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McGovern-Stella Link Neighborhood Library At 7405 Stella Link Rd.

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New branch library has contemporary cool cachet


Copyright 2005 Houston Chronicle

When John Middleton recently led a tour through the new John P. McGovern Stella Link Branch Library, a high school student enthusiastically compared the entrance, with a wavy gold plastic awning that floats over large glass doors, to the hip Ikea store.

Middleton smiled. That's what he was hoping to hear.

"We wanted a 'wow' factor," says the Houston Public Library's project manager for design and construction.

Coolness is elusive, as companies can attest. Apple has it right now; Microsoft doesn't. With the new $5.6 million Stella Link branch, library officials have captured a cool cachet by busting the notion of what a library should be like.

In the old days before the Internet transformed information-gathering, libraries were often dimly lit places where beverages were banned; and if you spoke above a whisper, a librarian would quickly "shush" you. But now, with competition from bookstores where comfy chairs, coffee bars and wireless Internet access invite lingering, libraries across the nation have to keep up or lose their relevance.

In Seattle, the $165 million Rem Koolhaas-designed central library

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