“America’s Biggest Library”

A colleague shared a link to an interesting story on Banoosh with this intriguing headline: “Abandoned Walmart Now America’s Biggest Library

The story is about a closed Wal-mart in McAllen, Texas being remodeled into a public library. Here’s the key paragraph:

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.

Seeing the two key qualifiers in that sentence–”single-floor” and “public”–I was ready to blame the headline writer. But, oops, backing up a sentence, we get:

But at least one of those buildings has been transformed into something arguably much more useful: the nation’s largest library.

No qualifiers. The nation’s largest library. Which caused my BS-meter to go straight into the red zone.

I can pretty much guarantee that there are dozens of academic libraries with more than 124,500 square feet of space, and that the Library of Congress has a whole bunch more space than that.

As for public libraries? Well, as fate other research would have it, I had a handy copy of the IMLS FY2010 Public Library Outlet dataset on hand (the Outlet dataset includes all branches and bookmobiles; I use the other report, that’s just libraries and systems, for most of my research). That dataset includes square footage.

McAllen would appear to be the 72nd largest public library building in the U.S., assuming no other huge libraries have been built since 2010. There’s a little library about 462 miles from McAllen, but still in Texas, that’s a little more than five times as large (Dallas Public at 646,753 square feet) and one 225 miles away that’s 1.9 times as large (San Antonio PL at 238,000 square feet).

Not putting down the McAllen project: That’s a great use of reclaimed space and a good-size public library. But the largest library or biggest library? Not even close, not even in Texas.

For obsessives only

Here’s the list, from largest down (click on the post title to get the sidebar out of the way, although it’s still gonna be wide…)

STABR LIBNAME CITY SQ_FEET
MA BOSTON PUBLIC LIBRARY BOSTON 970,000
IL CHICAGO PUBLIC LIBRARY CHICAGO 756,000
NY STEPHEN A. SCHWARZMAN BUILDING NEW YORK 660,000
TX DALLAS PUBLIC LIBRARY DALLAS 646,733
OH CINCINNATI AND HAMILTON COUNTY, PL OF CINCINNATI 544,202
CA CENTRAL LIBRARY LOS ANGELES 538,802
CO DENVER PUBLIC LIBRARY DENVER 538,350
CA DR. MARTIN LUTHER KING, JR. LIBRARY SAN JOSE 475,000
WI MILWAUKEE PUBLIC LIBRARY MILWAUKEE 457,919
MI DETROIT PUBLIC LIBRARY DETROIT 420,000
NY BUFFALO & ERIE COUNTY PUBLIC LIBRARY SYSTEM BUFFALO 403,000
DC MARTIN LUTHER KING JR. MEMORIAL LIBRARY WASHINGTON 400,000
CA MAIN LIBRARY SAN FRANCISCO 376,000
IN ALLEN COUNTY PUBLIC LIBRARY FORT WAYNE 367,000
WA CENTRAL LIBRARY SEATTLE 362,987
MN CENTRAL LIBRARY MINNEAPOLIS 353,000
MD ENOCH PRATT CENTRAL BALTIMORE 349,713
TN MEMPHIS PUBLIC LIBRARY AND INFORMATION CENTER MEMPHIS 330,000
FL ALVIN SHERMAN LIBRARY, RESEARCH & INFORMATION TECHNOLOGY CTR FORT LAUDERDALE 325,000
OH CLEVELAND PUBLIC LIBRARY CLEVELAND 324,450
NJ BAYONNE FREE PUBLIC LIBRARY BAYONNE 307,560
OH TOLEDO-LUCAS COUNTY PUBLIC LIBRARY TOLEDO 302,693
FL MAIN LIBRARY JACKSONVILLE 300,000
NY BROOKLYN PUBLIC LIBRARY BROOKLYN 300,000
TN NASHVILLE PUBLIC LIBRARY NASHVILLE 300,000
FL ORLANDO PUBLIC LIBRARY ORLANDO 295,000
PA FREE LIBRARY OF PHILADELPHIA PHILADELPHIA 286,556
AZ BURTON BARR CENTRAL LIBRARY PHOENIX 280,000
OH COLUMBUS METROPOLITAN LIBRARY COLUMBUS 279,200
TX HOUSTON PUBLIC LIBRARY HOUSTON 268,663
GA AFPL – CENTRAL LIBRARY ATLANTA 265,155
FL BROWARD COUNTY MAIN LIBRARY FORT LAUDERDALE 256,000
NY SCIENCE, INDUSTRY AND BUSINESS LIBRARY NEW YORK 250,000
SC RICHLAND COUNTY PUBLIC LIBRARY COLUMBIA 242,000
UT SALT LAKE CITY PUBLIC LIBRARY HEADQUARTERS SALT LAKE CITY 240,000
TX SAN ANTONIO PUBLIC LIBRARY SAN ANTONIO 238,000
AL BIRMINGHAM PUBLIC – CENTRAL DOWNTOWN LIBRARY BIRMINGHAM 229,800
NY QUEENS BOROUGH PUBLIC LIBRARY JAMAICA 217,750
FL MAIN LIBRARY, MIAMI-DADE PUBLIC LIBRARY SYSTEM MIAMI 200,000
NY ROCHESTER PUBLIC LIBRARY ROCHESTER 200,000
MO CENTRAL LIBRARY ST. LOUIS 190,870
KS TOPEKA AND SHAWNEE COUNTY PUBLIC LIBRARY TOPEKA 178,600
MO CENTRAL LIBRARY KANSAS CITY 175,000
TX FORT WORTH LIBRARY FORT WORTH 175,000
KY LOUISVILLE FREE PUBLIC LIBRARY LOUISVILLE 167,031
IL SCHAUMBURG TOWNSHIP DISTRICT LIBRARY SCHAUMBURG 166,501
CA SACRAMENTO CENTRAL LIBRARY SACRAMENTO 160,000
NY MID-MANHATTAN LIBRARY NEW YORK 159,880
NC CHARLOTTE MECKLENBURG LIBRARY CHARLOTTE 156,000
MI GRAND RAPIDS PUBLIC LIBRARY GRAND RAPIDS 153,000
MA WORCESTER PUBLIC LIBRARY WORCESTER 150,000
PA CARNEGIE LIBRARY OF PITTSBURGH PITTSBURGH 148,845
IN EVANSVILLE-VANDERBURGH PUBLIC LIBRARY EVANSVILLE 147,500
LA NEW ORLEANS PUBLIC LIBRARY NEW ORLEANS 146,902
FL JOHN F. GERMANY PUBLIC LIBRARY TAMPA 145,061
CA SAN DIEGO CENTRAL LIBRARY SAN DIEGO 144,560
AK Z. J. LOUSSAC LIBRARY ANCHORAGE 140,000
IL GAIL BORDEN PUBLIC LIBRARY DISTRICT ELGIN 139,980
NY NEW YORK PUBLIC LIBRARY FOR THE PERFORMING ARTS, NEW YORK 138,384
LA JEFFERSON PARISH LIBRARY METAIRIE 135,777
CA MAIN LIBRARY LONG BEACH 135,000
CA PASADENA CENTRAL LIBRARY PASADENA 135,000
CT HARTFORD PUBLIC LIBRARY HARTFORD 135,000
IN MONROE COUNTY PUBLIC LIBRARY BLOOMINGTON 135,000
OK CENTRAL LIBRARY TULSA 135,000
IL SKOKIE PUBLIC LIBRARY SKOKIE 133,190
AR CENTRAL ARKANSAS LIBRARY LITTLE ROCK 132,000
IL ARLINGTON HEIGHTS MEMORIAL LIBRARY ARLINGTON HEIGHTS 132,000
CA BEALE MEMORIAL LIBRARY BAKERSFIELD 128,165
OR CENTRAL LIBRARY PORTLAND 125,000

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