What would a public
library be like nestled in midst of a busy mall? iSchool students got
to find out during a tour of the Library
Connection@Crossroads, located at Crossroads Shopping Mall in Bellevue.
florescent welcome signs in various languages, a bug mobile and brightly
colored cushions in the children's area, Crossroads has a unique atmosphere.
Part of the King County Library System, Crossroads opened in 2001 as
a new and unique concept in public library service. The library flourished,
circulating over 30,000 items last December and registering 1,200 new
patrons during its first four months of operation.
has been so successful, that KCLS is expanding the space over the next
few weeks and is planning a grand opening of the new, improved facility
next month. The library system is also working to procure space in Southcenter
Mall in Tukwila.
Many who come
to Crossroads are ESL patrons. As such, the library has staff members
who speak various languages, including Chinese, Russian, Spanish and
Vietnamese. Maria Ovalles, iSchool student and the KCLS staff member
who conducted the tour, commented that many ESL patrons visit the library
when they know a certain multilingual staff member will be on duty.
The library also offers bilingual story times in Chinese, Russian, and
Spanish. While none of the regular staff are librarians, the branch
has a special "reference hotline" phone for tough reference
Because it is
located in a mall, Ovalles noted that many patrons who come into Crossroads
tend to have more of a retail mentality. Some at first even mistook
the library for a bookstore or asked, "What is this place about?"
The library gets "a lot of kids hanging out" as well as older
adult "mall walkers" but relatively few teens.
The library has
twelve Internet terminals and four with children's software. Every Internet
computer has its own printer, though Ovalles commented the library would
be switching to networked printing soon. Because the Connection@Crossroads
"experiment" has proven successful, there has been discussion
of opening a similar branch at Southcenter Mall.
The students also
toured Crossroads' "sister" branch, Lake Hills. It's much
larger then Crossroads and a more typical public library. Many of the
library's patrons are families and retired people. Lake Hills' programs
include Talk Time (a chance for adult ESL learners to practice conversing
in English) and a book group for children and their parents. The most
unique aspect of Lake Hills is the "Teenzone" room, which
houses the entire Young Adult collection. Complete with six computers,
small tables for chatting, and a funky décor, it's a place where
teens can get together - sometimes literally. Ovalles mentioned that
YA patrons are occasionally caught making out in the Teenzone room.
Fortunately, the room is within eyeshot of the circulation desk in case
inappropriate behavior occurs.