InstaBlog: Zionsville, IN's Public Library

Author's note: Warning—this is a blog-style post based on a social media post. Beware typos and poorly elucidated thoughts. For more polish, perhaps try an article!

Last month, while visiting a good friend in Indiana, I had a chance to explore the Hussey-Mayfield Memorial Public Library in Zionsville, IN. A small suburb of Indianapolis, I wasn't quite sure what to expect from the town's public library—even if (as always) I was excited to investigate it as a public space. As I walked through its spacious halls, however, I found myself suitably impressed. Hussey-Mayfield is a great example of how libraries can serve as vital parts of our public realm, and is the type of facility that every community deserves.

The first thing that blew me away was the amount of space. Of course, as my friend Chris Jones rightly teased, this is what can happen when a New Yorker used to cramped confines heads to Midwest. Still, the building just seems to keep on going and going—in part a result of a 2006 addition to the original 1994 building. As such, it is an enjoyable place to simply explore.

The size is put to good use: for a small town library, it has a massive (and varied) collection, spanning from an impressive standard catalog to interesting Indiana oddities to proudly displayed movies, music albums, and audio books, to graphic novels, and so on. The staff is clearly passionate: good selections abound, they have created fun items like books clubs in a box, and have even dedicated an entire wall to newly published works. Being the good urbanist that I am, I was particularly fascinated by both the collection regional history journals and a copy of the Boone County Master Plan that was on proud display. (Sadly, it is a very typical, suburban document).

More fundamentally, however, the space is put to good use for people. The main sitting room is full of tables and chairs, with high ceilings that must make it an excellent place to work. The building is full of nooks and crannies, each of which is chock full of different seating options. Window alcoves have desks, corners have plush chairs, and dead-end nooks have been fitted with tables and couches. Whatever you are looking to do, the building provides space for it.

There are other user-friendly features, as well. A clever kiosk allows patrons to borrow laptops. One room has been set aside to contain vending machines—a rarity in most libraries, but something that makes this one a much more inviting space. And on top of it all, the entire facility is open until 8PM on weekdays—a tremendous (and sadly rare) asset for any public space.

Sure, I'm sure some would critique the PoMo neoclassical architecture of the building itself or its sometimes grandiloquent interior stylings, but honestly, all of this fits the tone of the space (and the town), but serves patrons well. Indeed, the only tinge of sadness I get from this space is that it exists primarily because Zionsville is quite a well-off town. The Hussey-Mayfield Memorial Library is an amazing example of how to build a library that deeply understands its role as public space. It is sad that so many of our urban systems are set up in ways that ensure that struggling communities cannot afford spaces like this. Because every community deserves at least one public space as good as Zionsville's public library.

Based on an Instagram post.
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