Tag Archives: Reviews

Library Review – Mill Valley

Postcard showing view of Mill Valley, Californ...
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You know when you meet someone or go to a place (bar / restaurant / hotel) for the first time and you just like them / it?  They could drool or might not carry your favorite condiment but you’d explain it away as something eclectically cool.  “They don’t carry mustard here because it changes the taste response of their Norwegian yeast”.   Well, thats what I do for the Mill Valley Library.  Winner chicken dinner!

I only spent an afternoon here so I don’t have the details like some of the others, but here is the net net.  Go.  Period.  After one date (ie. a 2 hour session), I’d recommend this place to anyone.  Here’s why….

Its located at the base of Mount Tamalpais, thru downtown Mill Valley.  Parking is decent, although as far as suburbs go I’m sure some would complain (I had to circle once to find a spot….I know, rough).  The building is surrounded by huge mature douglas firs.  Its a very natural setting and the building sort of blends in.  I’m not an architect but I’d say there’s some Craftsmen influences involved.  They did a fantastic job ensuring the trees felt included in the function of the building.

Window seat to the forest

Window seat to the forest

Ambience

When you walk in, its almost like an A-frame lodge in Yosemite or something.  Huge ceiling, big beams, well lit and then you notice the trees almost immediately.   They have these large floor to ceiling windows that really opens the place up.  You almost feel like you’re in a giant tree house.  After a quick scope, I broke towards the big tables to the left.  Lots of big tables in the middle (maybe 10).  I settled on a spot near a window (my airplane and restaurant seating preference).

Functionality

Another floor plug configuration, get on those knees!  I couldn’t even pretend to do the seated reach down, thats how deep it was.  Standard wooden chair so I’m currently debating if I bring my own cushion like a 90 yr old man, eat more fat, or always wear biking shorts.  Great lighting, lots of natural white creating some natural energy to get stuff done.  There was some chi going on in here people!  Wireless worked well, never noticed a  glitch.  Plenty of room to put my stuff without feeling concerned someone would squeeze next to me.

Clientelle

Mostly middle aged folks with some artistic nuances and a couple “youngish professionals” (late 30s – early 40s) with macs.   Lots of laptops and probably a handful of moms with tikes.  Its not a set of people that would make you stop typing and stare unfortunately.  Sadly I miss those people.  But, you’ll get stuff done and won’t have to worry  about someone inappropriately “loud whispering” to you about what WIFI means (this happened at the SF main library). Its a pretty innocuous group.

Bright white

Bright white

Random notes

No one is checking books folks, no one.

Food options are a 15 minute walk into town.  Once there you’ve got a handful of options that are tasty – from flatbread goodness to burritos and sandos.

There is a river that runs past the back of the library.  For breaks, you can walk out the back and within about a minute can feel like you’re camping.  Seriously, I’m not joking.  Huge trees, a running stream, and that smell of outdoors you can only get driving 6 hours to the woods.  There are a couple places to sit and chill out.  Occasional drum circles may emerge, so don’t be afraid to hang it out.

Wait, I wrote this whole thing being positive.  Thats how good this place is.  If it can change me it can change you.

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Library Review – The Anza Branch

My introduction to this blog here as sort of background.

My first review is of my neighborhood library, the Anza Branch.   I’ve traveled to Rome, Paris, Berlin, Annecy, but this place….it takes the breath away, as you shudder the thought of having to enter the facility.  Ok, that wasn’t fair, but seriously, look at it!

Anza Library Front

Anza Library Front

This library takes me roughly 5 minutes to get to and thus is my home turf.  Although is it still your turf if you’re willing to deny its existence?  Regardless, it holds the core of my requirements which are, a quiet place to sit, a place to plug my computer, and free wireless.

So onto the review!

Lets be clear, this place is situated on 38th and Geary which is somewhere between Fresno and Bakersfield to use a central valley analogy.  No one really wants to stop and hang out around here, unless you’re running out of gas or have family there.  Its usually foggy, its littered with single family homes with cement “lawns”, and very few smile.  But its nice, people are quiet, its essentially a suburb within the city.  The community is mostly families of chinese and russian descent, for those keeping score.

Ambience

The moment you walk you are underwhelmed.  Its really hard to describe.  Its small.  Most homes in Presidio Heights would dwarf the place.  Boxy would be another term.  I’m almost positive that most interior decorators of DMVs would raise their noses at this place.  Lofty ceilings with strange american indian inspired art (I think), curtains commonly found in prisons, no color…let me be blunt, its pretty drab.  I’m not sure what the inspiration was for the architecture of the building but my guess is Mr. Reid said “f*ck it, just build it and go home”.

There are 3 tables to sit at.  There might be more but I choose to go with what is presented right in front of me.  Its literally a box best described with a photo.

The DMV punked this place

The DMV punked this place

There is very little “energy” happening in here so anyone looking for it should not attempt finding it.  German’s may thrive here, I don’t know.  From the above photo you pretty much walk 10 paces and to the left and front are 3 tables.  Enjoy.

Functionality

The seating is spacious, so you don’t have to rub elbows with some 47 year old who is still living with his mom.  The table is big enough so if someone dares to sit across from you, chances are your feet *gasp* won’t touch.  The chairs are a disaster.  Literally within minutes I’m reminded that I have no natural padding.  I don’t know who to blame for this, possibly my father, but honestly, the shifting going on here is borderline turrets.

Comfortable?

Comfortable?

The power supply is on the floor so you should stretch before arriving or prepare to get on your knees.  The floors probably haven’t been cleaned since Nixon.   Once plugged, seated, and ready, the rest is dressing.

Even though there are maybe 2 or 3 laptop users in the building, the wireless connection was spotty.  I’m sure it was the chinese gamer behind me with some bittorrent download going.  It was mildly annoying at times, but functional.

Clientelle

How to describe?  Lets see, its mostly handicapped elderly if thats ok to say (meaning lots of limping, shuffling and confusion), chinese math wizards with giant oversized backpacks, and that segment of society that has no real tag per se, you know…..wearing some wacked out 10 year old jacket, walks with a very slow gate, wanderer looking for eye contact (which someone did catch mine and yes, I got pulled into a coversation about my new fangled laptop — that is 3 years old — and how it has a transformer in it….awesome, thanks!), basically its that guy carrying a 30 times used brown bag of some sort and you hope to God they don’t sit next to you at all costs.

Location

The closest thing here is a laundramat.  There literally is nothing nearby so a snack or a coffee is not an option.  Its like going into the mountains, pack your stuff.

Random notes

The only people checking out books were 4 year olds.  Thank God the place is subsidized.

There is a reference librarian on call all day, just in case you need to find the letter R encyclopedia.  I have no idea what this person does except stare into a screen quietly.

I was impressed with the rule system for the bathrooms.

Terms and Conditions

Terms and Conditions

There were 25 books on psychology which I think is overkill for this community.

The good
Easy parking with no 2 hour limit or meters, never busy, lots of room to claim your space

The bad
Building energy, vibe and look, uncomfortable seating, spotty wireless, occasional weirdo lurking around, no food/drink nearby, depression

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Bay Area Library Review – Introduction

A modern-style library in Chambéry
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I’m currently unemployed.  This means I occasionally cry at commercials, laugh a little too long, and question my life’s meaning — all at the same time.

I have 2 small kids and live in a small place so when its time to “work”, I need to escape.  I will do coffee shop squatting from time to time, but thats a different post.  Lately I’ve been getting hooked on the library.  Yea, remember those things?  With the old ladies loitering around looking serious, the smell of aging paper, the occasional loud talker breaking the slience, no headphones, no laptops, no computers, just quiet……..hang on…..yea, thats right, quiet READING!

I’m going to write some reviews of several bay area libraries from the perspective of a young-ish professional who is an out of work, occasionally bored, easy going dude.

The list of libraries to date include:

San Francisco – Anza, Main, Presidio

San Carlos

Palo Alto

Sausalito

Tiburon/Belevedere

Mill Valley

I’ll break down each with pros and cons from a perspective that I’d want to read about.  So if you don’t like these reviews, chances are we won’t like each other.  No hard feelings, but you’re probably not smart.  My hope is, you’ll read this, chuckle a couple times yet come away sort of informed, even though you have zero reason to enter one of these God-forsaken-places.

So what to expect?  I’m going to break it down folks.  I’m giving you clientele perspectives, ergonomic reviews(are the chairs soft, what about power supply, tables too tall)? Can I look out a window at anything?  What about the wireless signal(when streaming last.fm, AIM, Twitter, youtube, and 10 websites all at once)? Any good food nearby?  And do you actually see people check out books?  I’ve got answers, psychological insight, I’m on your side.

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