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Discarded by Walmart, a Box Store Becomes a Thriving Library

Residents of McAllen, TX eager to use free internet or check out a novel can do so in an unusual

While corporations have enjoyed record profits during the economic downturn, municipalities have struggled to keep basic services like school systems running. With big cities from Detroit to Denver making significant cuts in service, libraries have been particularly beleaguered. But those trends are what make the recent opening of the New Main Library in McAllen, Texas so remarkable, and not just because it's well designed. Since December, residents of this South Texas border town eager to use free internet, check out a novel, or even relax over a cup of coffee can do so in an unusual location: a former Walmart, renovated to become the country's largest single-story library.

According to local news reports, the city purchased the abandoned store from the corporation for $5 million and spent nearly $26 million dollars total on the project, with renovations led by the Minneapolis-based firm MS&R Architecture. While a 2 1/2 football-field sized property has great potential (think of all the books!), the massiveness posed the "primary challenge" to the design team which relied heavily on color to help users understand the floor-plan and navigate the building. Features include conference rooms, a coffee shop, a copy center, an acoustically-shielded space for chatty teenagers, and a 64-terminal computer lab: not bad for a small city with a population less than 150,000 people.

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