Tempe Library Complex


My husband and I have lived in Tempe, Arizona for 29 years. It’s a great place to live. When we moved here with our then four children (fifth child born nine months later), we were delighted to discover the plethora of community services for young families.

This building was the library when we first arrived in Tempe:


But soon, ground was broken for a new library. I remember, when the staff was preparing to make the transition from the old building to the new, the community was invited to take out as many books as possible, and return them to the new library when it opened. My kids and I were happy to oblige.

Eventually, the old library was reopened as the Tempe History Museum. When my daughter Erin attended Smith College, she served as a summer intern at the museum.

Here’s what the current library looks like:


Yes, it’s huge. Its vast collection is housed on the first floor, with the children’s section located in the basement. There are meeting rooms, study rooms, public computers, and a few years ago they added a coffee shop. Since I have stacks of books at home that I haven’t read yet, I haven’t borrowed any books in years, but my son Matt visits frequently to browse through the movies. The day I took these pictures, I dropped in to check out the Friends of the Library used bookstore. I bought two books for a total of 75 cents. Sigh. I told you I’m a bookaholic.

The second story contains city recreation offices.

In a little plaza formed by a circular drive to the library entrance stands a public art sculpture. The inclined plane is supposed to be a map of Tempe. I can see the dry (as it was when the sculpture was created, before the construction of Tempe Town Lake) Salt River bed stretching across the top, and I surmise the stacked structure is the butte that encloses Arizona State University’s stadium. That must be the rest of the campus surrounding it. But after that, it all gets kind of abstract. I feel like I should be able to find my neighborhood on that gridwork of major roads, but I can’t find any other landmarks where I think they should be.

The sculpture took the place of a prickly pear cactus garden that used to be there. I liked that better.


Here’s a stone wall along a walkway, with an interesting edge (click on the smaller images to enlarge):

And the Edna Vihel Center, where I took my children to many events and classes over the years:


I hadn’t been here in a while, and I’d never seen this lovely bench, covered with hand-made tiles depicting feet and scenes and symbols relating to Tempe and city services:

Tempe is very energy conscious. The city government advocates in favor of bike lanes. The library complex has some covered parking, shaded by solar panels:


There’s one more building in the library complex that I didn’t photograph, because it was hot and I was too lazy to walk across the parking lot: the Pyle Adult Recreation Center. Among other events and classes available there, it also hosts activities for senior citizens. I haven’t taken advantage of them yet, but I probably will someday soon.

My little photo essay ends with shots of some of the landscaping at the library complex.

About Andrea R Huelsenbeck

Andrea R Huelsenbeck is a wife, a mother of five and a former elementary general music teacher. A freelance writer in the 1990s, her nonfiction articles and book reviews appeared in Raising Arizona Kids, Christian Library Journal, and other publications. She is currently working on a young adult mystical fantasy novel and a mystery.

6 responses »

  1. This is my favorite library. I remember when it was built. So exciting. I think it’s absolutely beautiful. I can still see my kids scurrying down the stone stairs to the kids section and my heart praying they wouldn’t fall. They never did. It has such a warmth to it. My 2nd favorite would be the Chandler library.

    Liked by 1 person

    • My daughter Erin lives close to the Chandler library. When Katie lived in her casita, she went to that library all the time. She still does, even though she moved away.


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