Think libraries aren't cool? Check out downtown Arlington's new high-tech hangout

Look inside Arlington’s new high tech library

George W. Hawkes Downtown Library opens in Arlington on Saturday, June 16, 2018
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George W. Hawkes Downtown Library opens in Arlington on Saturday, June 16, 2018

A stroll through the new George W. Hawkes Downtown Library provides a number of distinct impressions.

Yes, there are books. A lot of them — especially in the building's third floor, which feels the most like a traditional library.

But the 80,000-square-foot building also includes computer labs and a creative space that includes 3D printers as well as a tech genius bar where patrons can get help downloading e-books to their devices or simply logging on to the Internet.

"I think it has distinct tones and textures to it," said Yoko Matsumoto, Arlington's libraries director. "If you want quiet then don't sit on the first floor. If you have kids who want to learn and have fun, then the first floor is for you. But there's plenty of quiet spaces on the third floor."

Libraries are having to respond to the times with technology driving those changes.

It isn't just Arlington.

Fort Worth's Northwest Branch has the Panther Lab Makerspace where patrons can create.

In Omaha, there's a technology library with no books.

Austin Central's Library includes a technology petting zoo where patrons can check out gadgets before they actually own them.

In Arlington, Matsumoto said the key is determining what works in their city.

For the new library, that meant providing flexible spaces to keep up with new technology.

There's one space that has been kept empty in anticipation of adding new tech down the road.

At the same time, the library can provide a place for human interaction for those stuck constantly looking at a laptop or cellphone.

"Libraries are now becoming a place to allow that human interaction to happen," Matsumoto said.

That means the new library has space for genealogy and local history, adult education programs and a playroom for children.

There's a rooftop garden overlooking downtown that can also be used for special events.

The grand opening takes place at 10:30 a.m. Saturday and the library will be open until 6 p.m. Saturday. But it will reopen from 8 p.m. to 10 p.m. Saturday in conjunction with a Green River Ordinance concert at the Levitt Pavilion.

While the library will serve Arlington, it is open to non-Arlington residents. Many of the activities in the library do not require a library card, said Allison Denny, content and collections librarian.

Bill Hanna: 817-390-7698, @fwhanna
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