Keith Snyder
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Phoenix library - a place for work

The main Phoenix Library is very big. The architecture is--if a little squarish--of the modern/grand/soaring variety. The stacks are capped at the ends by gently rounded perforated metal. Above them, more soaring: elliptical-section mountings for the louvered stack lights. Every other work table in the wide aisles has an electrical outlet, a desk lamp, and natural light through the giant windows. Light fills the space. Everywhere you look, interplay of light and angle.

Like everywhere.

Like if you want to read your computer screen comfortably, too bad. Most of this irritating visual clutter is brighter than your display.

And if you want to turn off the desk lamp, too bad. No switch.

And if you want to face away from the giant windows, too bad. Every work table faces it. The best you can do is find something partially behind a not-very-wide pillar.

And if you want to roam around for a while, looking for a place where the interplay of light and angle doesn't overpower your screen, too bad. Ain't no such place.

People using the library's own computers get a less hectic visual environment, near the middle of a floor, not so close to the big louver grid of the windows. But if you brought your own laptop, you have two choices:

1. Sit facing a gigantic window full of big horizontal and vertical metal things, your laptop hanging off the front of your work desk because the non-adjustable 2' wide desk lamp doesn't allow room for laptops to open completely. The non-adjustable desk lamp is also non-turn-offable and brighter than a laptop screen. Light from the windows reflects at you off every single one of the curved stack end caps--that's how curved reflectors work.

2. Sit at one of the tables that doesn't have a working desk lamp. The lack of a fluorescent bulb at point-blank range means a little less visual distraction, but you still can't open your laptop all the way, you're still facing the big busy window--and you don't get an electrical outlet.

It's a really pretty building. The 5-story elevator ride is fun to look at. The faux-industrial interior with its ridges and louvers and punched holes is, if not as modern as it thinks it is, at least making an attempt. But to whoever approved this as an actual place to work...

Thanks a hell of a lot.

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