It’s a common problem: Wal-Mart comes to town, builds a ginormous hypermart just outside of town, local businesses shut down, and then eventually Wal-Mart closes as well, leaving a giant crumbling edifice surrounded by a weedy parking lot. Charles Fishman wrote a great and judicious book about it a few years ago called The Wal-Mart Effect (my Chicago Reader piece on that here).
When the Wal-Mart in McAllen, Texas closed down, though, the town came up with an ingenious solution. Take the empty space — the size of almost 2 1/2 football fields — and turn it into the nation’s largest one-story library. It’s been open since December 2011 and as you can see in this Los Angeles Times story, is a wondrous reading space and one of those increasingly rare things in America: a true community center.