Best Public Library - 2005
St. Louis Public Library, Schlafly Branch
In case you haven't graced one since your mom let you pick out ten board books a week, libraries have changed, my friend. No longer just a hushed room holding books and well-thumbed copies of National Geographic (the only sanctioned nudity kids ever saw, back in the day), they're now, by necessity, competing pretty well with the layout and amenities of the ubiquitous upscale book chain. For all the ways it's the epitome of the modern library, we love the St. Louis Public Library's Schlafly Branch. First, there's the location: on a busy corner in the Central West End, easy to fit into an afternoon stroll around the neighborhood's other hotspots. The location was conceived as a way to -- gasp! -- make use of the street level of a new parking garage that went up in 2002. Where else can you go to devour Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants and then, for comparison's sake, trot next door to a movie theater to check out the film version? Floor-to-ceiling windows cover the perimeter, providing a great vantage point onto the street theater that is Euclid at Lindell. Inside, sleek, modern furniture offers comfy seating, even in the kids' area, which looks like a small IKEA amphitheater. But what really puts Schlafly over the top among local libraries is the breadth of its special events: From a discussion series on the theme "Your Heart's Desire: Sex and Love in Jewish Literature" to signings and appearances by visiting authors at nearby Left Bank Books to a wizard punk-rock concert by Harry and the Potters, this branch offers the baddest-ass lineup in the area.