Saturday, May 20, 2006

There's No Place Like a Library

The Minneapolis Central LIbrary Grand Opening was a big success. People, people everywhere and quite a lot of them actually checking out armloads of materials. They must have had a long list they've been keeping for the last three years too. I just went to look today, it didn't make sense to try to wrangle my way through the throngs. It's a beautiful place. It has a Dunn BookwormBrothers Coffee shop for the java fix and a "gift" shop of which my Bookman and I availed ourselves. He found a Mary Oliver poetry book and we each got a t-shirt. Mine has Borges' library loving quote on it: "I have always imagined that paradise will be a kind of library." My Bookman's shirt says: "If a public library is doing its job, it has something in it that offends every single person." And I couldn't resist the bookworm earrings. Cesar Pelli's design is gorgeous both outside and inside. There is an atrium that runs down the middle of the place. Atrium Windows are everywhere and it feels so light and airy. The atrium is open all the way up Looking Up with balconies and chairs and tables. Looking down from the top is dizzying. There are 38 miles of books and from the looks of it, there is open shelf space for more. One of the niftiest things was in the areas where the general stacks are housed. The shelves are on tracks and all push together to allow for more shelves. When you find the row you want, you push a button and the shelves move apart, making an aisle. The volunteer assured us that the shelves will not go back together if a person is standing in the aisle so of course we had to test it. While the volunteer was showing us how the buttons worked and the shelves started moving back together, my Bookman bravely jumped between them. The shelves almost immediately stopped moving. I'm sure my Bookman will be hard pressed to forgive me for saying that I was hoping they would keep moving until they had almost squished him because I was envisioning all kinds of library action-adventure scenarios with the moving bookshelves. I would have taken a picture, but my camera batteries died. I did get a picture of the entrance to the special collections room. Special CollectionsThat's my Bookman holding the door. The room itself wasn't all that interesting. But in the corner was an old card catalog. Card CatalogWhile kids in the room went to the computers, nearly every adult exclaimed, "A card catalog!" and stood grinning at it from a distance, or like me, went up and touched it and opened the drawers. I don't know what it is about a card catalog, but seeing it made me happy. All the city's politicians were there yucking it up of course. As much as I wanted to give the mayor and a few other of the city's officials a kick in the pants (I was close enough several times, I could have done it), it was a special day and I didn't want to ruin it with me getting sent off to jail on misdemeanor assault charges. We could have stayed all day, but it was getting more and more crowded so we departed for the metro rail station a block away and got to ride free because we have city library cards. It's easier to request books over the internet and pick them up at my branch library, but I'd really love to go back downtown some Saturday and spend a few quiet hours browsing around and reading in a chair by a sunny window, enjoying the third largest per capita collection of books in the country. If you are interested in seeing more pictures of the library, old and new, folks are tagging them at Flickr