Some notes on the local libraries with which I’m most familiar:
Centennial Hills Library
Abstract: At just a few months old, Las Vegas’s newest library is gorgeous, and conveniently located across from the YMCA by Durango and the 215.
Highlights: Though it has (understandably, for a new library) a small collection, CHL has a terrific section for short story anthologies. The children’s section is huge, and the study/meeting areas in the back are built to accommodate large groups.
Lowlights: Besides the small collection (it’s surprising how much is missing from what I assume is a standard core collection–how can you not have a copy of The Brothers Karamazov on the shelf?), the rooms in the back offer little privacy for studying. My oldest daughter hated how the floor plan puts every section in a single open area, like a warehouse. I can’t understand why the videos are set up face-out, on a frame that looks built for magazines; isn’t it intuitive to line up videos spine-out, like books?
Clark County Library
Abstract: CCL is by far the biggest public library in the valley, and is almost right across the street from UNLV. Its sprawling collection is a joy to browse: this is where you really get to experience that thrill of looking for a book and seeing a dozen similar titles that you’d never known about right next to it. This library offers you your best chance of finding really old books, as well.
Highlights: They have the largest sections for short stories and genre fiction that I’ve seen. The attached performing arts theater puts on some of the city’s most interesting productions.
Lowlights: They have a surprisingly small children’s section, as well as small collections of videos and music. However, their audio book collection is excellent, and they have the best stockpile of foreign films in the city.
Las Vegas Library
Abstract: This wonderful facility is the city’s central library location, nestled in a lot that includes the Lied Children’s Museum, the Old Mormon Fort, and the Reed Whipple Performing Arts Center, great attractions all, and sits across the street from Cashman Field.
Highlights: The best children’s section in town, no contest. I’ve gotten use out of their collection of foreign language materials for young people, too. Also, the best periodical collection.
Abstract: the library that I’ve used the most in recent years, it’s almost perfect. Several years ago a friend and I took a Cub Scout den there on a field trip and my friend, an architect, pointed out all the design flaws. Interestingly, this library just underwent a major, year-long refurbishing that eliminated most of those problems. Most of them.
Highlights: Rainbow has the best events of any library in town, hosting an annual Scottish festival, and a “Moonlight, Movies, and Music” series in its outdoor amphitheater that provides a staple of my family’s spring and summer activities. Their collection is still growing, but very respectable and useful, and the study rooms are the most private around. Great supply of recorded lectures. Check out the art gallery, which tends to be heavy on photography; it’s also where I saw Jack Kerouac’s On the Road scroll a few years ago.
Lowlights: Why did the city remove the left turn lane out front? Now we have to go down the street and make a U-turn. What the heck?
Sahara West Library
Abstract: The furthest west of the valley’s libraries, SWL wants to be all things to all people, and almost makes it. Your best approach here is to exit onto Sahara from 215 to the west.
Highlights: Sahara West sticks out in my mind for its magnificent collection of foreign language materials. They have solid genre fiction and music areas. Also, they subscribe to the major genre magazines: Ellery Queen and Fantasy and Science Fiction; surprising that more branches don’t.
Lowlights: the floor plan is illogical; lots of space seems to get wasted. I bet someone planned this to be an “artsy” looking library, and it didn’t quite work out.
Abstract: Adjacent to the excellent Summerlin Theater for the Performing Arts (where I once had a role in Arsenic and Old Lace), this library is conveniently located just off of Summerlin Parkway.
Highlights: The collections of videos in the adult section and in the children’s section are the best around.
Lowlights: I wish they’d find a sensible way to arrange the book stacks and stick with it. They always seem to be shifting, and no plan ever seems to end up making sense. Materials aren’t impossible to find, but hardly as user-friendly as one would want.
West Charleston Library
Abstract: Across from the Charleston campus for CSN, which restricts access to the east end. The library I used most in childhood after the old Charleston Heights Library closed, I also worked there my senior year in high school.
Highlights: What started as a scanty collection has blossomed into one of the best in town (so there’s hope, Aliante and Centennial!). They have the second best foreign film area (after Clark County), and an art gallery worth looking at. Their theater puts on a wide variety of events but, surprisingly, very little actual theater.
West Las Vegas Library
Abstract: A great facility in the heart of one of Las Vegas’s oldest neighborhoods.
Highlights: This is the first branch where I saw the new automated check in and check out systems. There’s a glass wall and you can see the whole thing; it’s really cool. What do the circulation people do with all their extra time, now?
Lowlights: For such an old facility serving such a large part of town, it’s surprisingly small. What’s that about?
Even though it’s not part of the Las Vegas Clark County Library District, the library that I use the most these days is North Las Vegas’s Aliante Library, so…
Abstract: The northernmost of North Las Vegas’s three libraries, Aliante is located next to one of the valley’s best public parks.
Highlights: Despite the relatively small collection of a newer library (only a couple of years old), the quality is impressive. If I were going to assemble a starting collection for a library, I couldn’t do much better than this. That goes for the music collection, too…but not so much the videos.
The staff is doing a great job managing the children’s books, a section that gets messy at home, a store, or a library. Also, be sure to relax in the little nook with paperbacks against the far wall in the adult section. It’s right there, but nobody seems to see it.
Lowlights: The floor plan makes no sense, surrounding a central information desk with empty space and crushing patrons at computers and AV materials against each other. (Be warned: the brand new Alexander Library is a carbon copy of Aliante.) Also, there’s a middle school nearby, so accessing it in the afternoon is irritating.