Wednesday, September 26, 2012

What I did on my Summer Vacation – Part II

If like me, you are afflicted with the occasional touch of the New York City as the center of the universe flu,* you may greatly underestimate the literary attractions of other parts of North America (not to mention the world).  In particular, I’m thinking of Utah and Idaho, which on our journey West turned out to be a revelation.

In a chapter that could be subtitled “I went for the scenery; I’d go back for the scenery, the libraries and the bookstores”, I not only came across some wonderful small-town bookstores, but visited what is now my favorite modern library.

The nine-year-old Salt Lake City Public Library (main branch) is situated in a residential neighborhood—not far from the famed Temple Square, among pleasant-looking, but unremarkable buildings.  Even on your first approach, however, you know you’re headed toward something special.

The plaza in front of the library.

Shops and public spaces on the plaza house a radio broadcast studio
(KCPW--the local NPR affiliate) and the amazing Community Writing Center. Run by
Salt Lake City Community College, the center offers free or low-coast coaching
sessions and workshops to individuals of all ages and educational backgrounds.      

A fountain on the plaza

Water descends to an outdoor terrace outside the children's room.

Inside the library atrium: to the right are more shops, including
the George Eliot hair salon, and several floors of study carrels. On
the left are the reading rooms and stacks (a closer look below.)

This mobile, made of tiny books, forms the shape of a human head, more
easily seen as you ascend via glass elevators or the open stairways,

A display of book "sculptures" in the pretty library bookshop.

Miss Stacked-NYC and I couldn't resist a small purchase.

The children's library is on a lower level, but receives plenty of
natural light from the windowed ceiling.

Horizontal shades block the sun as needed, while still
allowing ample natural light to come through.

Two play and reading spaces are available. Here, a visitor enters the Crystal Cave.  

Grandmother's Attic offers a cozy place to hide away.

The large children's collection includes plenty of books on science...


...and even comics and graphic novels. In Utah 
(or Riverdale) anything is possible.

From the fifth floor stairwell you can see the beehives maintained by
beekeeper Frank Whitby. You can also go outside and admire the rooftop
garden and the mountain views.

  Looking out at the library plaza.

Study carrels overlooking the atrium and the street.

Open reading areas are kept cozy in the colder months with
fire places stacked three levels high. 

I left this library feeling elated, inspired, and wishing I could transplant the entire structure to New York. During a recent visit to the library's well-written and well-designed web site I found even more to admire about the building, the collections, and the amenities of this complex. Go here to learn more.

Salt Lake City's Main Library, designed by internationally-acclaimed architect Moshe Safdie, embodies the idea that a library is more than a repository of books and computers; it reflects and engages the city's imagination and aspirations. The building, which opened in February 2003, is double the previous space with 240,000 square feet for more than 500,000 books and other materials, and room for the collection to grow. The six-story curving, walkable wall embraces the public plaza, with shops and services at ground level, reading galleries above, and a 300-seat auditorium. A multi-level reading area along the glass lens at the southern facade of the building looks out onto the plaza with stunning views of the city and Wasatch Mountains beyond. A roof-top garden, accessible by walking the crescent wall or the elevators, offers a 360 degree view of the Salt Lake Valley. Spiraling fireplaces on four floors resemble a column of flame from the vantage of 200 East and 400 South. The Urban Room between the library and the crescent wall is a space for all seasons, generously endowed with daylight and open to magnificent views.

* Not surprisingly, travel is the best remedy!

Monday, September 24, 2012

What I did on my Summer Vacation - Part 1

Now that Labor Day is well behind us and public school has started in NYC, the time seems right for a summer recap.

The Stacked-NYC family went West this year to take in some of the country's natural wonders. But no trip would be complete without visiting local libraries and bookstores, old and new. Here’s a glimpse of what we saw on the road. More to come soon...

Bookman's Corner, at 2959 North Clark Street in Chicago. 

No time to shop and explore here, but on-line reviews--and the store's slogan--have convinced me that book lovers might want to schedule a visit if they're headed to the Second City. (A closer look at the right hand corner of the window with the sign might alert potential shoppers to a unique shelving system. While I understand not everyone would find this appealing, I interpret the "arrangement" as a sign that buried treasure may lie within.)

The Chicago Cultural Center (below) used to be the main branch of the Chicago Public Library. It was home to a wonderful children's room on the second floor. I can almost conjure up the distinctive smell of that room--a not unappealing odor of old books, I suppose. 

Mosaic detail along the stairwell. The building is full of
beautiful work of this kind.

Quotes about literature and reading adorn the walls.

More pretty detail.

A long view of the rotunda being set up for a meeting and of
Michigan Avenue and Millennium Park beyond.

A second rotunda.

The Cultural Center houses a number of temporary exhibit spaces.
The day I visited, these rooms were mostly empty. In fairness, this
may not reflect lack of interest. The ongoing Taste of Chicago food festival had
drawn thousands of locals and tourists into the park

A lounge near the Randolph Street entrance offers a cool
place to read and study on a hot summer day. I liked the anagrams
on the wall....

...but I'm not sure what the readers are being given license to do.
Incidentally, you can get married at the Cultural Center even if you don't have special connections or a big budget.  

A few blocks south of the Cultural Center, the Chicago Architecture Foundation has a lovely shop with plenty of books and gifts--heavy on Frank Lloyd Wright and Frank Lloyd Wright-inspired merchandise.

This is also the location where you can purchase tickets for one of the CAF’s tours. Highly recommended: the CAF River Cruise.  

Friday, September 14, 2012

Bits and Pieces

So much book and bookstore/library news, so little time to read it all. Here are a few highlights from this week:

Team Book Blogger:  It’s the last day of Book Blogger Appreciation Week 2012, an event created by Amy Riley of Participants responded to a series of questions about book blogging and were given the opportunity to network with their peers and recommend some favorite blogs and books. While it’s too late to get involved this year, you can read about what others said here. 

Call Me Maybe: Or just take a book. John H. Locke, a Manhattan-based architectural designer has been  putting bookshelves in public telephone booths around the Upper West Side and stocking them with books free for the taking. While neither the books nor the shelves last for long, I think it's a clever and wonderful project. Read more in the New York Times article about the project. I got so excited about it I went to one of the locations the day after the article appeared. Unfortunately, there was nothing left of the library.  But this doesn't seem to discourage Mr. Locke. I'll be on the lookout for more of his work.

One of Mr. Locke's phone booth libraries.

Read, Drink, and be Merry:  Book-loving New Yorkers who are free this Saturday night might want to participate in this literary pub crawl.Here’s a bit more information from the website:

Saturday, September 15; 6 p.m. 
Saturday Night Fever kicks off in the East Village at 6 p.m. The mayhem that follows includes 3 hours, 23 venues, and 100+ authors in literary readings, conversations, games, music, burlesque, and more. On the roster of fabulous acts are Irvine Welsh (Trainspotting) and America’s sweetheart Molly Ringwald (discuss her new novel, When it Happens to You).An after party for the ages follows.It’ll be a night to remember—so be sure not to miss it.  See what else is in store with our full schedule.

Listeners enjoying a glass of wine at a reading.
Photo credit: Derek Van Gorder

Falling Books: Book art by Alicia Martin; on display as part of the International Paper Biennale 2012 in the Netherlands. You can see more of Ms. Martin's work here.