WHERE CENTURIES of thought meet racks of pop culture. Where cacophonous conversation shatters long-revered silence. Where five stories of glass illuminate thousands of books, and transparent elevators accent brick, concrete and steel. Unconventional, wide-eyed, daring, this is the new main Salt Lake City Public Library, and director Nancy Tessman is the visionary behind it.
As the head of the Salt Lake City Public Library System, Nancy Tessman has been the catalyst for the multimillion-dollar reinvention of downtown's new main branch. But more than a stunning architectural feat -- a welcome challenge to Salt Lake's sedate cityscape -- the new library is a philosophical statement, one that reflects Tessman's personal approach to life.
"Often in the past, libraries were elitist, passive. Some people preferred the old murky feeling, but don't believe that's the healthiest way to exchange ideas. Learning is not singularly an inward process but an outward one. Even the windows are intended to create an outward vantage. Here, people feel vitalized, and that's important to our community," says Tessman.
And what matters to the community matters to Tessman. From early focus groups to recent input from business groups such as the Vest Pocket Coalition and the Downtown Alliance, Tesaman has insisted that public insight guide each phase of the library's evolution.
The result is a benchmark accomplishment, one that has generated significant attention from library and city planners around the country, Innovative approaches, such as partnering with Salt Lake Roasting Company and Night Flight Comics to offer retail services, are at the forefront of national library development.
"KCPW's studio, Salt Lake Film Society's center, the cafe, shops, they're all complementary to what the library does. Those ideas are breaking ground in terms of the collaboration between libraries...