Innovation Spotlight – Las Vegas Public Library

One of the things I do in my position with RPL is work with a couple of my colleagues to write content for our internal staff e-newsletter.  One week, we write an “RPL Update” which talks about some of the latest happenings at our library then.  Every second week, we write an “Innovation Spotlight” which features a unique library or library service somewhere else out there in libraryland.  

I thought it might be fun to give a sample of the type of things we write so here's the one I submitted for this week…

Innovation Spotlight – Las Vegas Central Library
As some of you know, I recently had the opportunity to take a brief holiday in Las Vegas. Curious about what a former Library Journal “Library of the Year” winner would be like, I took time out from the buffets and souvenir stands of the Strip to venture downtown to their Central Library. Las Vegas’ Central Library is located in the heart of downtown, one block south of the famous Fremont Street Experience. The first thing you notice as you approach their Central Library is that it fits right in with the Vegas motif – narrow bands of neon wrap around the four-story building and large illuminated neon books glow orange and green and red above the main entrance. 

When you walk in the front door, you realize that the Vegas theme doesn’t just apply to the outside of the building. The book return slots are shaped like slot machines, the information desk has the green felt of a poker table and the children’s area has bean bag chairs that look like casino chips. Throughout the library are paintings of notable people from Vegas’ history – everyone from Elvis Presley to Nicolas Cage in his Oscar-winning “Leaving Las Vegas” role to Siegfried & Roy’s white tigers. When I booked time to check my e-mail, I was surprised to see that the default home page for the library featured ads for PartyPoker.net – a gambling site which I assume has some sort of a sponsorship agreement with the library. 

Moving to the back of the building, you see something that you’ll probably never see in any other library in the world – a single bank of slot machines set-off from the rest of the library in a glass paneled room. I talked to one staff member who told me the original plan was to have them for display only but patrons kept trying to play on them so the library decided not to fight it. They applied for a special one-off casino license with the state and now the slot machines contribute a significant sum to the library’s budget every year. Because this has been so successful, the library is looking at expand on this experiment by building a book themed hotel and casino in a vacant lot across the street.   

I have photos on Flickr of some of this library's most innovative aspects.  You really have to see them to believe it!

Jason Hammond

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