Thursday, February 4, 2016

Charing Cross Branch of the St. Louis Public Library

Charing Cross is one of seventeen branches in the St. Louis Public Library system. It is one of three express, or mini-branches along with Marketplace and Central Express.
It is located at 356 North Skinker Boulevard at McPherson Avenue in the Skinker-DeBaliviere Neighborhood.



Charing Cross is the smallest of all seventeen branches and is located in a renovated historic building owned by nearby Washington University. Charing Cross leases the space from Wash U.  It is the 1st "mini-branch" concept in the city, starting its life in 1992.
The building itself is beautiful and at time of publishing, a Snarf's Sandwiches was being built out in one of the retail spaces, including a nice outdoor seating area.
 planters contain ornamental trees near the coming Snarf's

Access is convenient to pedestrians and cyclists as there are two nearby bike racks as well as a book return bin directly outside the branch. There is also a surface parking lot directly north of the building, Wash U. and Grace Methodist church own the lot and allow library patrons to park there.
bike rack adjacent to the entrance

bike rack around the corner by the outdoor dining area

Rumor has it that Charing Cross takes its name from a book by NYC author Helene Hanff called "84 Charing Cross Road" which in turn takes its name from a London, England street renown for its independent and second hand bookstores. From wikipedia:
Charing Cross Road is renowned for its specialist and second-hand bookshops. The section from Leicester Square tube station to Cambridge Circus is home to specialist bookshops, and more general second-hand and antiquarian shops such as Quinto Bookshop, Henry Pordes and Any Amount of Books. Most of these shops are located on the ground floor of a block owned by a housing association, which decided in 2001 to raise the rents sharply to bring them closer to the market level. This was opposed by the book dealers, who felt that they were providing a valuable service and contributing to the unique character of the area, and should not be treated in this way by a not-for-profit body. The association's counter-argument was that if the booksellers did not pay a market rent they were being subsidised by its low-income tenants. The booksellers attracted considerable public support and a reduced rent increase was imposed. Several of the bookshops closed nonetheless, including Silver Moon, reputedly Europe’s largest women’s interest bookshop, which became part of Foyles. Other shops closed more recently, Zwemmers art bookshop, Shipley the art bookshop in December 2008 and Murder One in 2009. Smaller second-hand and specialist antiquarian bookshops can be found on the adjoining Cecil Court.
The northern section between Cambridge Circus and Oxford Street includes more generalist bookshops such as the venerable Foyles and Blackwell's. A long-standing correspondence between New York City-based author Helene Hanff and the staff of a bookstore on the street, Marks & Co., was the inspiration for the book 84 Charing Cross Road (1970). The book was made into a 1986 film with Anne Bancroft and Anthony Hopkins and also into a play and a BBC radio drama. 84 Charing Cross Road, located just north of Cambridge Circus, has not been a bookstore for many years; at street level it is now a restaurant, but the upper levels of the building remain as originally constructed. A small brass plaque, noted by Hanff in her book "Q's Lecacy", remains on the stone pilaster facing Charing Cross Road.
I was told the name rubbed some in the neighborhood the wrong way upon its inception as it lacks local meaning; but apparently, people have caught on and have come to embrace the branch and its name.

Personally, I love the name as it may be the most unique of all the branches.

So as I mentioned, this is a "mini-branch", so as expected, the space is quite small.  But that doesn't mean it is not efficient.

The whole space is brightly lit and welcoming. It includes a small children's section with seating and some assorted toys to keep the kids happy.
There are two computers to search the catalog, et al.
There is a music collection as well as adult fiction and non-fiction and movies.
The branch serves an important part of the western edge of the city, right by Wash U and the density of the Loop and Skinker-DeBaliviere. The "mini-branch" concept seems appropriate for the area as the perfect place to pick up or drop off books from the extensive collection the library offers.

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