The new Billie Jean King Main Library is more than a traditional library of decades past. Positioned at the heart of Downtown Long Beach, it is designed to provide a welcoming and flexible environment that now serves more than 1,000 daily visitors. The state-of-the-art, structural timber building features distinct and identifiable interior spaces that maximize square footage and enhance user accessibility and staff efficiency. It also offers a rich program of activities in which reading and browsing through bookstacks are only a small part of the experience.
To lure the community inside, the library features a variety of amenity spaces, such as a family learning center, children’s reading room, veterans’ resource center, and multipurpose rooms with their own separate entrances; the building also houses makerspaces with capabilities for film editing, 3-D printing, and robotics. On top of all that, visitors can peruse two-floors of shelves that hold more than 300,000 books, including what Mayor Robert Garcia called “one of the largest comics and graphic novel collections in Southern California.”
After passing through a dramatic two-story light well that opens to the sky, visitors are welcomed into a large central atrium—topped with a generous clerestory—that provides the interiors with an enhanced sense of porosity and abundant natural light. The space feels like an expansive pavilion, with extensive sightlines throughout and soft illumination permeating the adjacent reading rooms, studios, and bookstacks. It also transforms over the course of a day, accommodating workshops, social gatherings, exhibits, and public events.
Just off the atrium’s main level are the children’s literature area and an enclosed, temperature-controlled room that houses the library’s special collections, which consists of rare texts dating back to the 15th century, a rich selection of fine arts volumes, and more. Computers, quiet reading areas, a dedicated teen zone, and makerspaces are available for use on the second floor, as well as lounge seating along the perimeter’s full height glazing that offers occupants unobstructed views of the adjoining Lincoln Park and surrounding neighborhood.
With an expansive wood-framed “porch” that greets the community, a diverse set of interior spaces and activities, and a name that pays homage to the local native and famed athlete known for the power of her serves and volleys, the Billie Jean King Main Library is an inviting beacon for the City of Long Beach.