The Urban Library as Magnet for Economic Development


Exterior of the Rockville Library at Night by Montgomery County Public Libraries, MD

Recently, Tod Newcombe, GOVERNING’s editor and columnist for Urban Notebook, pointed out that libraries anchoring new development have taken hold. “Library executives and developers notice that putting a library into mixed use retail and residential areas brings numerous advantages. In Rockville, Md., a $352 million redevelopment project in the downtown district includes 644 condominiums, 180,000 square feet of retail and restaurant space, and a new public library — Montgomery County’s largest. Developers like having libraries in their developments for the visitors they bring and because libraries don’t compete with local businesses.”

Today’s urban library branches are situated in malls and other high-traffic locations, bringing more people into the library, and by extension, bringing more people to the shops. These libraries may not invoke the romantic feeling of Pittsburgh’s Carnegie Library or New York City’s 42nd Street Branch, but they do project the purpose and power of a user-friendly and accessible public space. Rockville Branch Library patrons agree:

“Free parking, free wifi. At the heart of Rockville Town Center. What’s not to love? I love hanging out in here.”

“A great library in a fun location.”

“Stunning architecture and comfortable seats. It’s my favorite part of the newish Rockville Town Square.”

Yelp reviews for Rockville Branch, Montgomery County Library


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