bridge," showing one of the
The Japanese garden off the bridge
|Library Board Chairman Charles Smither, Mayor Morrison, and architect Arthur Q. Davis on the roof of the circulation desk area, examining the Curtis and Davis designed sunscreen.|
Facts and Figures sheet
Praise from a North Carolina library director.
More praise from a Utah architect.
In addition to the standard program of requirements, the architects were given the of
designing a building which would be convenient and inviting for patrons to use, economical for the Library Board to
operate from the functional standpoint, with a minimum number of operating staff for supervision; and which would
allow forever-changing requirements in service to the public without basic structural alteration. It was also desired to
have the building sufficiently unique so that, in itself, it would stimulate and encourage cultural development through the
use of library services. >br>
"The New Orleans Public Library." In Clinton H. Cowgill and George E. Pettengill. "The Library Building."
Journal of the American Institute of Architects (Reprinted from the May and June 1959 issues).]
The north side of the building faces toward the back of a bus station in a very unsightly area. This
is completely close off as a solid wall and along that wall all of our utility runs--air conditioning, piping, plumbing,
etc.--are brought up to different levels and from there run through the building. The other sides of the building are open
are protected by a sunscreen which we hope will actually control the rays of the sun but at the same time will have
transparency so that one will get a feeling of being in the surroundings and yet will have a sense of protection.
To provide economy of operation and flexibility of service, all public areas are planned as zones
within the total space, defined only by furniture and movable stacks. This allows for increase or decrease, addition or
subtraction of departments without alteration. Also, the large interrupted spaces can be supervised by a smaller staff.
With all departments exposed to view, the public is encouraged to wander and "shop" for the various services offered.
The bridge area penetrates vertically through an opening in the second floor, extending this
upwards to the ceiling of the second floor a height of 26'-0" above the floor of the bridge. This opening is glazed on
sides at the second level, being flanked on the two long sides by luxuriously landscaped patios which open to the sky.
penetration affords exciting vistas from the first floor and mezzanine interior spaces and, in reverse, floods the central
with natural lights.
The building retains no reminder of the cloistered fortress which tradition has established as the
standard library. Instead, planners for the new branch sought a light, airy appeal--an open effect that would invite
into its fascinating world of books. To achieve this end, the associated architects . . . created the three most important
of glass and shielded them with a sunscreen of Alcoa Aluminum.
. . . he [the City Librarian] wanted a library that would appeal to everyone in the community who
passed by. He wanted them to come in because the building looked inviting and because they saw other people in there
reading and would think that it might be a good idea to read a book once again.
Of special interest is a 63 x 9 foot illuminated photomural map of New Orleans and Lower
Louisiana, drawn by John Chase, noted local newspaper cartoonist, which covers the wall behind the service desk. The
huge mural, believed to be the largest o its kind in the world, was presented to the library by Dillard University, through
efforts of The Friends of the New Orleans Public Library.
The little roof deck over the main checking-in and checking-out desk was a bit of concern to us
from an esthetic point of view; we weren't sure of its appearance but it was quite necessary. We now have a
commitment from the Japanese consul to transport from Japan a Japanese stone garden, which will be located out there
on the roof. We believe that this will be a very attractive thing as one arrives at the mezzanine level.
The building itself reflects the conviction of the staff that the fundamental purposes of a public
library are to provide information, tools for education and a place in which the records or our heritage may be preserved
for posterity. A rectangular structure measuring 150 by 216 feet, it contains a total of 146,902 square feet of floor
space, four times as much as was available in the old building.
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