Abandoned Walmart Now America’s Biggest Library

Picture: McAllen Public Library (C)

From destruction comes regeneration. A photo essay via Web Urbanist

There are thousands of abandoned big box stores sitting empty all over America, including hundreds of former Walmart stores. With each store taking up enough space for 2.5 football fields, Walmart’s use of more than 698 million square feet of land in the U.S. is one of its biggest environmental impacts. But at least one of those buildings has been transformed into something arguably much more useful: the nation’s largest library.

Meyer, Scherer & Rockcastle transformed an abandoned Walmart in McAllen, Texas, into a 124,500-square-foot public library, the largest single-floor public library in the United States.

The library even has an acoustically separated lounge for teens as well as 6 teen computer labs, 16 public meeting spaces, 14 public study rooms, 64 computer labs, 10 children’s computer labs and 2 genealogy computer labs. Other new features include self check-out units, an auditorium, an art gallery, a used bookstore and a cafe.

While you can still see hints of what the library once was in its sprawling shape and industrial ceilings, it seems like an entirely new space. According to PSFK, the library saw new user registration rise by 23% within the first month following the new library’s opening.

See the full collection at Web Urbanist.

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  • http://buzzcoastin.posterous.com BuzzCoastin

    Amazon.com killed that Walmart Store the same way it’ll kill that library

    • HeadShaker

      Um, you do realize the difference between a library and a bookstore, right? Even if you don’t, just lie and say you do so that I don’t completely despair. 

      • http://buzzcoastin.posterous.com BuzzCoastin

        Um, you do realize the need to go to library for information ended about 10 years ago.
        Even if you don’t, just lie and say you do so that I don’t completely despair.

        • Simiantongue

          Libraries haven’t been made redundant by the internet. Not by a long shot. In fact I have wireless internet on my entire property and several very nice laptops and I still find the libraries facilities in my town are excellent. They have internet facilities and are now making assorted types of ebooks available. As well as the usual collection of books there are large collections of music and video, also lecture halls and historical archives. They also have multitudes of community programs, too many to list. I attended a lecture on pagan religions, focusing mainly on Wicca religion, several weeks ago at my local library.

          So on the one hand I could sit, forever alone, in front of some screen and look up some information and if I’m lucky there will be some very pretty graphics on the page. Or I could attend a lecture at my local library about Wicca. Since I live in a very old section of Massachusetts our local library has some very in depth archival material on the subject of Wicca and they also invited what turned out to be a very knowledgeable speaker on the topic and there was much rejoicing and talk for several hours after the lecture where I met several actual adherents to the religion. I was able to talk to them at length about the beliefs and practices of their particular sect.

          Even if you don’t realize the difference between sitting at your computer, which definitely has it’s uses, and going to a library, just lie and say you do… I won’t despair either way though, life is too short.

          • http://buzzcoastin.posterous.com BuzzCoastin

            Your sentimental feels for the library have clouded your judgement. No library can even come close to the depth and breadth of data available on the internet, let alone the speed and convenience which which to access, parse, sort and compare data. All of which is why library use is in steady, rapid decline.

            In the time it takes you to go to the library, hear a talk on Wicca and speak to the speaker, I could watch 5 different people give me their take on YT and interact with them too.

            But you have hit on what libraries could become, meeting places for people who still think meeting in person is better than cyber-meetings. Hardly anyone born after 2010 will know that libraries were once places to find information and borrow books.

          • Simiantongue

            “No library can even come close to the depth and breadth of data
            available on the internet, let alone the speed and convenience which
            which to access, parse, sort and compare data.”

            This makes the assumption that libraries and the internet will always be non-overlappng magesteria. That libraries will not evolve to society as they have been doing since rich elite decided to create libraries for themselves. Or since monks in monasteries painstakingly put ink to page. Or since the invention of the printing press. Libraries have changed, evolved. The false dichotomy that libraries are dinosaurs in a digital age and are doomed to extinction is a false one. They are quite distinct from the internet and have their own uses other than data storage. You might as well argue that we don’t need schools. What could you possibly learn from a teacher in a physical school when it can’t even come close to the depth and breadth of the data available on the internet, let alone the speed and convenience with which to access, parse, sort and compare data. That’s because schools are more than data storage centers.

            If you’ve been to a library lately you know that they are quickly becoming integrated. As I said my local library is offering ebooks. So what right? You don’t have to go there to get them. You don’t have to bring them back. They just disappear when your check out dates comes up. It’s all accomplished on the internet.

            “But wait there’s more!” Libraries are fast becoming the front on which we discuss the nature of digital media

            You’ve got this myopic idea that libraries were the internet of the past and new digital technology makes them obsolete. This is untrue. Libraries have always served in capacities other than data storage and parsing. The internet in fact will update that aspect and others, who knows how many times. The problem, as it always is with public institutions like libraries, is funding.

            “All of which is why library use is in steady, rapid decline.”

            Mrs Smith doesn’t have to go down to the library to check out a cook book, she can just look it up online. Which is to be expected. To assume this trend will continue to the point where nobody goes to libraries is myopic. This time we’re in now is a lag time between the introduction of the internet and it’s full integration into libraries. Especially public libraries, which usually lag due to funding issues. Where corporations like google have billions to spend, we’ll have to wait a little to realize the full potential of such technology on libraries, schools etc.

            “In the time it takes you to go to the library, hear a talk on Wicca and
            speak to the speaker, I could watch 5 different people give me their
            take on YT and interact with them too.”

            Oh yeah interacting with people on youtube. I can’t remember the last time I was at a lecture and someone stood up and yelled “First!” when the speaker was finished. Lets not pretend that chatting on youtube could possibly compete in that fashion.

            Oh yeah! At the lecture I heard 6 different people give me their take on the wicca religion. I win! What’s your point really? Did you also bother to look up unique historical artifacts having to do with the practice of the wicca religion and personal letters pertaining to court proceedings? I saw plenty at the lecture. Are you arguing that perhaps watching 5 people in youtube videos is better than the lecture I went to and you could eat pizza rolls with mountain dew code red at the comfort of your desk? Was the point here that you could “one up” me? Sillyness.

            “But you have hit on what libraries could become, meeting places for
            people who still think meeting in person is better than cyber-meetings.”

            Um no, it’s not a matter of preference. People can do either as they see fit. Nobody is going to say you can’t watch youtube videos because you attend lectures at the local library. Or argue that one mode is “outdated”. Well at least I haven’t seen anyone argue that till now.

            “Hardly anyone born after 2010 will know that libraries were once places to find information and borrow books.”

            Future is not set in stone. Perhaps. Though you lack perspective it seems. I wouldn’t trust that prediction to be accurate.

        • Calypso_1

          As someone who frequents University library systems, I could only despair at the lose of the countless undigitized volumes I regularly access.  They even use couriers and the post to send them back and forth…positively archaic I know.  But most importantly the internet just hasn’t been able to come up with a replacement for the particular quiet of millions upon millions of sound absorbing pages and old book smell.  Oh and they have the internet too.

          • http://buzzcoastin.posterous.com BuzzCoastin

            Well, I’ve been through this discussion before back in the late 90’s when I explained to dinosaurs how Amazon was going to kill the bookstore. The library is already dead as a resource for info. (rare books & wiccans excepted)

            This is a generational position… geezers love libraries, but kids are already way beyond that. Born before 1984? The further back from that date the more the love & nostalgia for the library. Born after 1984? The further forward form the date the less likely a library will be meaningful for information.

          • Calypso_1

            I understand what you are saying. However, as Simiantongue pointed out a place that is a collective repository for information evolves.  University and public libraries evolve in function. 
            Got kids?  Yeah e-book stories are great but boy do the kiddiewinkies love to go to the library and actually listen to a real a human being who is a storyteller, or puppeteer and look through the all the picture books.  Public libraries have also now have eBooks to check out, theatre, art, concerts, print service resources etc. 
            And the greatest resource LIBRARIANS.  These folks will shame you if you are just using Google to search.  They are trained to use ALL sources of information as knowledge. It has nothing to do with online/offline it’s about knowledge management.  And one aspect of knowledge management is nodes of communal human interaction around information.  Because just as Web 2.0 has been all about, we need community for information to abound.  And fortunately for many in meatspace this still means more than just a web of contacts.  Its local, it’s an architecture of mind that is tangible, a milieu of humanity more true than its competing temples of church and state, part of the spatial framework of culture.

            Go ahead choose what you will.  As for me and mine we will still support this gathering and as always enjoy the printed page by the light of sun and glow of the lamp when the electrons stop flowing.

    • Draculoid

       I doubt it…in McAllen, Walmarts are a dime a dozen-
      libraries are harder to come by- especially well packaged, heavily stocked
      mega-libraries. McAllen is a border town with several outlying
      rural communities. The library provides services that many would
      not be able to afford or have access to otherwise. Aside from the usual fare, the library provides
      literacy services, job search help, internet tutorials, and is an event center for students at all levels.

      • godozo

        Agree with Draculoid on this. The store was probably replaced with a nearby Super-WalMart with groceries and greater space. Lots of regular Wal-Marts get killed off with Super Wal-Marts built nearby.

        Am amazed that they were able to get the Tax Money to remake the space like they did. Now if Georgia and rural Nebraska would do something like this there may be (true) hope for America.

  • MoralDrift

    Pretty awesome

  • http://hormeticminds.blogspot.com/ Chaorder Gradient

    I’ve seen some of those empty stores turn into churches, with names like “City Life Church” or something. Libraries sound like a much greater use of space.

  • Bender

    Now there’s a Wal-Mart I would actually visit.

  • Thea

    This may be a bit of a cursed chalice, what if the local authoritys don’t have the money to stock and maintain such a large building? Kind of leaves them  looking like the bad guy.

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