Austin’s new Central Library opens Saturday, after more than four years of construction, at 710 Cesar Chavez St. At nearly 200,000 square feet, it’s double the size of the former Faulk Central Library, and its ambitious architecture and creative features seek to make it a city landmark.
The grand opening festivities run from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday, with a ribbon-cutting ceremony and remarks from public officials at 11 a.m., an opening of the building at 1 p.m. and music throughout the afternoon. There will be no parking available, so try public transportation, ride-hailing or a taxi.
“Not everything got finished on time, but it’s finished enough to be a library, so we’re going to throw the doors open,” said John Gillum, library facilities process manager.
More library questions? Here are some answers:
What does it have that the old library doesn’t?
Well, for one thing, there’s a three-story red grackle clock.
The six-story library, which looks out on Shoal Creek and Lady Bird Lake, has improved children and teen reading spaces, “front porch” balconies and a rooftop garden. It includes space for events and performances. It has a cooking demonstration space. A technology “petting zoo” will allow residents to play with the newest electronic gadgets. About a third of its power will come from rooftop solar panels.
Plus, for you traditionalists, there are more than 351,000 books and other items to check out, up from 300,000 in Faulk Central Library, with room to expand.
There’s something to eat, right?
Austin’s Elm Restaurant Group, the restaurateurs who operate Easy Tiger and 24 Diner, will run a café in the library, but it won’t be open for at least a few months. Restaurant operators still need to obtain permits for the space, Gillum said. It will likely open early next year. Elm has proposed a cookbook-themed restaurant with a rotating menu from books available for checkout.
I’ve heard the building was really expensive?
The final tab for the new library was $125 million. Originally approved by voters for a $90 million bond in 2006, City Council members voted in 2013 to break ground on a $120 million project, funded with the bond and about $30 million from city property sales and other sources. The cost rose by about an additional $5 million with change orders and complications as the city pushed its opening date from November 2016 to May 2017 and, finally, to Saturday.
What’s the parking situation?
The building has two floors of underground parking, but don’t plan to park there just yet. For the next week or two, there will still be contractors and vendors working out of the space. After that, parking will run $3 to $15 from 30 minutes to 12 hours.
Also planned, but not in place yet, is a bike valet. The new library includes a corral to park up to 200 bicycles. The city plans to partner with a local bike shop to operate it in a drop-off, pick-up style. Until then, there are traditional bike racks around the building.
Can I plan a wedding in the library, like Carrie Bradshaw?
No problem. The new Central Library has space for plays, concerts, art openings, cocktail parties, weddings and other events. To book, check out library.austintexas.gov/rental or call 512-974-7585.