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The McAllen, Texas public library is the largest single-story library in the USA, and we visited it!

As you might know, libraries are a regular part of our life on the road. A few years ago we read about a library in Texas created from a former Walmart store. (Pretty cool – huh?)  As we were only an hour away, for one of Robert’s presentations, we knew we had to visit this 123,000 square foot library.

Here are some pictures:

Just so you get an idea of all the areas… 123,000 square feet of space!

The Fountain Circle drive at the front – the parking lot has 350 spaces.


The adult area is the size of a football field, with areas for study or lounging. It includes fiction and non-fiction, a Spanish collection, DVDs, CDs, electronic classrooms, board rooms, a genealogy library, magazines, and much more.

The children’s area is 40,000 square feet with fun child-sized furniture and a children’s computer lab. Doors from this area lead to the children’s garden…

The secure outdoor garden space features 3 custom mosiacs from McAllen artist Yoli Cantu – they incorporate ideas presented by three families in memory of a loved one who took them to the former main library as a child.

The automated drive-though book drop system is located on the north side of the building. The books are brought through this 266 feet long conveyor belt system, and using the radio frequency tag on each book, which sends out a signal identifying the books’ information, sorts the books according to area (childrens/adult/media etc.) to make it easier to re-shelve each of the 355,794 items in the library.

The quiet room – my favorite! Through the glass doors there’s soft task lighting, tables, and a lounge area just for quiet study and reading. YES!

The computer lab – over 100 computers. There’s no PC tower, as these computers are all connected to one main server which saves on energy and services such as printing, faxing, copying and scanning.

The 200-seat auditorium is fully equipped with all you’d want in AV – including a projector, lapel mic, and a sound system. The library’s marketing department (Rob was impressed that they had their own marketing department…) handles renting this area – along with 15 other areas for people to meet in the library.  The cost was very reasonable – especially for non-profits!

The galleria holds collections museum quality art on loan from the IMAS museum.

And there’s more…

Inside the building there are 14 study rooms, a teen area, a book store where every purchase supports the library, genealogy lab, electronic classrooms and a stellar board room. (Rob was impressed with the boardroom.)

Outside there’s a “Dewey Trail” to learn more about the Dewey Decimal System with 10 guides representing each of the Dewey Decimal System, a pond with over 300 plants and trees native to the area, two light towers which change colors, and a fountain.

Do you visit your local library?

Libraries are a treasure, which many of us take for granted. 

The marketing representative told us a story which illustrates this so well…

One morning there was an older, white-haired lady who was peering through the front window of the library for quite a while. The librarians noticed, and were curious. Why was she there? Why didn’t she come in?

A couple hours later, one librarian went outside so see if this lady needed any help.

The lady responded in Spanish, “Would it be OK if I come in? It looks like a nice place, but I don’t have any money to pay for anything.”

She had no idea that this building was a library – a public library – freely available to everyone.

This lady was from Mexico – a mere 10 miles away. (McAllen lies on the Texas/Mexico border, so the culture of the area is solidly bi-lingual.) The marketing rep told us, in Mexico there are no public libraries.

Take a trip to your local library this week!  See what’s available… I’m guessing you’re going to be surprised! 

(I’d love to see every city with a re-purposed Walmart-sized library! – What do you think?)