STAFF PICK: We take our libraries for granted. We know they're an important community resource, we know they contain more information than we'll absorb in our lifetimes, but they don't often pique our interest for being hip and exciting.
But there are exciting things going on at the public library: While most branches of the Tucson Public Library system offer the same basic services (free book borrowing, free Internet access, music and video materials, reading groups, kids' programs, public meetings, etc.), the beautiful new (relatively new) Woods Memorial Branch takes honors as our city's most aesthetically improved library. After being completely overhauled a couple of years ago, the current incarnation opened last summer to reveal its new face to the public. Prior to its reconstruction, the library's bland visage looked vaguely like a correctional institution. Oh, what a difference an architect can make! Its new dusty rose, dark turquoise and sandy brown outdoor color scheme, adorned with eye-popping 3-D book sculptures flying from the walls, is attractive without being ostentatious. Inside, the library is still small enough to be considered intimate -- the new, open-space area sports lots of natural light, comfy chairs, and a vastly improved layout that makes finding materials a breeze. And best of all, the main entrance has been moved to face away from busy First Avenue, keeping things inside nice and quiet. While it's true you can't judge a library by its cover, the Woods Branch now looks as good as it reads. Kudos to local firm Burns and Wald-Hopkins Architects, which both designed and administered the project.