The Comforting Presence of Books
September 16, 2020 8:47 AM   Subscribe

Browsing the Stacks: A Photo Appreciation of Libraries. Not just buildings but other types of libraries. There's something elementally soothing in a view of a library.
posted by storybored (20 comments total) 39 users marked this as a favorite
As a librarian (who works in a very Instagrammable building) and book lover I never get tired of ogling pics like these, but it's always a bit bittersweet because I can't help but think that for the vast majority of people books are, at best, just a "comforting presence" in the background of your selfie or while you work on your laptop.
posted by The Card Cheat at 9:29 AM on September 16, 2020 [4 favorites]

Thanks for this post, storybored. I miss the library so much - even my little semi-suburban one. I can do fine without pubs and restaurants and theatre, but I do miss the library.
posted by sedimentary_deer at 10:00 AM on September 16, 2020 [5 favorites]

who works in a very Instagrammable building

Love that place!!! Oh and hey I have been to five of these which kind of surprises even me.

I went to my local public library for the first time since the pandemic started, a few weeks ago. It's open for limited browsing, two days a week. I went in and me and the children's librarian (who was in a mask, behind a plexiglas barrier) talked about how hard it's been to not have the library being a PLACE in our community right now. Obviously, it's important that it not become a disease vector, but it's just hard for people nonetheless. I think six months is the longest that I've gone without going in to a library building since I went to library school in the mid nineties.
posted by jessamyn at 10:48 AM on September 16, 2020 [2 favorites]

Not pictured: The Duke's Archives in Anor Londo, presumably because of the crystal knight infestation
posted by Automocar at 11:24 AM on September 16, 2020

This is how I know I'm in the right job. I love all of the various libraries and would love to visit, but what really got me was the gentleman in Indonesia and woman in Lagos who were running Mobile libraries. It reminds me of a couples of places where I lived as a kid and having a book mobile instead of a building. I lived for that day when the bookmobile came to my neighborhood.
posted by evilDoug at 12:30 PM on September 16, 2020 [5 favorites]

Slightly embarrassed, there was also a mobile library in Kabul, per the article.
posted by evilDoug at 12:36 PM on September 16, 2020

Wanted to give a shout out to the Martin Luther King Jr. Library, a hybrid library for San Jose State and the City of San Jose. Home to the California Room archive of local and state hard copy documents and the Beethoven Center.

The library is well-designed and airy, but the main feature that I love is the art scattered throughout the building. My current favorites are the rotating bookshelf, sensor-speakers emitting the sound of flipping pages as you walk under them and banned books sealed in hidden glass cases under other books.
posted by JDC8 at 12:48 PM on September 16, 2020 [8 favorites]

That was cool.
posted by WalkerWestridge at 1:50 PM on September 16, 2020

I have been suffering library withdrawal for a decade now, ever since we left the Twin Cities. Our closest library is almost forty miles away with a small and dismal selection, the bookmobile is even worse. These photos almost need a trigger warning for me.
posted by Ber at 1:59 PM on September 16, 2020

Not a fan of the fake-books-on-impossible-to-reach-shelves look.

Then again, not a fan of the real-books-in-easily-knocked-over-piles thing I've got going at my place right now.
posted by bonobothegreat at 2:30 PM on September 16, 2020 [2 favorites]

The Royal Portuguese Reading Room in Rio de Janeiro., my pic's not all that great, but the library itself is quite awesome.
posted by signal at 2:52 PM on September 16, 2020 [2 favorites]

#14 La Tete Carrée, lit up; time-lapse video
posted by Iris Gambol at 2:59 PM on September 16, 2020 [1 favorite]

While shelves of books indeed comfort me, the Starfield Library terrifies me. How do you get up there?
posted by Splunge at 3:01 PM on September 16, 2020

Being a once a week at least library visitor, the plague has stopped that cold. Thankfully, this has made me appreciate staying home, which most people describe as a public library. I have an enormous number of books. Seeing these pictures, though, reminds me how much I love libraries. A library is a building that is infinitely larger on the inside than on the outside.
posted by njohnson23 at 3:30 PM on September 16, 2020 [6 favorites]

I miss my library too!

A documentary (in German) about a very special mobile library created by the garbage collectors of Ankara.

A much too brief video and an article (both in English) about the same folks.
posted by bertran at 5:08 PM on September 16, 2020 [1 favorite]

Thinking of why libraries are so comforting to me, there's the lovely look of books on shelves, but then as well I sometimes just stand in the middle of a library i'm visiting for the first time, and just luxuriate in the concept. That the idea of libraries is one of the bestest idea that humans have ever come up with. All over the world, all (?) countries everywhere, libraries. Sigh. Maybe we'll destroy ourselves one sad day, but in the grand accounting afterwards we can say --you know we screwed a lot of stuff up but we did manage to do libraries.
posted by storybored at 6:00 PM on September 16, 2020 [4 favorites]

It reminds me of a couples of places where I lived as a kid and having a book mobile instead of a building. I lived for that day when the bookmobile came to my neighborhood.

My hometown had a lovely downtown library but also a slate of bookmobiles and the same librarian worked at the bookmobile that came to my neighborhood for something like 12 years. She got to know me and on that day (I believe every other Wednesday) when the bookmobile came, she always had a stash of books she'd pulled just for me to check out. It was a truly special relationship that has shaped me into my adult life.

Bookmobiles are magical.
posted by hippybear at 6:54 PM on September 16, 2020 [4 favorites]

Part of what makes a library comforting is that it is a fragmentary distillation of our species’ hopes and dreams, bound and shelved and waiting for us.

As a child I loved the local libraries, and the school libraries, and the bookmobile - each of them held a hint of how many amazing thoughts there were to be had, how many stories to be told, how incredibly big and impossibly rich the universe was.

I could visit one and feel the depths and be reassured I would never run out of new treasures to explore. And at the same time, I would be reminded that here were the signs of other people like me, who thought it worth writing their thoughts and stories down.

To forget my self in a library was often a relief, too. A library was a place where no one questioned the value of indulging in the life of the mind because, well, that’s what we were there for.
posted by allium cepa at 5:35 AM on September 17, 2020 [4 favorites]

This has made me miss libraries so hard. I'm not at any risk of running out of things to read or anything, but just to go sit and read in one would be really nice.
posted by Zed at 11:17 AM on September 17, 2020 [2 favorites]

There definitely is something special and soothing about a library. It's partially just that it's a load of books, but it's also what it represents, at least if it's accessible to the public. (This can be a true public library with librarians working there, or it can be something self-service or a more along the lines of a "take a book, leave a book" area in a hotel or café or one of those tiny libraries that pop up along a neighborhood sidewalk.)

My love of libraries and books and reading is well-entrenched and long-standing. Like some other commenters, I have no shortage of reading material. In addition to my loaded-up Kindle (named the Hebrew word for library), my home office (n.b. I've worked remotely for about a decade, so I've had the luxury of planning and setting up a space) is also the library, lined with shelves everywhere save for the door, the desk, and a short walk with seating that is meant to be for reading and relaxing, but in practice is where our dogs sit much of the day when I'm working.

And with all this, my attention span and energy is so divided and sapped during this time that I can't actually get much, if any, reading done. It's disheartening.
posted by cardioid at 12:24 PM on September 17, 2020

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