Monday, March 24, 2014

Library Project: Guest Appearances!

On my recent trip to the East Coast, I was lucky enough to visit some spectacular libraries. It goes without saying that they were all stunning inside and out, but to avoid image overload, I'm just going to post one photo from each. I got to spend some time reading/writing in the first one, and only really walked through the last two.

The George Peabody Library in Baltimore

This was one of the main things I wanted to do when I went to Baltimore. A couple people recommended that I visit, and when I looked it up online, I decided that they were right. As soon as you walk in, there are towering levels of stacks of shelves, warmly illuminated throughout the building, filled with books. There's a great sky light that provides some natural brightness, too. There were only a couple people in there using it as a library. I love that you can have weddings at this library. I've googled and instragrammed as much as one person possibly can on weddings at this library. The jury's still out on the whole marriage thing, but if that ever happens, it will probably happen in a beautiful room full of books. I read in here for a bit, became sleepy, and left.

The Library of Congress- Jefferson

The Library of Congress is the largest library in the United States! It is actually four buildings in total, but we really only had time to look at the Jefferson Building (especially since getting in was essentially like going through airport security). There were basically a million cool things there, but I'll limit myself to talking about three. 

Cool things at the LOC:
  • They had both the Giant Bible of Mainz and the Gutenberg Bible on display. I hadn't realized the significance of these when I heard that they were on display here and thought that I didn't need to see them--I was wrong. The Giant Bible of Mainz basically signifies the end of the handwritten book and the Gutenberg Bible was essentially the first book printed with movable type in the western world.  SO COOL YOU GUYS.
  • Thomas Jefferson's Library. His actual library. Or at least the part of it that made it through the fire that destroyed part of his collection. Some books that didn't make it have been replaced, others they already had in the Library collection, and there are some that they are still looking for. It's beautifully shown in a circular display so that you walk into the exhibit and are surrounded by all his books. The cool thing about his library is that he organized his books by three main categories: Memory, Reason, and Imagination. 
  • The Main Reading Room. I'm pretty sure there are a ton of other reading rooms, but time was limited so we just checked out this one. Normally as a tourist you can only view the main reading room from this glass encased viewing area (think of Grey's Anatomy when they are watching people do surgery), but I found out the day before that you could register as a reader and gain access to the MRR as a researcher. So that's what we did, and now I have a library card to the LOC!

Brooklyn Public Library- Central

I literally only walked through this library, but look at how pretty the outside is! I love it when I walk into a library and there are people actually using it. I like that this library has a giant framed picture of Jay-Z in it (he's from Bed-Stuy). 

New York Public Library- Schwarzman/Main

What an iconic library! I was thrilled to be able to check it out during my two days in New York. I didn't expect to be so awe-struck at how beautiful the painted clouds are on the ceiling when you're sitting right underneath them. I also have only seen this room in pictures and video--not any of the other several levels or rooms of the library. It was really neat that there is a room just for genealogy research (though it looked pretty NY specific). There was also a room just for maps! 

I loved visiting these particular libraries because they physically embody what libraries can be for us: beautiful institutions for research and discovery. They are valued by the community and have been heavily invested in, not just with their contents and the wonderful people that staff them, but even just with the architecture of the buildings alone. They have become integral institutions in these areas and the community uses them. I know that when I talk to people here about libraries, I see confusion glaze over their faces because they think that libraries are obsolete. I don't think we're ready to get rid of libraries, especially because they adapt with users to cultural and technological change.  I could go on and on about this, but folks often don't realize the many services our libraries provide (like help with taxes, adult literacy programs, and free legal information), or the importance of serving as a safe public space for people.  And doesn't that deserve to be protected? I certainly think so. 

I actually wasn't expecting to write that last paragraph, but somehow it just happened. Oh well, there you have it (my opinion on libraries, in case you thought that I hated them before). 


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