Opening Ceremony for the Austin Central Library
Saturday, October 28, 2017
Mayor deviated slightly from his prepared remarks, which are below:
This day has been a long time coming. When I toured our new library last week, John Gillum, the facilities manager, told me that he began conceptualizing this new library way back in 1992. That’s back about the time Bruce Todd was Mayor of Austin. Major thanks go to Mayor Will Wynn, who championed this effort and envisioned how grand this building could be. Mayor Wynn fought successfully for the library bond election – and Mayor Lee Leffingwell ensured the city had the rest of the funds needed to build the library of the future our community wanted. Let’s give them a hand.
I look at back at all the hard work that got us here, and an interesting question comes to me: What’s the better job? To be the visionary who planted seeds that will flower for future generations? Or to be the lucky son-of-a-gun who gets elected right before that flower blooms. I think I got the better end of this deal.
Actually, the one who has the best job of any of us is Roosevelt Weeks, who we brought home to Austin to run what he confidently calls the best library in America. And after he showed me around the other day, I have to agree.
There’s a quote in our new library by Holbrook Jackson, the British writer, who said, “Your library is your portrait.” I want to tell you what I see of you in the portrait that is our new library.
This is the most sunlit library in the world. This library lets the world in. There is a butterfly garden in the sky. Stairwells that criss-cross open space like in an Escher painting. And because the library is open inside and out, it offers some of the best views of a city that any library in the world can offer. You will be amazed and delighted at what you see inside our new library.
This is the smartest, most technological library in the country. There’s a hologram of Sarah Bird telling you where to find stuff inside the library. There’s a technology petting zoo. You can use a 3-D printer. They have a computerized sewing machine you can use. I lost count of the kiosks where you can check out laptops and iPads. There are computer labs, and if you don’t know how to use any of that stuff – they’ll teach you.
This could be the most energy efficient library ever imagined. This building has a platinum LEED rating. It’s harder to get a platinum rating than it is to get declared a saint. What this means to you is that despite all the windows and open space stretching six floors, the power bill here is lower than at the older, and much smaller, Faulk library.
This is going to be the most active library I’ve ever seen. You probably won’t get shushed here. Instead of a quiet library, it’s a public library with some quiet places. There are 13 rooms for the public to meet in, all equipped with video conferencing capabilities. You can be yourself here.
This is the most “Austin” library in the whole galaxy. They build shady porches where you can kick back and read. The bike garage is modeled after the city bike garage Diane and I saw in Amsterdam. The dogs even have a water fountain. It has everything but a welcome mat with your own name on it. “Steve, welcome, come on in!”
John, the guy who runs the building, told me he set out to create the library of the future, but his favorite feature relies on the oldest technology in there. You can’t miss it. It weighs about 750 pounds. It’s the big, red clock on the wall that runs on perpetual motion. They call it the Grackle Clock. You’ll see why.
John was excited that the clock didn’t need any maintenance. He said it would probably last hundreds of years. Hundreds of years.
There’s a family in Switzerland that made the clock. John told me that usually they make clocks for cathedrals. Ladies and gentlemen of Austin, this is our cathedral. And what we do in this library will determine what kind of city we are when it comes time to fix this clock a few centuries from now.
There’s another quote in our new library that made an impression on me. It’s by Tatjana Soli, the author of “The Lotus Eaters.” “As a child, I went to libraries to discover the world,” she said. “As an adult, I continue to go to them for the inspiration to create worlds of my own.” Roosevelt told me it’s his goal to make this library a space for open dialogue, to counter the meanness and isolation of social media. He wants people to connect face-to-face here.
But to do that he needs you. This community made huge commitment to build the best library in the country. Well, we’ve got it. In fact, this library has almost everything. The only thing it needs now is you. It’s finally time to use our new library to create new worlds of our own.
Folks, I’ve got three things I need you to do:
First, get a library card. Who here has a library card? Let me hear you.
Second, use this space. Schedule meetings there. Meet people for coffee. Take the kids for story time. Find a quiet place to write. Watch a cooking demonstration. Try out some tech you’ve only heard about. Heck, I know it sounds crazy, but you could even check out a book.
Third, think of our new library as a cathedral of the future and get in there and create the future. This new library is nothing less than a holy place for your imagination and collaboration. We didn’t build this library to get shushed while we paid late fines. We built this space to use this space. So use it! I’ll be there, and I expect to see you, too.
Austin, let me hear you: Are you going to use this library?
When that big, red clock needs maintenance in a few hundred years, what will the people of Austin think about this cathedral? And what will they know of the people who built it for them? I like the idea of some future library director bragging about what famous book was written here, about an invention that someone thought up in this library. Generations from now, people are going to be proud of what you all do with this building, and I can’t wait to get started.