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!


  1. Very cool that you got to the SLC library. It's famous among the "library as place" crowd. Seattle is another famous one, also Kansas City. Cities are vying to out-do each other on library architecture. At the same time library services are ending in many places. Strange!

    Nice post. I hope there's more to come from the trip.

  2. PS: Love the Scrabble earrings!

    PPS: That kids library looks amazing. However, all good children's libraries should have comics and graphic novels. It's a must! :)