Which Is Your Favorite Library?

I like libraries. University libraries even more. My new favorite is the Geisel Library, University of California, San Diego.


Designed by William L. Pereira and finished in 1970, it sits on top of its hill as if this hill had been waiting forever and ever just for this particular building to be erected there.

To me the Geisel Library is an ultramodern take on the design of places like Himeji Castle in Japan.

Or maybe it just grew out of the ground, because in spite of all those expanses of glass and the rigid angles the structure looks organic, belonging there. It is quite easy to imagine how it slowly emerged from the ground, growing, growing to its full height, looking faintly otherworldly and yet fully of the here and now.

And then somebody came along and cleaned all those glass panes.

5 thoughts on “Which Is Your Favorite Library?”

  1. I never met a library I didn’t like. I grew up in a family of avid readers. Trips to the library were standard outings. It’s a habit I’ve retained. I also love used book stores. We have a good one in our town. It makes reading affordable. Our public library even has DVDs and CDs to check out. My college’s library was very impressive. I enjoyed doing research there.

    Growing up in San Antonio, I was surrounded by Spanish and Mexican influenced architecture. There are several missions, the Alamo, the Spanish Governor’s Palace, and San Fernando Cathedral. In the downtown area, there are a lot of old houses that date back to the Spanish/Mexican rule of Texas. These are wonderful. I’ve visited them all, numerous times. There’s such a feeling of connection with the time these were populated by Padres and Indians.

  2. Same here – family of avid readers. Reading was highly, highly encouraged. As children we had free reign with all books in the house along the lines of: “If it is slightly too advanced for them, they will ask and one can explain. If it is way over their heads, they will get bored and put the book aside for a few years, to come back to it later.” Very sensible attitude.

    Public libraries were less lenient. Until the age of 15 one was supposed to stay in the “children’s department.” It took a lengthy battle to receive an “adult” card at the age of 12 – one with a prominent remark “not allowed to lend out novels.”

    The way around that was easy: I took out English books. For some strange reason the good ladies at the public library seemed to assume that I used an English novel as a door stopper or for some similar purpose – no restrictions applied there. And my English improved in leaps and bounds.

    My favorite library for research has always been the University Library in Cambridge, UK, even at the time when their computer catalog was still somewhat sketchy and anything older than approx. 100 years was not in there. One still had to use the old handwritten catalogs. And believe me, those were without system – or rather, the system had been changed every few decades or so; just finding what you wanted before getting at the actual books themselves was quite an adventure.

    Well, that has changed. They are up to speed now. But it was fun, in a nostalgic way.

  3. Oh, dear. I graduated from college in January of 1966. There were no computers. But I was whiz at using the Dewey Decimal system and ferreting out books in the dusty basement. I often think about how wonderful it must be to have computers for college research. Or is it just information overload? I recall being somewhat frustrated with the research materials or lack thereof for papers I had to do.

  4. Yes, research today has lost it’s flavor of adventure. On the other hand much more material is available, so research is more thorough and less nerve-racking.

    Generally speaking – I would not like to go back to the “old days.” Too much hassle and too time-consuming.

  5. My parents were apparently like yours, not into censoring books. If we could hold it up, we could read it. I remember reading “Peyton Place” when I was about 15 or 16. Very racy stuff, indeed. One of my cousins always gave Dad a subscription to “Playboy” magazine. I liked it! The cartoons were great, and there were some very fine articles by excellent writers like Jean Shepherd. The pictures of the women were somewhat unnerving, because I surely didn’t look like that. But I figured that was okay, because we were taught not to rely on looks anyway. More emphasis was placed on brains in our house.

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