by ORIN ANNE HEIDELBERG
Opened on November 12, 2005 as the final library project in the Better Jacksonville Plan, the Jacksonville Public Library’s Main Branch stands in the heart of Downtown on North Laura Street, across from City Hall and Hemming Plaza. Designed by Robert A.M. Stern Architects, the Main Library is the largest public library in the state at more than 300,000 square feet. With its specialized reading rooms and grand Downtown views, the library is an oasis of information and a respite from the everyday bustle. In addition to access to hundreds of computers and an extensive collection of books and other materials, the Main Library is home to a variety of curious artifacts and exceptional spots that make it a Downtown treasure worth exploring again and again.
The Morris Ansbacher Map Room – Fourth Floor
Visiting the Morris Ansbacher Map Room is like touring the private collection of a legendary adventurer. The soaring walls are crammed with framed selections from the Lewis Ansbacher Map Collection. These antiquarian maps of Florida and Florida cities, North and South America, and the world include both historical views and plates focusing on northern Florida. Many of these maps are heavily illustrated and feature early, sometimes inaccurate renderings of Florida and the United States. The silhouette of Florida is strangely stubby in many maps and several depict California as a lonely little island. One could spend hours studying the minutiae of each map, but it’s also a great place to sit with a laptop and soak up some historical ambiance.
The Big Orange Couch, Teen Department – First Floor
If the Main Library itself is an oasis of information, the Teen Department is an oasis of cool. Located on the first floor, this teens-only lounge is a spot where young people can read, use the internet, listen to music and attend free programs like Gaming Night or Anime Club. Arguably, the focal point of the Teen Department is an oversized orange couch that could comfortably accommodate a family of giants. Teens can sprawl out on the couch, feet dangling, and read or study in an atmosphere that is equal parts enriching and awesome. Browse a list of upcoming programs and events at www.jaxpubliclibrary.org/teens/MAIN-teen.html.
Center for Adult Learning – Conference Level
Visitors to the Center for Adult Learning’s (CAL) lobby will notice a six-foot dry erase board crowded with scribbled updates on CAL students’ achievements and more. The brief notes are milestones that might otherwise be overlooked. The Center for Adult Learning serves struggling readers and English language learners and provides Spanish-language orientation to refugees. CAL is a vital local resource, offering information and tools to assist individuals with reading fundamentals, family literacy and volunteering. Equipped with these skills, CAL students and their families are poised to contribute their best to the community. Learn more about CAL or find out how to become a volunteer here: www.jaxpubliclibrary.org/lib/adult_learning.html
The Florida Collection – Fourth Floor
The Florida Collection is a reference collection of materials on Florida with an emphasis on Northeast Florida and Jacksonville. It is one of the largest collections of its type in a public library in Florida. The collection consists of roughly 20,000 cataloged books and pamphlets, and also includes manuscripts, photographs, postcards, periodicals, microfilm and documents dating back to the 1600s. Subject areas featured in the collection include history, flora and fauna, biographies, travel, economics and government.
The Terry Children’s Theater – Second Floor
A component of the Children’s Library, the Terry Children’s Theater is home to numerous children’s programs and activities. Some say the theater resembles a screened-in porch, complete with Florida wildlife and – here’s the best part – an animatronic feature named Mrs. Owl. Designed by Jacksonville’s own Sally Corporation, Mrs. Owl perches in the corner of the theater and rules the roost as she reads to kids and parents during storytime activities.
Analytiques – Second Floor Courtyard, Duval Street Exterior
Analytiques is a fancy word for any architectural detail that fosters the character of a building. Located in the courtyard on the second floor of the Main Library and on the outside of the Main Library along Duval Street, the analytiques honor the historic buildings formerly located on the site of the Main Library. Each analytique contains stonework from the Rhodes-Futch Collins Building and the South Atlantic Investment Building as well as the Buckman and Ulman Buildings.