Late last week, a huge question mark appeared in the dark windows of the Central Library, 201 W. Mifflin St. Illuminated with 372 yellow LEDs, the two-story sculpture by Roberto Behar and Rosario Marquardt speaks to the anticipation surrounding the renovated building, which debuts Sept. 21. Lots is happening at the library before its doors open to the public, from a Sept. 7 fundraising gala to an art-focused extravaganza called Stacked on Sept. 19.
Stacked follows in the footsteps of Bookless, a January 2012 party with DJs, artists and a highly creative vibe. Visitors could paint on the Central Library's walls and cut giant holes in the floor since destruction was imminent. But don't expect Stacked to be Bookless 2, says program coordinator Trent Miller.
"Remember Woodstock 2? That was a disaster," he jokes. "Bookless was a once-in-a-lifetime happening where everything came together perfectly. The arts and music communities will come together again for Stacked, so it'll be great."
For starters, Stacked will have more music than Bookless, Miller says. The lineup includes local bands such as Pioneer and Control, and DJs Nick Nice, Wangzoom and Door Oxygen. There will also be a dance party with a light show on the building's new third floor.
Another component of Stacked is an art exhibition titled "Q&A." About 60 artists will explore the concept of inquiry while acquainting visitors with new library features like gallery space and a video screen. Miller plans to have a rotating lineup of video art once the library opens, as well as site-specific installations, lots of gallery shows, and events with the new artist-in-residence, printmaker Barb Landes.
Stacked's energy will help fuel opening day on Sept. 21, which includes a ribbon-cutting with Mayor Paul Soglin (9 a.m.), a hard-hat tour with the building's architects (2 p.m.) and screenings of short films (2-5 p.m.). The weekend dovetails into the Wisconsin Book Festival with a reading by Joyo Moyes, author of Me Before You (Sept. 21, 7 p.m., with a 6 p.m. reception).
Events like these suggest that libraries aren't just for lending books anymore. They're also for lending a hand, through tools such as videocameras, animation software and 3D printers. This fall, there will be more free classes through the maker-focused Bubbler program, including creative writing and printmaking workshops. The number of computer stations has increased from 31 to 85, according to digital services manager Tana Elias. Food and drink are allowed inside, she says, and there will even be a cafe with coffee and treats from Chocolaterian.
In other words, you're not likely to hear a single "shh!" if you're making noise on the first floor. This is especially true of Night Light events, which feature live music, dance and other types of performance the first Friday of each month.
"We want them to be kind of a cross between Daytrotter and NPR's Tiny Desk Concerts," Miller says. "We want people to come here and check out materials to take home, but we also want them to hang out."