Myron Hunt, along with all the other architects in the design competition, was required to take into consideration many components and specifications stipulated by the CivicCenter Plan and Jeanette Drake, City Librarian.
Myron Hunt intentionally designed the building to be basically a one-story structure, a unique concept for main libraries built in that time period. He did this based on successes with previous buildings he had designed but also primarily as a way to conserve space, eliminate grand staircases and elevators, and most importantly of all, to bring the design in on budget ($586,000). Consequently the Central Library design is quite distinct from other main libraries built around the same time, such as the Los Angeles Public Librarys Central Library.
The Main Hall is 33 feet wide, 45 feet high and 204 feet long. It was designed to connect to the other service rooms without any long hallways and with a minimum number of stairways. The Childrens Room, the Centennial Room, the Business Wing, Humanities Wing, and the Book Stacks all are connected to the Main Hall through open doorways. Also just off the Main Hall are additional service rooms: the Index and Newspaper Room, the Technology Learning Center, and the Photocopy Center. A long-forgotten doorway connecting the Main Hall and the Index and Newspaper Room was reopened during the 1989 restoration project and the beautiful skylights in this room were refurbished and backlit for increased lighting.
Myron Hunt was also responsible for all aspects of the interior design of Central Library and gave great care to every detail including the wall treatments and furniture.
Because of a limited budget, it was decided not to spend money on a lot of marble and bronze. Instead, the money went into the cork floor and the oak wainscoting. By using the wainscoting, Hunt was able to design the bookshelves to be an integral part of the overall design, thus preserving an elegant simplicity. The wainscoting is made of quarter-sawn oak, a common building material in 1925. This method of cutting the oak reveals the beautiful grain of the wood and adds a subtle beauty to the wainscoting.
This same wood was also used in the construction of the original Circulation and Information Center Desks. During the 1989 renovation, the Information Center Desk was redesigned and rebuilt by reference librarian and expert woodworker, William Lahay. He worked with the Information Center staff to design the modular interior of the desk, which in the tradition of Myron Hunt, can be adapted in the future, as needs change. The Circulation Desk was also restored and rebuilt with computers inset into the desk so as not to detract from the style of the building.
The Main Halls beautiful floor is made of cork, which came from Portugal. The cork, which was installed to help reduce noise, also was laid in a decorative pattern of alternating dark and light tiles.
Hunt even gave careful thought to the acoustic plaster, which is above the wainscoting in all the rooms. Hunt wanted to avoid the gray color that was so common in acoustic plaster at that time and simultaneously not ruin its acoustic properties by using just any paint. Careful experimentation with various pigments went on until Hunt was satisfied with the results.
Like the windows on the outside of the building, names of authors and literary quotations were also inscribed beneath the inside of the Main Hall windows.
These inscriptions can be seen below the windows on the south:
1. Scott - Dickens - Balzac - Hawthorne.
2. "Here I am in my kingdom."- Montaigne.
3. Marlowe - Moliere - Schiller - Browning.
4. "Infinite riches in a little room." - Marlowe, Jew of Malta.
5. Gibbon - Macaulay - Carlyle - Bancroft.
Under the windows on the north side are these inscriptions:
1. Chaucer - Shelley - Wordsworth - Poe.
2. "The truth shall make you free." - John 8:32.
3. "Dreams, books, are each a world." - Wordsworth
4. Montaigne - Swift - Johnson - Emerson.
This inscription is appropriately found under the window at the east end of the Main Hall over the Information Center:
"Truth may bear all lights." - Shaftesbury.