Downtown Silver Spring’s new public library is open for business

Downtown Silver Spring, Maryland

Downtown Silver Spring, Maryland’s new public library

Yesterday I ventured downtown to pay a visit to the long awaited new Silver Spring Public Library. The library has only been open for a few weeks so I wanted to check it out and see if is worth all the hype. I was not disappointed. The centrally located three story building is pretty impressive to both see and visit. I love going to the library and have gotten a lot of mileage out of our local White Oak branch over the past 25 years. I wanted to compare the two and see if is worth the longer trip and parking hassles for me to use the downtown library instead.

silver spring public library

The information desk and checkout on the main level

In many ways there is no comparison. The venerable White Oak branch is a bit long in the tooth and struggles to offer the latest technology with its outdated building. The new Silver Spring Public Library is a dream when it comes to state of the art facility. It seems to be loaded to the gills with the latest modern technology. All the tables and exterior walls have multiple outlets and jacks to meet then needs of just about any device that you can take to the library. There are tons of computers for public use and the materials check out is easy with terminals on each level. There were also lots of staff on hand to help answer questions. Every floor features multiple conference and study rooms and most seemed to be in use. (The library recommends that you reserve a room if you are planning ahead and want to be sure of a space for a group meeting.)  A few things seemed out of place but that may be more to the new facility having to sort itself out for a few months. There are plenty of books in the library but I am not so sure about the selection. I am a history fan and the history section was definitely very thin. I also like to borrow DVD’s and  the Silver Spring Library has a pretty good selection. However, browsing DVDs and checking them out at White Oak is a simple procedure while the Silver Spring Library forces you to flip through the DVDs like you would at an vinyl records at an old music store and checking them out is a pain as the DVDs are not in the cases. You have to check out the case and then wait for the actual DVD to be delivered up to you-apparently from the secure DVD vault.  DVDs are pretty old technology. Are people still swiping them?

Silver Spring Public Library

The best feature of the new library is the comfy reading chairs located near the picture windows.

The building is quite large with many stairs. The main level is one full story from the street and there are two levels above that. There are escalators and elevators but still one feels a bit lost when browsing around. This is to be expected with an urban library but it is by no means cozy. The entire third floor, which is close to the size of a regular library is given over to kids.  There is a lot of nice stuff for kids to do up there and it is well laid out but really now, an entire floor for kids? I suppose that it does keep the noise down in other parts of the library. However, I think the space could be better used. Perhaps by creating more room to display DVDs. The adult stuff is on the first and second level, and there is plenty of shelf space and places to sit and work. I am a big fan of books on tape and there is a good selection, but I noticed that some of the college lecture series are individually shelved with the book while others are collected in a special section. Kind of confusing to me. Although not yet open,  there is also a little café for patrons to use just off of the main street entrance.

Silver Spring, Maryland Public Library

One of the many computer rooms in the library. This one is devoted to Mac users.

My real problem with the new Silver Spring Public Library is the aesthetics. To my eye it is pretty damn ugly-especially the interior. It is kind of a mish mash of steam punk and mid-century modern mixing the worst of both worlds and creating a cold, sterile space. Top that off with the worst color selections possible and there you have it, just awful. And, don’t get me started on the carpets which look like they came directly out of a bad sixties sitcom. One thing that does work  it is that there are lots of yummy comfortable chairs situated near the sunny, exterior windows.  The natural lighting is excellent and I can see wasting some time in a chair and getting lost in a book.

Silver Spring Maryland Public Library

The entire third level is given over to kids. Lots on nice things for them to do here.

In the end, I will probably use my local White Oak branch and leave the new library to special needs and occasions. My old branch is on one level and just easier for me to use. The one nice thing about the county system is that if I do use the Silver Spring Public Library, any material checked out there can be returned to any Montgomery County branch.  The downtown library is worth visiting  and great for group meetings and study sessions due to the space and facilities. I think I will find a reason to use it some. All in all not a bad thing for Silver Spring to have.

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