From an Los Angeles Times blog:
A vast building in McAllen, Texas, was once home to a Wal-Mart — but no longer. When the discount superstore moved to a larger location, it left behind a vast empty building. The community took advantage of the space and converted the warehouse-like building into a public library.
McAllen is near the southernmost tip of Texas, on the Mexico border. “In a city like McAllen, with cartel violence across the river (less than 10 miles away from the library), I think it’s amazing that the city is devoting resources to a) not only saving a large and conspicuous piece of property from decline and vandalism, but b) diverting those resources into youth and the public trust,” Ramirez writes. “It’s easy to fall into drugs, drinking, and violence when you live on the border. It’s not really easy to find a place to hang out when you’re 14 that’s not the mall, the movies, or Mexico. And a giant library — a cool-looking open space devoted to entertaining the imagination? Well, I think that’s the best counter-move against violence imaginable. And you don’t even have to wait for a computer now.”
If this sounds rather familiar, though without the iconicity of Wal-Mart jazzing it up, it should. As I mentioned recently, the St. Croix Falls Public Library put its new library in an abandoned grocery store. (Actually abandoned this time, I believe. Though the LAT blog post originally claimed Wal-Mart had failed in the now-librarified location, it actually built a much larger SuperCenter nearby.) The interior design in both libraries are even quite similar, though I’m especially a fan of St. Croix’s felt-looking baffles that give texture and the feeling of a lower ceiling.
And the relationship—sometimes productive, often tense—between libraries and supermarkets has a much longer history, from postwar booketerias (self-service library branches in grocery stores) to supermarket parking lots as bookmobile stops.