Border Town Converts Walmart To Library

McAllen, Texas, a town put on the map by its ranking as one of the costliest healthcare markets in the U.S., now has a much more inspiring accomplishment to its name: it is home to the largest single-story public library in the country. A cavernous complex that used to house the town’s Wal-Mart has recently been renovated and converted into the main branch of the McAllen Public Library, a huge (quite literally) upgrade from its previous building. The spacious, modern library, which opened in December 2011, won the 2012 Library Interior Design Competition by the International Interior Design Association. After only one month of operation, new user registration at the library increased by a whopping 23%.

Adriana Ramirez, a McAllen native and professor at the University of Pittsburgh, wrote to the Los Angeles Times that

[I]n a City like McAllen, with violence across the river (less than 10 miles away from the library), I think it’s amazing that the city is devoting resources to a) not only saving a large and conspicuous piece of property from decline and vandalism, but b) diverting those resources into youth and the public trust. It’s easy to fall into drugs, drinking, and violence when you live on the border. It’s not really easy to find a place to hang out when you’re 14 that’s not the mall, the movies, or Mexico. And a giant library — a cool-looking open space devoted to entertaining the imagination? Well, I think that’s the best counter-move against violence imaginable. And you don’t even have to wait for a computer now.

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