Madison's hottest ticket on Thursday night was the library.
Eager to explore the three floors of the renovated Central Library, a long line of people, many dressed for a night out on the town, snaked down the side of the building.
More than 1,000 people turned out for the festive event, a fundraiser called "Stacked," which featured a rich array of visual art, live music, performance art, cocktails, beer and cookies here from the library's new Chocolatarian Café. There was also space to create art from library ephemera like microfiche and card catalog cards.
The library opens officially on Saturday.
"The library is this new, hip place," said Shad Wenzlaff, an art history professor at Edgewood College, as he assembled a collage in the Bubbler, the new maker-space at the library that will host regular pop-up workshops.
Wenzlaff observed that years ago, as coffee shops became more of a place for people to study and work, the library "lost its cache." The renovated and reimagined building updates the library for a new era.
"I love this idea of a library as a place of learning and taking that in the broadest possible sense," said Elizabeth Tucker, director of development at the nearby Madison Museum of Contemporary Art, pointing to upcoming workshops. Visitors can learn about the science of cheesemaking Sept. 28, explore stop motion in an open lab on Sept. 29 and podcasting on Sept. 30.
"It's so much more than a place to check out books," she said.
On Thursday night, the dimly lit children's area looked more like a college party. An indie rock band played as 20-somethings socialized, plastic cups of beer in hand. People climbed in and out of the reading nooks nestled in the walls.
It felt like the second coming of Bookless, the library's enthusiastic music-and-art filled sendoff party in January 2012.
For Yvette Pino, a printmaker and an art department alum of the University of Wisconsin-Madison, "Stacked" was a chance to support her friends like Madison installation artist Niki Johnson, who has several pieces on display in the new library.
She had also missed out on Bookless. Many of the same artists were invited back to make work for "Stacked."
"They did a really good job of getting the community of artists here involved," Pino said. Artists "felt a part of it from start to finish."
On the main floor, a makeshift photo booth set up by Jim Escalante encouraged people to grab props (like alien head cutouts and a sign that read "Take me to your librarian") and pose next to a solar scene with stars and planets that hung from one of the shelves.
Jane Petzoldt, a recent graduate of Wesleyan University in Connecticut and a newcomer to Madison, said the new library has "a great vibe. The space feels really versatile."
"You feel like you're in a place that's fun to be in," added her friend Eric Robinson, also a recent grad of Williams College who moved here from Oregon. "It reminds me a lot of the Seattle library."
The social atmosphere at "Stacked" also appealed to them.
"I've never had the opportunity to drink beer at a library before," Petzoldt said.
For more photos from "Stacked," visit this photo gallery on Flickr.com.