Think Piece • April 22, 2024

Public Libraries, the Place to Experience and Appreciate Art

Art doesn’t just belong in museums. With a strong appreciation for all things creative and imaginative, public libraries are becoming the place for innovative forms of artistic expression. Modern libraries are finding new ways to communicate and inspire their communities with unique visual perspectives, where individual interpretation and ideation are encouraged. From wall-to-wall murals to interactive sculptures and unique aesthetics and architecture, today’s libraries are creative places featuring local art built to engage surrounding communities and redefine museum spaces.


Osceola Library System, Osceola, Florida

Local Osceola artist SKIP demonstrated his mastery of blending light and bright color in Day & Night, a new mural housed on the exterior walls of Hart Memorial Central Library, one of Osceola Library System’s branches in sunny central Florida. The mural represents the surrounding marine environment; a lighthouse catches a Great Blue Heron, kayaker, and fisherman. The scenery is subdued with big waves while birds fly off in the distance of the bright lighthouse beam. The fun, bright colors speak to the beachy Florida landscapes and subvert expectations of bland library walls void of color and life. It also highlights the local environment and provides a perfect photo opportunity for residents and cardholders coming in and out of Hart Memorial Central Library.    


Farmers Branch Manske Library, Farmers Branch, Texas

Looking to spruce up the interior of their facility, Farmers Branch Manske Library turned to an artistic vision. “We had these blank walls and we needed something to bring that wow factor,” said Farmers Branch city councilwoman Traci Williams. The popular Library sought to reinvent the building’s layout through a unique voice. Williams said what better way to get a “wow” than to put books on the walls. Seven thousand old and used books were secured to the wall surrounding the Library’s elevator. The tower of books was then painted by commissioned artist Mike Stilkey. Known for painting whimsical characters on books and other media, Stilkey set to work creating a multi-layered, multi-sided wonder for library patrons to enjoy inside the facility. The 20-foot-tall mural installation offers an inventive approach to library interiors.  


The Homestead Cybrarium, Homestead, Florida

At the forefront of innovation and contemporary ideation lies the Homestead Cybrarium, a 21st-century public space changing the game of what it means to be a public library. Its interactive sculpture, Book Mountain, encompasses the one-of-a-kind nature the Cybrarium proudly possesses. Rising from the first floor to a ceiling-high solar system, Book Mountain was designed, fabricated, and installed by the augmented reality (AR) international design exhibits firm, Taylor Studios, Inc. The Cybrarium and its users are wowed by the impressive sculpture’s presence. Along with Book Mountain, Homestead boasts a makerspace, children’s theater, virtual reality (VR) cube, and other key pieces of technology including 3D printing, all within the Library’s walls.


Escondido Public Library, Escondido, California

Local artist Julia Anthony’s colorful mural lives against the west exterior wall of Escondido Public Library near a busy street. Escondido’s Vision shows a girl reading on a hilltop patch of grass surrounded by native southern California plants; rolling hills and vineyards stretch behind her. The mural was commissioned by the Library, a beautiful showcase of local art in public spaces. “If I could send a message to the community,” Anthony says, “it would be that knowledge is power and we gain our knowledge from reading, hence why the Library is such an important feature in any city, but especially in Escondido.” Local residents appreciate Anthony’s artistic vision. “The community’s response has just been wonderful,” Anthony said. “There are so many people who would actually pull in with their cars and stop to talk to me and thank me for creating something so beautiful for the community. That’s always really rewarding when you’re creating something and it actually makes an impact.”


Riverside County Library System, California

Home to two museums, the Edward-Dean Museum and Gardens and the La Quinta Museum, sprawling Riverside County Library System (RCLS) in southern California boasts more than spaces for books and traditional library services. The Edward-Dean Museum & Gardens (EDM) is a historical home sitting on 16 acres and functions as one of RCLS’s spaces. The home was developed into a museum and gardens by antique dealers Edward Eberle and Dean Stout, who opened the facility to the public in 1958. The museum features late 16th to early 19th century European & Asian Decorative arts along with a research library containing 17th, 18th, and 19th century works on a variety of subjects. The gardens provide a beautiful backdrop for special events from weddings to parties. Another RCLS asset, the La Quinta Museum houses La Quinta’s history and cultural arts through displays on two floors. The Museum includes local history, revolving exhibits, dioramas, photos, and a community room features a 32-foot-long mural of La Quinta. The museum focuses on preserving the past, enriching the present, and enhancing the future for all generations. Both the Edward-Dean Museum and Gardens and the La Quinta Museum use their exhibits and spaces to demonstrate Riverside County Library System’s rich cultural and regional history that extend out into the community.


Park Central Library, Manassas Park, Virginia 

With a new library building in downtown Manassas Park, Virginia as part of a large local redevelopment project, the Park Central Library showcases modern library aesthetics, including an intricate wood wall treatment adjacent to the entryway. The wall offers an interesting design and features illuminated words of inspiration; architecture and interiors that are updated and spaces that are sleek, flexible and pleasing to patrons looking to enjoy contemporary facilities.


Camarillo Public Library, Camarillo, California

Close to the beach, mountains, and Los Angeles, Camarillo Public Library reflects the surrounding environment through its unique design and architecture. Featuring book-shaped columns, sunburst light fixtures, and cool-toned mosaics, the Library also boasts a room of bookshelves that models the interior of a submarine. Home to a large pirate ship inspired by Peter Pan, the Youth Services Department’s Discovery Zone provides a bit of whimsy and fun that stretches beyond typical children’s library spaces; the sunken ship holds bookshelves, functions as a great storytime setting, and offers creative respite for young Library users. With its clear artistic vision mirroring the beauty of coastal California, Camarillo Public Library’s stunning building enjoys various paintings, intricate tilework, a courtyard entryway with a fountain, and so much more.


Art in civic spaces showcases the beauty and uniqueness of everyday life and locality, so why not seek out public art in public libraries? More than just buildings filled with books, libraries are rife with expressions that emphasize the importance of the arts. Public art in public libraries highlight the creativity and imagination that makes a community unique.