Though Freelance Austin meetings are connected by a theme, monthly meetings don’t always follow the same format. This month, we took a field trip to Austin’s new Central Library for a special guided tour.

Austin Public Library (APL) research librarian Meg Holle led our select group through all six of the library’s floors before providing a hands-on session searching online resources. Here’s what we learned:

10 Things Freelancers Will Enjoy about Austin’s Central Library

  1. Yes, there is parking.

(Isn’t this anyone’s No. 1 question about venturing into downtown Austin these days?) The parking garage entrance is off West St., on the library site, and a sign signals whether any of the 140 public parking spaces are available. Holle pointed out that pricing was “affordably competitive” (make it too cheap, and non-patrons will crowd out library goers). If the lot is full, she suggested street parking plus the Gables and Seaholm garages, next to Trader Joe’s, as good options.

Link to library parking rates and info:

  1. One day, you’ll be able to savor a cup of coffee at the library.

But not yet. The second floor’s Cookbook Café will be offering menu items based on library events and cookbook collections. No date yet for when you can sit outside and enjoy a snack and some joe, but keep checking.

Link to library map:

  1. Hold your client meeting at the library.

APL’s Central Library has two resources for meetings. Shared learning rooms seat four, eight and ten people; they even accommodate video conferencing. There’s no fee; any of the 14 shared learning rooms can be occupied for as long as two hours and, though reservations aren’t required, booked two weeks in advance. The Central Library also has meeting rooms, which have certain usage restrictions and more formal registration (those gatherings, for example, must be open to the public).

Link to shared learning room info:

  1. Know before you go: the second floor is the main floor.

The Central Library’s first floor houses its special events center (you can rent that!) and one floor of the parking garage. On the second floor, you’ll meet author Sarah Bird’s hologram, pick up items placed on hold, and return due books (book drops, which automatically scan and check in deposited items, are located at each of the library’s three entrances; the exterior book drop is off 2nd St.). But get this—you can check out books on any of the library’s six floors! Special self-serve express checkout kiosks are conveniently scattered throughout the building.

Link to renting special events center:

  1. Test out some technology.

Want to try working on a Google Chromebook? Interested in seeing an actual 3D printer? Curious about the latest in video games or virtual reality? In addition to using the 142 desk Macs and PCs throughout the building, APL cardholders can check out MacBooks and Chromebooks for onsite use from kiosks. On the fourth floor, patrons can interact and marvel at the “Technology Petting Zoo,” which provides hands-on interaction with gadgets. You can even borrow binoculars from the third floor Children’s Desk.

  1. Get some good Austin skyline shots.

Need some ATX-flavored social media images? The Central Library provides access to amazing cityscapes (hence those loaner binoculars). Third and fourth floor screened-in reading porches provide great views, but the rooftop terrace is truly breathtaking. In addition to panoramic scenes of Lady Bird Lake and the Long Center, there’s a wonderful perspective of Shoal Creek’s new public art installations. Another worthy backdrop—the native plant garden nestled under the city’s largest downtown solar panel installation.

Link to public art at Central Library:

  1. Immerse yourself in the latest periodicals.

Magazines, newspapers, and more fill the fourth floor’s special collection area. Grab a pair of headphones to check out music via the listening stations lining the room’s perimeter under framed posters from Austin’s historic Armadillo World Headquarters.

  1. Find a quiet spot to focus.

The fourth floor reading room, adjacent to the special collection and full of desks, natural light, and folks working diligently (and silently), is the quietest spot in the building. The two screened-in porches contain comfortable casual seating, and the sixth floor’s “Living Room”–where the monthly craft program and book clubs meet—is cozily furnished with clusters of tables, lamps, and upholstered chairs.

  1. Take an art break.

The demonstration area (first floor, just inside the entrance) showcases events from puppet shows to cooking demos. The second floor gallery displays local artwork; Recycled Reads, the Central Library’s gift shop, hosts readings; and musical events—Austin Community Guitar Trio and the Austin Symphony, to name two this month—brighten holiday evenings.

Link to library events calendar:

  1. Do some awesome research.

Whether you physically go to the new Central Library or opt to work in jammies from home, APL has an amazing wealth of online research resources to assist any project. Our Freelance Austin guided tour included hands-on training on how to hone information searches and access the virtual library databases available to all cardholders.

The best resource we encountered? Knowledgeable and dedicated librarians, such as Meg Holle, who genuinely want patrons to access the best resources possible.

Link to online resources:

Leah Nyfeler