New Library Opened To The Public
By Richard Glaczier - Daily Herald Staff Writer
An atmosphere for relaxed study, and even inspiration, is embodied in the new Gulfport-Harrison County Library which opened this week.
The facility, constructed at an estimated cost of $892,000 by the city and county, overlooks the Gulf of Mexico at the foot of 21st avenue, the same site from which the statue of Capt. Joseph T. Jones, founder of Gulfport, faces the state’s first port.
This refreshing new building was planned and designed from conception to serve not only as a receptacle for literature, but as cultural center to raise its patrons to a greater enjoyment of and fulfillment from the knowledge of the ages.
Approaching the main entrance on 21st avenue, the visitor is faced with a facade of white columns ending in arched caps under the overhang of the two-story flat roof and exterior walls of gray glass and exposed quartz aggregate panels.
"the objective was not to design a solely regional (southern) nor solely contemporary building," Charles L. Proffer, architect, said. "we wanted to make a building to inspire all of the arts."
Entering the foyer, the eye lands first on the spiral stair leading to the second floor, then roams upward to the two story area overlooked by balconies from the reading areas. Interest is added by sculptured metal leaf hanging light fixtures.
Beyond the stair, which offers a relaxing reading area beneath, surrounded by potted artificial plants, is the central circulation desk where books from all departments are checked out and returned.
To the right of the foyer is the magazine and newspaper area. Elsewhere on the first floor is the non-fiction stacks, reference section, Mississippi history department and a separate, glass-enclosed children’s department.
This latter features a carpeted floor for quietness and offering informal seating space for the youthful patrons of this department. Shelving here is low, adapted to the smaller size of its users, and the lighting, as throughout the new facility, is specially suited to reading.
Also on the first floor are the 75-seat auditorium, staff offices and bookmobile work room. The rear entrance features a rock garden beneath the staircase, keyed to a small, flowing fountain lighted with colored spot.
Ascending to the second floor by either the stairs or by elevator, the visitor is met by a wide expanse of the fiction area, fine arts section, language labs, music library and back-issue magazine files.
Here, even more than on the first floor, reading areas are laid out to offer a very quiet, pleasant atmosphere for study or relaxation. Tables and chairs are located in every section of the library for comfort and Convenience.
Of particular interest are study desks and benches located next to the south-side windows where patrons are offered an excellent view of the small craft harbor and port.
In the southeast corner of the second floor is the separate law library which will house the 9,000 - volume collection for the use of the county’s attorneys. This library, presently housed in the office of Oscar Ladner, is valued at over $65,000 and maintained at an annual cost of $7,000 to $8,000. The third largest such collection in the state, it is financed by a $1.50 of the initial filing fee of every suit filed in a court of record in Harrison County. Mr. Ladner said this library is up to date on every topic of law and contains primarily records of every case filed in appellate courts in this country up through the U.S. Supreme Court.
Also on the second floor are the administrative offices, staff lounge and a large work area.
The two-story, fully air conditioned building was designed for the furtherment of all the arts, to provide patrons with every advantage of a modern library and yet remain flexible for new developments in library science. Of course, Mr. Proffer noted, functionality and safety were of primary concern in the design.
Five years of study went into the plan, he said, beginning with a thorough self-education in the fundamental aspects of library science and requirements. Visits to libraries in various parts of the country were a part of this task, he said.
Sculpture, flowing lines and open spaces embodying a light, airy atmosphere were given prime places in the design. The antebellum aspects of regional design were brought out in the columns and flared caps while sculptured walls and large glass areas carry forth the contemporary scheme.
The pool at the main entrance, bridged by a concrete ramp, and the rear entrance rock garden were included in the plan to serve as a transition from the world of grass and pavement outside to the modulated interior.
The architecture, color schemes, furnishings and interior design were coordinated by Mr. Proffer and Zondel Katz, interior decorator, both of Gulfport.
Sculptured walls and posts, carpets, draperies and furniture were all worked into the final result.
Sculptured walls in the children’s and law libraries, hand-fired sculptured tiles on the interior columns, patterned block walls in the auditorium and on the mechanical penthouse on the roof and a quasi-Aztec design on the ribbon frieze at the roof line all contribute to the modulated effect mentioned by Proffer.
The flowing lines of the circular stair, two-story foyer and hanging fixtures also complement this effect.
The law library, planned to set a pace for the attorneys who will be its prime patrons, is designed with a rugged, masculine scheme, colors being primarily in browns.
The children’s library. however, carries out a subdued scheme from the rest of the library to set a mood more conducive to younger minds.
Other features of the library include central monitoring and control of lights and air conditioning, piped music and public address system, separate intercom system and rest rooms.
Among comments made by visitors Monday, the first day the facility was open to the public, included: "this is exquisite." "i can’t get over it. all this is the library?" "...an improvement." "wow!"
George Thatcher of Gulfport, president of the city county library board, stated, "this building sets a new and lofty standard of cultural excellence which i hope will be continued in future buildings, both public and private."
"to the thousands of motorists who pass this site each day this new library will convey that here is a people who value cultural and literary as well as economic progress
"although this building is situated in gulfport, strategically located to serve all the people of harrison county, everybody :in the county can share the pride of having readily available one of the finest libraries in the nation."
Dedication of the building is tentatively scheduled for later this month or early August in order to arrange for the attendance of Joe Stewart, executor of the estate of Mrs. Grace Stewart from which the property was obtained.