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"Library for the 21st century" opens in San Francisco

I proudly present from the lis-fid discussion list:

"Library for the 21st century" opens in San Francisco

Copyright =A9 1996 Nando.net
Copyright =A9 1996 Reuter Information Service=20

SAN FRANCISCO (Apr 26, 1996 00:18 a.m. EDT) - San Franciscans can rearrange
a symphony, hold a
video conference or surf the Internet in the city's new $137 million
library. They can also borrow a book.

The hi-tech New Main Library, replacing cramped old quarters, is also
intended to be a lively cultural center and to reflect the diversity of the
"city by the bay." It is already proving a hit with residents, who flocked
there in their thousands this month to see a skydiver drop from the sky with
a San Francisco flourish, holding a huge golden key for Mayor Willie Brown
to open the building.

Light cascaded into the asymmetrical central atrium of the pale-gray granite
library, whose chief architect was James Freed, designer of the Holocaust
Museum in Washington. Dedicated on April 18, the 90th anniversary of the
great 1906 earthquake that destroyed much of San Francisco, it is built on
the site of the old City Hall, which burned in 1906.

City officials have dubbed the building a "Library for the 21st Century" and
city librarian Ken Dowlin says it is the most technologically advanced in
the United States. It has 300 computers, a dozen multimedia workstations, a
multimedia meeting room that allows video-conferencing, and work tables with
connections for laptop computers.

It also has a computerized music database on which you can rearrange a
symphony and an unprecedented
228 "talking signs" to guide blind people through the new seven-floor
building. It has 11 permanent
special interest centers, each designed as a showpiece for a culture or
subject such as gay and lesbian,
African-American, Chinese, jobs, teens or the environment.

"We wanted to create an institute that values and celebrates diversity -- we
are one of the most diverse
cities in the country," Dowlin said during a tour. He predicted the library
will become the largest free
Internet access provider in California.

"We also wanted to push the envelope to integrate the technology. It takes
you to the Library of Congress,
the New York Public Library, the world ..." he said.

The library is part of a renaissance of San Francisco's cultural
institutions. A new, privately funded $62
million modern art museum opened in January 1995 and last November the
Palace of the Legion of
Honor, a museum of ancient and European art, reopened after being restored
and expanded.

The architects of the new library had San Francisco's shaky land in mind.
The 376,000 square foot facility
has state-of-the-art seismic "base isolators" and is built to withstand a
catastrophic quake of magnitude 8.3.

Then there are the books. The library has more than 1 million books, 5
million government documents,
50,000 microfilmed items and thousands of audiovisual materials. The
computerized data base is in
English, Spanish, Cantonese, Mandarin and some Tagalog. And within about a
year the catalogue will be
completely multi-lingual, inter-linked even among languages with different
characters such as Japanese
and Cantonese, Dowlin said.

The New Main Library is part of the largest boom in library building in
North America since early this
century, he said. Since 1991, major public libraries have opened in Chicago,
Los Angeles, Vancouver, San
Antonio, New York, Denver and Phoenix.

A unique part of San Francisco's library is the James C. Hormel Gay and
Lesbian Center, the first such
center integrated into a major municipal institution from the start. The
center houses books about the lives
and history of San Francisco's large gay and lesbian community.

Fundraising for the center began with a gift of $500,000 from Hormel, a
businessman, philanthropist and
meat-packing heir. The circular room is 34 feet across, paneled in cherry,
lacewood and oak, with desks
and armchairs.

In the children's center, 50 languages are represented, and computers can
access three age levels of
material via a catalogue designed for children. There is also a special area
for crafts and story-telling.

"The great earthquake may have shaken up this city 90 years ago, but this
library is going to shake up this
city and country," Charlotte Maillard Swig, chairwoman of fundraising at the
Library Foundation, told

Ms Itziar Ortega=20
Head of Information Services

European Software Institute
Parque Tecnologico 204
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Tfno. 34 4 4209519
Fax.  34 4 4209420

Michael Uwe Moebius                                   _________
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E-Mail:  m.moebius _at__ uni-koeln.de                  (________(/
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