Branch by Branch

CARVER (3.0 stars)

1161 Angelina, at Rosewood; 472-8954

FACILITY: Fairly large branch and bona fide neighborhood landmark next to Kealing Middle School. The predecessor structure, the old Austin "Colored Branch," now serves as the Carver Museum next door. The mural on the Rosewood side is fading, but the interior color scheme -- deep purple carpet and bright red furniture -- supplies all the visual stimulation you can handle, and all the furnishings are in excellent shape. The meeting room seats 105, and can be divided into three rooms. Parking, at least off-the-street, is notoriously inadequate.
COLLECTION: Strong points include reference, especially in terms of business. Carver houses the city's Quality Information Center, all the Total Quality Management books you could ever want, children's non-fiction, new books, large-print titles (with, it must be said, more Harlequin Romances in large print than at any location including Faulk), and periodicals (63 titles). As well, any materials about Africa and African America are probably best found at Carver, which (for example) maintains subscriptions to about a dozen academic journals in the field. Conversely, the adult non-fiction areas are weaker than at other branches, and the pickings in children's fiction are surprisingly slim and old. Has about 400 vinyl records, CDs, videos, books on tape.
SERVICES: Home to the lauded VICTORY program matching Eastside youth with volunteer tutor/mentors. Storytime for little kids twice a week, after-school programming for the older kids twice a week. In addition to the two Austin Free-Net workstations and two catalog terminals, Carver has seven computers for patron use.
AND... Carver was the Chronicle's "Best of Austin" winner for Best Branch Library in 1995. One of three branches open Sundays, 2--6pm.

DOVE SPRINGS (1.0 stars)

5405 S. Pleasant Valley Rd., at Stassney; 462-1452

FACILITY: The smallest branch, occupying two rooms in the Dove Springs Multi-Purpose Center, housed in a derelict strip mall. Parking is ample, but watch out for the Mother of All Potholes around the back. The furnishings are fairly minimal and worn-out. No meeting room.
COLLECTION: Mostly, Dove Springs is designed to serve local children, offering an okay gamut of both fiction and non-fiction, some in Spanish. The adult collection is almost non-existent and contains nothing not available elsewhere, but includes 33 periodical titles, eight in Spanish. No large print, no recordings, a few videos, a handful of new books.
SERVICES: Only open until 7pm on weekdays, as opposed to the 9pm closing of the rest of the system. Storytime for preschoolers every week, for toddlers every other week. Weekly book talk for grade-schoolers, along with a weekly science presentation by Austin Children's Museum for grades 1-8. Most of these services are bilingual. Also, on top of the two Free-net computers, there are five other machines without an obvious purpose, but no catalog terminal.
AND... Dove Springs is set for replacement by the planned Southeast Austin Branch, likely located in Montopolis, within the next three years.

GOVALLE (1.5 stars)

4704-A E. Cesar Chavez, between Springdale & US183; 385-2670.

FACILITY: Another fairly marginal branch, and in what's likely the strangest building. It looks like an old ranch house, broken up into a series of little rooms (an über-no-no in current library design), out in front of an "industrial park" constructed almost entirely of corrugated tin. Absolutely nothing on the outside would connotes that a library is within. Parking is okay, but not great. The interior is well-kept but cramped. The only reading table is in the kids' room, and the shelves tend to obscure the books. Not what you'd call user-friendly. Meeting room seats 25 people.
COLLECTION: The place to go if you want to learn Spanish, or if your first language is Spanish and you want to learn English. Govalle has a commendably deep and broad selection of Spanish-language materials of all kinds for all age levels. Kids' collection is good, both fiction and non-fiction; adult collection is average. Reference is very limited (though the Spanish-language reference items are relatively ample). No large print, no recordings, few videos. Decent array of periodicals, including an Australian astrology mag called Horoscope found nowhere else in the system.
SERVICES: Two Free-net computers, one OPAC terminal. One preschool storytime weekly.
AND... Govalle is set for replacement by the planned Zaragoza branch, at Seventh & Pleasant Valley, within the next three years.


835 W. Rundberg Ln., just west of Lamar; 836-8975

FACILITY: Hoppin' branch, one of the oldest in the system, attracts patrons from miles around. Sort of featureless on the inside, without any real division between kids' and adult areas; lots of places to sit, most of them not as comfortable as they could be. The orangest Longhorn-orange carpet you've ever seen. Parking isn't great, especially since there's no on-street parking on Rundberg, but the bus goes right to the front door. Two meeting rooms, seating 12 and 50 persons.
COLLECTION: One of the most solid in the branch system, with deep holdings for both kids and adults, fiction and non-fiction alike. An especially wide array of children's biographies -- 285 different subjects -- and young-adult novels, with all the hot series represented. Extensive large-print collection, good reference section, fair number of new books. More than 100 periodicals, including such esoterica as the Mayo Clinic Health Letter and the folk-music mag Sing Out! No records on vinyl.
SERVICES: Lots of catalog terminals, one PC in addition to the two from the Free-Net. Two storytimes a week for preschoolers and for toddlers; you need to get (free) tickets for both, since space is so limited.
AND... The farthest north of any branch between the freeways. One of three branches open Sundays, 2-6pm.

MANCHACA ROAD (3.5 stars)

5500 Manchaca Rd., at Stassney; 447-6651

FACILITY: Even more hoppin' than Little Walnut, though that should change with the opening of Oak Hill. Ultra-mod building with lots of angles that looks like a bank (even has a drive-through book drop), but surprisingly dark and cramped on the inside, especially with 100 or so patrons in attendance. Parking will be ample once the crowds diminish. Two meeting rooms, seating 17 and 75 people.
COLLECTION: Another strong set of materials in a de facto "regional" branch. Kids' fiction is okay, non-fiction is much better, again with lots of biographies (including some esoterics like Aldo Leopold and Elizabeth Dole). Adult materials are fine in both categories, reference is especially good, new books are about average, large print is somewhat above average. (Apparently, Manchaca Road is the only place you can get Faulkner in large print.) More than 120 subscriptions, including something called Going Bonkers! that's apparently for folks in recovery. A small array of vinyl records.
SERVICES: Two Free-Net computers plus an insufficient number of catalog terminals. Kids' programming is in flux right now; call for info.
AND...The farthest southwest branch until Oak Hill opens. One of only three branches open Sundays, 2-6pm.

NORTH LOOP (3.0 stars)

2210 Hancock Dr., between Burnet & North Loop; 454-7208

FACILITY: It looks institutional on the outside, but inside, North Loop is likely the quaintest branch -- definitely crowded, but at least cozy, comfortable and intimate, with more natural light than many branches. The best branch to visit on a rainy day when you want to curl up with a good book. Tiny but bustling kids' area has Kermit the Frog dangling precariously from the ceiling. The Americana Theatre next door, slated for renovation to house this branch, is about twice the size. Parking is ample, since you can park at the Americana and walk over. Meeting room seats 30.
COLLECTION: Pretty good but not outstanding all around, with some areas (like new books, reference, and periodicals) surprisingly limited, considering this is one of the wealthier areas of town. On the other hand, the large-print collec-tion is absolutely enormous, much bigger than even the one at Faulk. Kids' collection is bigger and stronger than the adult holdings. Look for the special sections, theme displays, et al.
SERVICES: As the large-print collection implies, services to the visually impaired are a large part of North Loop's programming; the branch is the only location to have a public-access reading machine (a PC-plus-scanner set up to convert text to speech). On the other hand, the Free-Net computers haven't yet been hooked up, so tech resources are limited. Two storytimes for ages 2-5 every Tuesday.
AND... North Loop was the Best Branch Library in the 1994 Chronicle`s "Best of Austin" issue.

NORTH VILLAGE (1.5 stars)

2139 W. Anderson Ln., between Burnet & Lamar; 458-2239

FACILITY: Shoebox-sized storefront branch, heavily used as an after-school way station by local kids. Probably the least prepossessing interior of any branch -- shabby gray carpet, odd smells, nasty fluorescent light -- but the kids' area is pretty well-appointed. Parking is abundant. Meeting room seats 35 people.
COLLECTION: Pretty average, or pretty typical for a storefront branch. Kids' holdings somewhat stronger than adults, fiction a little stronger than non-fiction. A handful of new books, a surprising number of vinyl records. Adequate large-print collection, reference and periodicals okay. Basically, a good journeyman library.
SERVICES: Two catalog terminals, two Free-Net machines. Two storytimes a week for ages 2-8.

OAK SPRINGS (3.0 stars)

3101 Oak Springs Dr., just west of Airport; 926-4453

FACILITY: One of the nicest, if oddest, branch buildings -- a large structure with ample entryways that don't face to anything, since almost everything around the library is undeveloped and overgrown. By far the best landscaping of any branch, with an equal amount of greenery inside and lots of pinks and blues in the decor. The children's area sets the tone for the whole library, where all the furniture is a little undersized. Parking is adequate, though somewhat spooky at night. Auditorium/meeting room seats 50.
COLLECTION: Quite good, especially for children, although it appears that the book budget was at its peak around 1978; there are several juvenile biographies of Donna Summer, for example. Adult selection is okay, with an extensive set of titles on the new books shelf. Best place to get popular fiction featuring African-American characters, such as the series from Holloway House. Reference about average, periodicals somewhat above average; the only branch where you'll find the Amsterdam News, New York's premier black newspaper.
SERVICES: Standard computer allotment: two Free-Net machines plus two catalog terminals. Four storytimes a week, once-a-week after-school Fun Club.

OLD QUARRY (3.0 stars)

7051 Village Center Dr. (behind the HEB on Far West Blvd.); 345-4435

FACILITY: A brick box add-on to the HEB, with an unusually high ceiling and a somewhat jarring interior color scheme of teal, peach, and black. Big enough to get the job done, but not a particularly comfortable place. Lots and lots of parking. Well-tended and fairly well-lit. Extensively decorated kids' area with a potentially frightening giant stuffed lizard hanging from the wall. Auditorium/meeting room seats 75.
COLLECTION: One of the few branches where the adult selection is stronger than the kids' holdings, though not overwhelmingly so. Both are above-average for the system, though not as good as you might expect in the heart of Northwest Hills. Non-fiction outpaces fiction for all age levels. Above-average periodical selection, average reference collection. No records on vinyl.
SERVICES: Standard computer allotment. As at Little Walnut Creek, storytimes are by ticket only due to space limitations, and are held once a week for ages 2-6.

PLEASANT HILL (4.0 stars)

211 E. William Cannon Dr., between I-35 &
S. Congress; 441-7993

FACILITY: From the outside, a surprisingly charming fieldstone building with strange angles that recall Manchaca Road; on the inside, peach and gray, fairly clean but with seriously peeling paint. Numerous windows allow for ample natural light. Best parking supply of any stand-alone branch. Furnishings hew closely to the Office Depot look; no separate kids' area, but lots of dinosauriana around the kids' shelves. Usually quite crowded. Conference room seats 20.
COLLECTION: Perhaps the best well-rounded collection in the branches; the only arguable lack is in reference. Abundant periodicals, an astounding number of children's fiction titles (including over 1000 young-adult paperbacks), solid kids' non-fiction, huge new-book shelf (about as many fiction titles as at Faulk), ample large-print section, deep holdings in adult non-fiction, and no lack of recordings (both CD and vinyl) and videos.
SERVICES: Two Free-Net terminals, three catalog terminals. Two storytimes a week for toddlers and for preschoolers.
AND... The southernmost outpost of the branch system.


2410 E. Riverside Dr., near Pleasant Valley; 448-0776

FACILITY: A storefront right next to the movie theatre and Blockbuster in Strip Mall City. Despite its ultra-plastic surroundings, the library is rather homey, in a beige sort of way. The city's Job Information Center is located in a separate room within the branch. The kids' area is well-stocked with tiny furniture. Parking is infinite. Conference room seats 35 people.
COLLECTION: Not bad for a storefront branch; not terribly extensive, but quite eclectic, reflecting the neighborhood with its mix of Hispanic families and UT students. Thus, there are 11 periodical titles in Spanish, but there's also the system's only subscription to Paris-Match and a respectable number of French-language books on the shelves. The kids' collection is suitable but skews somewhat toward young-adult. A good selection of children's records, and materials for new adult readers. Small large-print collection. The Job Information Center has all the stuff you'd expect, much of it available at other branches.
SERVICES: Two workstations (one in the Job Information Center), and two catalog terminals. Weekly storytime/activity for preschoolers.


8637 Spicewood Springs Rd., at US183; 258-9070

FACILITY: Also next to a Blockbuster, but rather than a storefront, this branch is in a mod brick building that looks like a fire station. Unlike many branches, Spicewood Springs is surprisingly small once you get inside, an impression not aided by the dark interior and sizable crowds that make this branch likely the busiest. Finding a comfortable seat can be a challenge. Parking isn't great considering it's in a strip center, and the current road construction furthers the headache. Auditorium seats 65.
COLLECTION: Deep in the kids' section, both fiction and non-fiction, both juvenile and young adult. The periodicals selection is quite large (more than 100, including such crowd favorites as Aramco World), but the reference collection frankly needs some work, especially considering how far it is to the next branch. Only a handful of new books on display; adult non-fiction is typical for the system but not spectacular. No records on vinyl, though there are some videos and CDs.
SERVICES: Two Free-Net computers with lines longer than you'd expect up here in Techland, and three catalog terminals. Storytimes are again by ticket only, three times a week for toddlers, once a week for preschoolers.
AND... This year's "Best of Austin" readers' pick for Best Branch Library. Easily the farthest north and west in the system, it's actually located in the Round Rock school district.

TERRAZAS (2.5 stars)

1105 E. Cesar Chavez, near Waller; 472-7312

FACILITY: Smallish, oldish building almost identical in appearance to Little Walnut Creek, barely visible from the street. The interior furnishings are in great shape, especially the carpet, but one might wish for more tables and chairs. Parking is ample, now that the store next door has closed; otherwise, there would be none. Meeting room seats 30 people.
COLLECTION: Small and in many respects aging. However, Terrazas has, even compared to Govalle and Riverside Drive, a deep and diverse collection of Spanish-language materials in all areas, and those items are among the newest. Best place to look for a Spanish-language record. Huge selection on the new-books shelves, in both languages. Small large-print section. Adult collection less well-developed than childrens' holdings.
SERVICES: Three computers plus two catalog terminals. Storytimes twice a week, Austin Children's Museum science program once a week, both bilingual.

TWIN OAKS (2.0 stars)

2301 S. Congress, Suite 7 (near Oltorf); 442-4664

FACILITY: Storefront branch behind the Eckerd's in one of Austin's most unappealing strip centers. The view from the library is of the grease trap at what used to be Pancho's. The interior is fairly well beaten up, and Twin Oaks is the only branch with a prominent convex security mirror to enable monitoring the patrons. Not uncomfortable, but interesting historical photos of South Austin all around. Parking is bodacious. No meeting rooms.
COLLECTION: Another oddball branch where the adult collection outstrips the kids' holdings in depth and breadth. Huge selection of new books, many of which are actually new printings of classics. A hefty large-print selection, including the system's only Garcia Marquez. Small vinyl record collection. Reference needs help.
SERVICES: Two Free-Net stations, two catalog terminals. Storytimes twice a week, afterschool "Bookworm Bunch" program once a week.


4721 Loyola Ln., at Manor Rd.; 929-0551

FACILITY: Arguably the nicest branch building, certainly the most fashionable with its metal roof and limestone facade, and also the most appealing structure at this intersection, a notorious weak spot in Austin's social fabric. Amply sized, with large kids' area, lots of chairs with wheels that slide sometimes without warning, big study tables and generous elbow room for all. Auditorium seats 100, conference room holds 15.
COLLECTION: Strong in both adult and children's holdings, especially in terms of breadth and diversity. Perhaps a little heavier on fiction than nonfiction in both, though the kids' biography selection is quite wide. Another huge large-print collection, with another heaping helping of Harlequin romances, but no shortage of Pulitzer winners either. Extensive new-book selection, good reference section for a branch, solid subscription set including specialized black-oriented titles like Headway, Our Texas and Emerge. No vinyl.
SERVICES: Two Free-Net stations, two catalog terminals. One storytime a week for preschoolers and one for toddlers, plus a film showing Thursday afternoons for ages 3-11.


5811 Berkman Dr., between US290 & 51st; 928-0333

FACILITY: Storefront way, way, way in the back of the eponymous shopping center. Somewhat more spacious and better maintained than typical for the storefronts, though some of the furniture is just plain ugly. A comfortable branch, but probably the noisiest. The kids' area is very well-arranged. Meeting room holds 39 people. Parking is endless.
COLLECTION: Better than most of the storefronts, but reference is a real weak point. That aside, adult non-fiction is pretty good, children's non-fiction is very good, fiction for both is somewhere in between. Kids' fiction selection is a little on the old side, though not as much so as at Carver. Good-sized new book shelf, robust large-print collection with very few Harlequins, decent vinyl collection. Periodicals selection good, with some esoterica.
SERVICES: Two Free-Net stations with notably heavy use, three catalog terminals. Two storytimes every Tuesday morning, after-school fun club twice a week.
AND... The storefront is set for replacement by the new Windsor Park branch, located across the street, within two years.

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