The San Antonio Central Library

The most untraditional building in the San Antonio public library system is its central branch. The San Antonio Central Library has been providing it’s community with a colorful place to visit since it opened in May of 1995. This $38 million dollar structure has six floors totaling about 240,000 square feet. 1300 patrons and staff can be seated in this massive library. The building project took almost two years to complete.

Residents pondered the color of its exterior during the construction of the Central Library which was designed by internationally known architect Ricardo Legoretta. So much so, that the San Antonio Express News ran a contest to name the color. Many lively entries were received such as: Shake-Me, Wake-Me, I-Lay-In-The-Sun-Too-Long-And-It-Baked-Me-Red; Red All About It; and, Hot Tamale. However, the winning entry – Enchilada Red – precisely described the building’s red hue.

However, it’s not just the outside of the Big Enchilada (the nickname coined by some local San Antonians) that sparks awe. Interior design team Ford, Powell, and Carson, Inc. masterfully designed most aspects of the interior, from the furniture down to the flooring. Many furnishings were custom designed and contain beautiful materials such as maple and solid stone. In the foyer is a 36 foot mural which depicts San Antonio’s history. Also housed inside the library are sculptures and part of the Hertzberg Circus Collection. A gallery displays photographs, paintings, and other works of art, which are changed monthly. The walls are painted a variety of bright colors and expansive windows and strategically placed skylights make reading a pleasure.

And there is certainly plenty to read. The San Antonio Central Library has fiction and non-fiction books, media, and magazines, just like most public libraries do. But this branch also owns special collections that are reflective of the city’s rich culture. There is an extensive Latino collection that includes specialized journals, folklore, and Chicano literature. The Texana and Genealogy section has over 30,000 books. And that is just a small fraction of the over 1/2 million volumes available at this branch.

So, make sure to check out the Central library of San Antonio. It is possible to spend an entire day there reading or admiring the many attractions. Perhaps first Lady Laura Bush best summed why this library is worth visiting. During the centennial celebration of the San Antonio public library system in 2003 Mrs. Bush said, “Today, the Central Library is a modern architectural masterpiece that inspires readers of all ages. And it continues to fulfill the founder’s vision that libraries foster the mind, the body, and the spirit.”

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