On our Thanksgiving trip to Pittsburgh we stopped in at the Squirrel Hill branch library. It's constructed in a parking garage, and before it was renovated it was functional but not in the slightest bit lovely. Now it's lovely, really lovely with a well lit glass area in the front overlooking the street to read in, and a nice kids area near the back..
The Pittsburgh area libraries were redesigned by a team from Maya Design. I had seen the presentation of these ideas before and talked to Paul Gould about them. What was fascinating was to see these high design ideals in practice smashed up against the vernacular design of libraries by non-librarians who occupy parts of the space in the library.
Where this was most clear was at the back entrance, where the local Friends of the Library had a book sale. Instead of clear oval signage there was a jumbled box of books, and shelved old books for sale on shelves marked with masking tape. In an ordinary library this would not be anything out of the ordinary, but there had clearly been so much work done to change the signs that it was a quite jarring transition. It's almost as if the space needed to have some transition between the street and the library that could be occupied in a sensible way without it having to be kept shiny and neat.