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Tribute to Libraries, BTT

btt buttonI saw that National Library Week is coming up in April (4/12–4/18), and that led to some questions. How often do you use your public library and how do you use it? Has the coffeehouse/bookstore replaced the library? Did you go to the library as a child? Do you have any particular memories of the library? Do you like sleek, modern, active libraries or the older, darker, quiet, cozy libraries?

kowloonI used the library more often when I was young, but mostly for study hall and reference books. Getting my very first library card was a sensation—for the possession of one gave me privilege to conduct a formal transaction, namely, checking out books, without the assistance of an adult. I embraced the library excursion The Kowloon Public Library was right across the street from my school on Pui Ching Road, which conveniently became a hangout spot during after hours. The multi-story main branch was sleek and modern by the standard of the 80s. I remembered going straight to either 9th or 10th floor, where the the browsing traffic was more sparse at the reference library, to study. By fourth grade, my mother would entrust me to go out on my own; on a modest allowance, I took the Star Ferry to browse the more expansive English-language selection at the City Hall library in Central, overlooking the then Queen’s Pier. Consider the deprivation of electronic media, a trip to the library across the bay was an excursion that I anticipated during the school week.

doelibraryIn high school I frequented the San Francisco Main Library at Civic Center, which is the current location of the Asian Art Museum. It’s a beaux-arts gem built in 1917, the notoriously gloomy interior were interspersed by thick columns. You could literally get lost in the maze of bookshelves as the entire circulating selection were housed on one floor. In college, the Doe Memorial Library (in picture to the left) on UC Berkeley campus became my home away from home. Prior to the construction of the underground main stacks, books were held in an eight story structure inside the main building called the Doe Core.

eastasianAfter the Main Stacks were opened in 1997 with four large skylights to allow for natural lighting of the underground structure, all my studying and browsing moved to the new spacious structure. The Gardner Main Stacks connect the Doe and Moffitt Undergraduate Libraries by means of an underground hallway, this is the only way to enter the Main Stacks after hours. When I began graduate studies,I was lucky to have reserved study carrels behind the miles of bookshelves at the Gardner Main Stacks. These reserved carrels were all labeled with the graduate student’s name card. The library has testified the many hours of hard work as a substantial portion of the dissertation was brainstormed, conceived, and written there. My new favorite den is the “lounge” at the East Asian Language Library. It’s a very cozy reading room graced with comfortable chairs overlooking the campus lawn through the ceiling-to-floor windows.

As I have purchased most of my books, libraries have become my escape from the noise and the hustle-and-bustle of the world. I like to treat myself some quality reading time at libraries where patrons are sparse. Libraries are central station for academic research, where information is located and consumed, and therefore libraries will not and cannot be replaced by coffee shops and bookstores.

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46 Responses

  1. Except for research work on my degrees, I have never used the library to sit and read. I prefer taking an armload home to devour!

  2. I enjoyed this post — both the reflection and the photos. It makes me think more about the different libraries I’ve spent time in, and where I would gravitate to in each one.

  3. So true, we do need this quiet place in our lives. And I alwyas come across students studying

  4. Long live the library!

  5. I also buy most of the books i read, because I enjoy the convenience of having them handy. I have purchased a library card to gain access to the UC Berkeley library.

  6. Oh my gosh! I’m drooling! This small town girl has never been in a library that has more than 3 floors (and that was in college). Oh how wonderful to have such libraries at your disposal over the years.

    I agree…the library will never be replaced. Great post!

  7. I love my library, even though I’m usually too crazy to actually sit down and appreciate the quiet! I do alot of requesting books online, which are then delivered to my home. That is such a wonderful service! I think I’m actually getting my taxes worth on that one. I do stop in too, if I have a few minutes, to just touch books and see what calls out to me!

  8. I enjoyed seeing the pictures of your libraries! I know the San Fran main library, but not the other two.

  9. Wow, those are fantastic looking libraries. I thought the new renovated one in my town was big.

  10. Those are excellent pictures! I buy almost all of my books these days.

  11. Fantastic pictures. Enjoyed your post. Thanks for stopping by my blog!!!

  12. Thanks for taking us down memory lane. I loved your posts about the different libraries you have encountered.

  13. Great post, Matt! The San Francisco Main Library at Civic Center looks magnificient! I’d love to visit it if given a chance.

    I love libraries, unfortunately I don’t visit anymore due to time constraint and would rather read at my own pace, but still I’d love to pay a visit in the near future! 🙂

  14. I simply cannot imagine leaving near a library so large. Well, actually I guess that I can. I lived in New York City for 4 years and walked past the Public Library every day on the way home from work. I am so ashamed to admit that I never once went inside — I was much too intimidated! Now, I would give anything to have that experience again: the Strand Bookstore and the NYPL. I think your use of the library for quiet reading of your personal books is a wonderfully, peaceful idea.

  15. You’ve made great use of these wonderful libraries! Sometimes I feel a bit overwhelmed in the University Libraries, but I love just sitting there and soaking up all that knowledge.

  16. I loved our University library. But I used it only for academic pursuits.

    Loved the photographs.

    Booking through libraries

  17. Super post!! I do like the quiet of libraries. When I was in grad school and an instructor I would hide away in a remote corner of the main stacks.

  18. looks like SF has some great libraries! 🙂

  19. Your library looks amazing. Unfortunately, when I left my uni last year it was getting very dated, noisy and overcrowded. I was glad to hear, but also very annoyed, that they’re planning to start renovations in June. And I think you’ve hit the mark with libraries and academic research. Nothing can ever replace that. I think the library’s physical environment can aid intellectual thoughts and process so much more. The right building and atmosphere can be so inspiring.

  20. I have many good memories of the library from my childhood. My parents didn’t have much money and the library was a great resource for entertainment and education. 🙂 When I was in college, I really only used the library for computer services (I didn’t have my own) and research purposes. I think that was the beginning of the end of my using the library for leisure reading.

    A couple of years ago, I would escape to the public library to read sometimes. It was a way to get out of the office and stay out of the heat. I stopped doing that though because I felt guilty always bringing in my own books to read. Silly, I know, but I’m not always rational in my reasoning.

  21. I’ve shared a number of my fond memories of libraries already. They were especially important to me during my youth and student years. I tend to savor the older styles of architecture, though in Eugene the interior of our new library is very inviting. It’s an excellent place to read with many comfortable chairs positioned near windows which admit natural light. I love the silence of the place embracing the large number of engaged readers. I don’t have a card; I’ll stop by occasionally and pull a book on photography or some other subject to browse — maybe a chapter or two of history or commentary, or just savoring photographs of masters I admire. I have taken a book of my own several times.

  22. I used to love libraries, especially the University of London Library. Nowadays I make very little use of libraries, unfortunately, mainly because I am all over the place for work and the local library is just a very small, well, local one. However, more recently I actually helped a project on the design of a new grand library and I happen to have mentioned this in my most recent post… really a coincidence!

  23. As a child, I loved my very small local library, where I would go with my mum and be allowed to choose my own books on my own, whilst she went off to find her own books in the adult section. I also enjoyed the story-telling or booke reading activities they would organise during the longer holidays. I was so sad when it was demolished a few years ago, but luckily, I have my memories.

    However, now that I’m in HK, I dislike my local library because the selection available is poor, the chairs are like the ones we had at college, with a tiny wooden table attached to it and it’s always packed so there’s nowhere to sit and read, even if you wanted to. When I read, I want to read in comfort, so home is best or a coffee shop (especially if they have big comfy chairs).

  24. sally:
    Me too. When I was in college, I literally camped out at the library!

  25. Janet:
    Libraries have been like school in the sense of the regularity of my visit. They remind me fond memories of different stages of my life.

  26. Blodeuedd:
    When cellphones become ubiquitous that they have conquered coffee houses, bookstores, and the parks, library is my last chance for quiet! 🙂

  27. Susan B. Evans:
    Asa long as there are universities, libraries will never be replaced.

  28. John:
    I also enjoy having books handy and without having to worry about deadline.

  29. Sunny:
    I have been inured to highrises growing up in Hong Kong, even libraries! 🙂

  30. Sandy:
    My cisit to the public library has been very brief. I just keep it quick: Browsing the new book section, picking up reserved books, and dropping off books. The campus library though, is a different story. i tend to linger long enough to get work done if I don’t want to sit in the office for a stretch of time.

  31. ted:
    I prefer the old main library than the new one, even though the new one is more spacious.

  32. Nise’
    I’m glad to hear that libraries around the country are getting the necessary funding for renovation. It pains that education and libraries have always been at the bottom priority.

  33. Yvonne:
    I buy most of my fiction, and tend to check out non-fiction from the library.

  34. Kara:
    You’re very welcome. 🙂

  35. Staci:
    I really enjoy writing this post, which made me stop and reflect upon my childhood. Those were very fond memories. My parents never went to the library with me, because they both worked. Now that I have thought of it, I have grown up fairly well because I was always responsible with my mother’s trust.

  36. Melody:
    Yes, the time constraint and the circulation deadline are the main reason I don’t check out many books from the library. Also I tend to buy my fiction.

  37. Molly:
    I’ve been living in big cities in which there are almost huge libraries nearby. I developed the habit of reading and studying at the library in college, because sometimes I couldn’t fight the distraction at the apartment. I had three roommates throughout college years so it was difficult, and maybe a bit too demanding to ask everyone to commit to a level of quiet that I desired. Library made a perfect spot to read.

  38. Becca:
    Yes, university libraries are very sterile looking and awe-provoking. Library patrons on campus tend to be so much more mindful and considerate of others. I can’t tell you how much I enjoy my campus library. Even to this day, I still make a point to visit the library (just a short walk from my office) on campus to walk through the quiet aisles.

  39. gautami:
    I love mine too. In addition to the main library, each department also has its own library. 🙂

  40. Beth F:
    When I was an undergrad, I would search for the most secluded spots, usually the study carrels and tables behind the stacks because at Berkeley, the shelves ran about 50 miles over four levels. 🙂

  41. marie:
    We’re so bookish here. 🙂

  42. Mae:
    University libraries are designed to facilitate academic research. The library on campus is an an institution in which information is obtained in an efficient manner. Public libraries cater toward the public and so not only the design is public-friendly, but the collection is less scholastically rigorous.

  43. Wendy @Literary Feline:
    I relied on the library for research in college. When I was an undergrad, the campus library (as in the rest of the country) was going through a transition from hard copies to electronic/digital collection. Now most of the academic papers are available online with an access code obtainable from librarian. I remember the days when I repeatedly lug around several heavy Buckram journals for research! 🙂

  44. Greg S:
    I usually check out non fiction from the library now, because I tend to buy my fiction. I like to own my books. The library is a great resource for media and periodicals. 🙂

  45. seachanges:
    With your travel schedule, it would be difficult to keep track of all the due dates of library books. I feel the same way for fiction as well, because sometimes I simply forgot about having checked out a book that I have grew out of interest.

  46. Regina:
    How do you like the Hong Kong Central Library on Causeway Bay Road across the street from Victoria Park? It’s nice and spacious but I find it odd that they staff the library with so many “security” people, who wear a neon-color vest and patrol the aisles. I feel weird. Also I find the library can be very packed over the weekend.

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