This week we are on the city’s northeast side at the Tobin Oakwell Branch Library. Located at Harry Wurzbach and 410, this library serves the Alamo Heights, Terrell Hills, and Oakwell Farms parts of (the) San Antonio (area). (Neither the City of Alamo Heights or the City of Terrell Hills have their own library—they just mooch off SA).

My fiancé and I came to this library on a Saturday afternoon expecting a standard library experience. We got something very different.
It turns out this was no ordinary Saturday—this was the first Saturday after public schools let out for the year.

I took some time to discover that, though. I walked into the library, did a quick lap to gather the vibe, and then sat down. Soon after I sat, Rhonda the Librarian’s voice came over the intercom encouraging everyone to come to the center of library. It was time for the SAPL Summer Reading Kickoff Party to begin.

The Summer Reading Kickoff Party was an event to sign up kids for a summer reading program. (there is as adult program, too!) Good idea, but I imagine the kids whose parents take them to events like this are least in need of reading help.

The Kickoff party was confusing to figure out. The library was decorated with a dinosaur theme. Dinosaur punch, dino eggs. Dino activities for kids.


But the main event was a traditional Japanese dance recital. For roughly an hour, older Japanese women performed choreographed dances.

Besides the Saturday activities, the Tobin Library at Oakwell was, in my opinion, rather underwhelming. The majority of the building is covered with low, tiled ceilings, making the space feel cramped, particularly on a crowded Saturday. There are very few windows, leaving the job of lighting to harsh overhead fluorescent lights.

The carpet is dark grey, reminiscent the dark, stain-concealing carpet in my college residences. That is not a bad thing necessarily. I liked my college house. What is bad, however, is how the walls compensate for the lack of color. Purple, orange, lime green. The walls feature no designs to mute the effects or dampen the reflection from the fluorescent lights above. It was as if someone just used the “Paint Bucket” feature from Microsoft Paint but IRL.

Further adding to my displeasure was the egregious lack of open table space (just four tables, each with only enough space for two computer-using visitors, maybe), the typically hard Ikea sofa-chairs, and a “quiet room” that was more like a class box with four walls, but no ceiling.

Other features of note:


  • “Español” Section—as I visit more libraries I may find these sections to be unexceptional, but this is the first I’ve seen so bodly labeled


  • 14 Mac desktop computers.


  • Outdoor Gym.


Overall Summary: I don’t expect myself to ever visit this library again. If I lived nearby, I would still not visit it for any prolonged period of time. The cramped space, the poor lighting, and the color-schemes are aggravating and are not overcome by the amusing Summer Reading Kickoff experience.






Design: D


Noise: INC- unfair to judge under the circumstances in which I visited


Table Space: C-


Miscellaneous: B- (Considers the Macs, Japanese Dancers, Outdoor Gym, and Quiet Room)


Overall: C-