A space with stacks of books was transformed Saturday night into a full-out dining room. Floors of shelves became a multi-level banquet hall, all to celebrate the completed Central Library.
"It's amazing, you know," said gala planning committee member Lisa Loup. "We walk through it with hard hats, and then to come back and see it looking like this, it's a vision come to life."
The gala event opened the building to more than 600 donors, giving them a first look at the renovated space.
The ground floor now features a children’s library. Filled for the night with a band and cocktails, the basement space is typically a comfortable, colorful collection of kid’s books and places to read them. Next to that sits the bubbler. The conference room will host workshops and speakers, meant to make this a less conventional library.
Between that floor and the roof top terrace are 100 public computers, more than three times what was in the space before. Madison Public Library Foundation Executive Director Jenni Collins said the planning for the library was very much focused on technology, with a lot of thought going into what a useful library would be in decades to come.
"We did save a lot of money by actually using the bones of the old library and using the pre-existing site. We saved about $11 million from doing it that way," Collins explained. "But we want people to feel, it is a $30 million project, is that this is a brand new space, and really that's the best compliment we can get, and I think most everybody I've taken through really that has been the vibe."
Collins said other libraries across the country have already been asking about the new space, and for the size of Madison, she said it’s an exemplary library for the city.
"Madison has a very unique personality, and that is exactly what can be reflected in what a library does," Collins said.
The Central Library will re-open to the public September 21 at 9 a.m.
For more information on the project, visit mynewlibrary.org.