10 fun facts about Boise's newest library opening Thursday

People have already been calling to ask for tours of the Boise Public Library’s newest branch at Bown Crossing in East Boise, said Sarah Kelley-Chase, branch supervisor. The state-of-the art library will open to the public on Thursday, May 18. Library users will be able to browse a 40,000-item collection of books, DVDs and video games.

To answer the public anticipation and excitement, the library will offer programs such as story times for children, STEAM-related learning activities and activities for adults in its first week, Kelley-Chase said. (STEAM stands for Science, Technology, Engineering, Art and Math. Visit the library’s website at BoisePublicLibrary.org to learn more about activity offerings.)

The library at Bown Crossing officially has been in the works for around seven years, but Boise city leaders started talking about the newest branch library long before that, said library spokesman Kevin Winslow. The public got its first view of preliminary designs, proposed features and services for the Bown Crossing branch in 2010.

The project budget is $8.6 million, with $7.6 million coming from the city’s capital contingency fund and $1 million provided by Friends of the Boise Public Library and the Library Foundation, Winslow said.

Here are 10 facts to know about the Library! at Bown Crossing:

1. It’s a place for public art.

The lobby features literary-themed collages by artist and Boise State University professor Stephanie Bacon.

An installation, “Vox Poplar,” (a play on vox populi, or voice of the people) by Brooklyn-based artist Janet Zweig greets visitors in the main reading room. It is a massive spool of paper incised with a tree motif. The spool of paper is attached to a 1940s-era manual typewriter. The roll of paper will slowly unspool as writers type on the typewriter. The plan, said Winslow, is for the library to host “writers in residence” who will compose on-site. Writer, poet and College of Western Idaho professor Catherine Kyle is the first writer in residence for “Vox Poplar.” (Kyle plans to create an interactive poetry comic with public participation). And that massive spool of paper? It will last for 50 years before it runs out, according to the artist.

2. The library is green.

The Bown Crossing building is going for silver LEED certification, Kelley-Chase said. LEED-certified buildings are resource-efficient and use less water and energy. Some notable features in the Bown Crossing building: flooring made from renewable cork wood and terrazzo made from recycled blue glass and exterior sandstone from the local quarry at Table Rock.

A ceiling of cross-laminated timber (seven layers, making it exceptionally strong) is insulated with, among other materials, recycled cotton blue jeans. A porthole, or what Kelley-Chase calls the “truth window,” in the children’s reading room reveals structural elements, including the denim blue fluff. The strength of the cross-laminated timber makes a continuous interior space possible. It’s light; it’s airy — without a support pillar in sight.

3. The lights know the time of day, or whether it’s dark and stormy outside.

The interior lighting is set to automatically adjust to the amount of natural light that’s coming in through the library’s windows. But a special coating on the windows will keep the summer heat out.

4. You might hear the word ‘bioswale.’

A bioswale, the shallow, winding trench between the building and the parking lot, will catch runoff from the lot and filter it before it goes back into the ground and the nearby Boise River. Besides its practical use, the library’s bioswale is a design element, a dry river filled with rocks. It’s in keeping with the library’s low-water, pollinator-attracting landscape that includes a small xeric demonstration garden at the site (installed by SUEZ Idaho, our area’s main water company).

5. The public had a lot of input.

The Bown Crossing branch is just the second Boise library branch built specifically as a library. (The first was the branch at Cole and Ustick roads in West Boise.) Two other branches — the Collister and Hillcrest libraries — have cropped up in former shopping centers. The main branch itself in Downtown Boise began life as the Salt Lake Hardware warehouse before becoming a library in the 1970s.

Since the Bown Crossing branch was “purpose-built,” designers were able to answer specific requests from patrons: Lots of electric outlets, lots of open desks with USB plug-ins, public meeting spaces, a private study room and a strong Wi-Fi signal that will let patrons use their devices outside on the library patio.

6. Virtual reality is a reality at Bown Crossing.

The new branch will have virtual-reality goggles available to patrons who want to, say, interact with jellyfish under the sea or stroll through a famous museum without leaving Boise. Tilt Brush, the 3-D painting application, and 3-D printing, already popular at other branches, will also be available at Bown Crossing.

7. The library wants to make your life easier.

Need to borrow a portable charger, adapter, laptop or bike lock? You can do that here.

8. Healthy mind, healthy body, healthy spirit.

The Bown Crossing branch library is the first city building to go through a “health impact assessment” to look at how the building and its programs might respond to public health needs on several fronts, including intellectual, physical, social, spiritual and economic. The library’s programs and features will attempt to meet those needs.

A few examples: In addition to books and other “intellectual” offerings, the library will offer discussion groups, lectures and more. The city is also advocating for physical health by urging as many people as possible to walk or ride bikes to the library. You’ll note the large number of bike racks out front and lots of space for pedestrians and community activities — think summer block parties — around the site.

The library will aim to enhance social health by encouraging neighborhood meetings and more in its public spaces and, according to the assessment, encourage more economic activity and enhance property values around the library.

Some patrons had suggested star gazing parties on the library’s roof, an activity that would count as intellectual, social, even spiritual. The library can’t do that yet, said Kelley-Chase, “but we can have a walking group that walks from the library to the Boise River.”

9. The delight is in the details.

The new library is filled with cool stuff. The “Sullivan family living room,” named for local donors, is a re-created living room complete with old-style touches like a fireplace, carpet and a print dictionary on an antique stand. But the classic design chairs are bright blue, dipped in a tough, soft resin.

The children’s reading area, surrounded by colored glass panels and kid-level spy windows, has big soft resin animals and letters to sit on or move around. The letters spell out “READ” or “DARE.”

And look closely at those mid-century-style glass panels at the ends of the book shelves. The glass is embedded with sliced-up magazines.

10. Dogs get thirsty.

The human drinking fountain at the entrance outside also has a ground-level drinking fountain for dogs. (Unfortunately, just service animals can accompany visitors inside the library.)

Opening Day at the Library! at Bown Crossing

The library will open for checkout at 9:30 a.m. Thursday, May 18, 2153 E. Riverwalk Drive, after a ribbon-cutting and brief remarks by city leaders. Normal hours at the Bown Crossing branch will be: Tuesday–Thursday, 10 a.m.-9 p.m.; Friday, 10 a.m.-6 p.m.; Saturday, noon-5 p.m.; Sunday, 1-5 p.m. Closed Mondays.

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