Thursday, February 23, 2017

More Than Books

By Cathy

When I was a child, libraries had a reputation for being an oh-so-boring place to visit. I didn't get to visit a library very often. The nearest one was waaaaaay downtown! I do remember using the school libraries, but usually only to check out a book for a book report or required reading. There were times we had to go to the downtown public library to do some research for a school project. I remember fearing the big library. The vast amount of books overwhelmed me and I knew I  must tip-toe and speak no louder than a whisper or I would get the famous librarian’s “shhhhhhhh!” As a child, that terrified me! The best library experience of my childhood was when the bookmobile parked across the street from our home. Those are some good memories; climbing the steps into an air conditioned bus filled with books and more books, finding the perfect ones for me, and using my own library card.

It’s different today. When you walk through the doors of the library you will find they are not boring or quiet and there are many more things available; computers, study rooms, classes, exhibits, and book sales. You might think from the picture above that our libraries are very busy, but they're not. The picture was taken at a book sale in the basement of our main library. Aren't the paintings on the huge concrete columns fun?

I have visited the thirteen libraries scattered throughout the county where I live. I will be honest, I think these modern buildings of steel are ugly, stark, and cold. This type of architecture does not appeal to me, nor does it seem inviting. There are a couple though, that I think are beautiful and welcoming. One of them is in an old building that was built in 1930. It was originally a post office. I think the city made a wonderful choice to renovate it for use as a library. They kept as much of the old interior as possible; doors, windows, and flooring.

I may not like the outside of most of the libraries, but when I go inside it’s a different story. Each library has a unique feel and decor. When I go inside I forget all about what the outside looks like.  Of course, there are the expect rows and rows of books on metal shelving, but there's so many other things to enjoy.

My favorite libraries are the ones that are cozy, that have creaking floors, and strong smells of new and old books. Their walls are decorated with quilts, art, and photographs. Scattered among the books you can find pottery, historical artifacts, and sculptures. Several of the libraries have special rooms that feature traveling exhibits and children’s sections with reading nooks, pillows, furry critters, and kites hanging from the ceiling. One library I visited even had a tall sculptured tree where you could sit beneath the branches and read.

I’ve seen many beautiful and even unusual things in libraries, but my favorite find was a shadow. A fascinating shadow created by a wire sculpture.  I look at the wire and cannot figure out how it can cast such an amazing shadow. This unexpected shadow fits well with our photography theme this month . . . shadows.

You never know what you’ll find when you open the doors to the library. I hope you’ll take the time to do more than look for the next good read. I hope you’ll look around, see their beauty, and enjoy what is offered.


terriporter said...

Oh, I love this post! Just reading it, that wonderful library smell comes back to me. I have to admit that I don't frequent the library near as much as I used to but this makes me want to go find out what other things there are to see there. Our main city library is a beautiful place but with smaller satellite locations, I haven't been there in years. The shadow picture is amazing! I'm with you that I can't figure out how in the heck that metal sculpture casts a shadow of books!

Sandra said...

What a lovely visit to this library, Cathy. I can see why you love it so much. What a fascinating shadow picture! Lovely photographs of your visit. I enjoyed coming along with you!

kelly said...

it's been a very long time since I've been to the library. I think it's time to go...thank you Cathy!

Dotti said...

Libraries have always been a big part of my life. The original building of our library is still used, the newer sections having been added on. It looks just like a library should look. The big room inside is the library of everybody's dreams - old wooden shelves, dark oak card file, matching dark oak tables and chairs, green "banker's" lamps on the tables, soft lighting. But the two best things are the old book smell and the fact that this room is always quiet.

heyjudephotography said...

I have always loved libraries, especially old libraries. Cathy, you would absolutely love the New York Public Library in Manhattan! I'd love to take you there one day. I remember the "bookmobile" when I was a kid. My siblings and I were always so excited to go up those steps into the bookmobile. What a great memory you brought back to me today.

AFishGirl said...

You've brought back such good memories, of books being stamped out with the date stamp on the end of the pencil thing and the little card pocket on the back. Oh, and the cards in the filing system for finding books and all the TYPING that went into creating those. Long live libraries, long may they live. And how did that shadow thing work, amazing!!

Anonymous said...

I LOVE LIBRARIES! Yeah, I know, I'm "shouting," but I can't help it. Old ones, new ones, public ones, school ones - I love them all! My childhood library has long since been replaced by a much larger new one - steel and glass, yes, but the architecture is outstanding. Now I live on the other coast, and have two public libraries near me. One is in a beautiful old mansion, while the other is a converted church. They continue to be a refuge, as well as a portal to many other worlds. (That shadow is amazing! I can't figure it out, either.)

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