I just had to arrange for moving my card catalog from a friend’s place in SF to another friend’s place in SF. I keep meaning to go get it but I live in Vermont and it’s never risen to the top of the priority list. I have a big 70’s-looking card catalog at my summer place up north. It’s big and lovely but probably too big to get up the stairs here. The blog Desire to Inspire [found through my Flickr stats] has a neat set of photos showing you other things you can do with card catalogs, including storing catalog cards!
The Next Page: Thirty Tables of Contents. "Often overlooked by serious bibliophiles, the humble TOC is our portal into a world of knowledge. In the realm of the printed word, it heralds what comes next, a verbal proscenium with its own peculiar prose and typographic conventions. In this book, we have gathered together thirty Table of Contents pages from our personal collections." Add your own to the Flickr group
A few nifty book-oriented and awesome library facades. And for a few more links to fill this out, here’s a great old photo of Fred Bullock, a librarian at the Cardiff Public Library, c. 1900 and a link to the award-winning Kansas City design (from 2005) with some detail about how the project was actually conceived and managed. My favorite part is the jury comment for the competition
This project celebrates books, reading, and the city in a joyfully direct and legible manner. The lovingly rendered level of detail at a massive scale brings the books to life, transforming these modest, familiar objects into monuments infused with hope and possibility. The result may be the world’s most humane and enjoyable parking structure.
I was in Seattle over the weekend. Sorry I didn’t call you. I went to a wedding and then got a terrible cold and spent the last day and a half on my friend’s couch reading comic books until flying home on a red eye the day before yesterday. I am recovered now, mostly. The one thing on my to do list was to see the new library. When I left Seattle four years ago, it was just a hole in the ground and a loose frame but not yet open to the public. I had really liked the old library — though understood why it needed updating — and I even liked the temporary library. I can’t say the same for the new library.
Now, there are many great things about the new library. I connected to the wifi/internet no problem. All the people I asked for advice and directions were super friendly and helpful. I liked having the option to get a cup of coffee and have a dozen interesting places to hang out with it. The place is fun to look at and explore. I enjoyed getting to pore through bound volumes of old periodicals that were right there on the shelves. The online catalog has finally improved to the point where it’s easy to use and makes a fair amount of sense; at SPL in particular that was not always true.
However, I saw a real disconnect beween the lovely outside and grand entry spaces to the library, plus a few other very design-y areas, and the rest of the building. Materials were hard to find. VERY hard to find. Signage was abysmal, often just laserprinted pieces of paper, sometimes laminated and sometimes not. Doors to areas that may have been public were forbidding and unwelcoming. There weren’t enough elevators. There weren’t enough bathrooms. There wasn’t a comfortable place to sit in the entire building. There were lots of “dead spaces” that, because of architecture, couldn’t really be used for anything and they were collecting dust. The lighting was bad. Stack areas were dim and narrow. The teen area seemed like an afterthought. Bizarre display areas with a table and some books on it were in the middle of vast open areas. Most of the place felt like it was too big and then the stacks felt too crowded and I had to climb around people working to find things. Shelvers shut down the entire “spiral” concept with booktrucks. The writer’s area in this library is a shadow of the glorious writers room in the old downtown building where I had a desk briefly.
Did I think it was going to be different? Maybe a little. I left Seattle specifically because its idea of progress and mine were fundamentally at odds and I didn’t enjoy the destabilizing effect of a city always under construction and didn’t get enough from the things that were eventually constructed. This library looks like it was built for a bookless future where we get all of our information from the internet and the digital realm. For now, we’ll just keep the books on hand because people will bitch if they don’t get to read them, but they’re no longer the reason for the library, and they’re no longer honored and appreciated as the things we love and build libraries to house.
My small photoset of the Seattle Public Library is here.
update: I was pointed to a PUBLIB posting by a librarian who was at SPL quite recently who makes many of the same points that I do in different ways.