ASSOCIATES (2013, November, v. 20, no. 2)


What is your most memorable experience of a library you visited?

The Boston public library in Boston, Massachusetts, USA is not only a place to find books, movies and resources, but a magnificent work of art! I had the honor of taking the Art and Architecture tour of the library last spring to research the architecture of the library for a final paper on my Comparative Arts class at the University of Massachusetts, Lowell.

Magnificent is not a strong enough word to describe this library. The following are some excerpts from my paper. The Boston Public Library (BPL) was built in Renaissance style architecture. Renaissance architecture reflects a renewed interest in ancient Roman models. It demonstrates mathematically derived proportions and logic (Benton 292). The BPL is 235 feet long along Copley Square and 70 feet tall from sidewalk to cornice. It is set on a large granite platform. It is typical of a Renaissance palazzo with a heavy lower story. It has thirteen upper arched windows. The lower windows are not arched but five windows on each side flank three arched doorways. The large Milford granite blocks plant the library firmly in Copley Square. The keystone above the center doorway is of Minerva, the goddess of wisdom. Above the three door ways are seals. The Commonwealth of Massachusetts is over the left door, the library seal is over the center door and the seal of Boston is over the right door. The library seal contains a book with the founding and incorporating dates. Above the book is written Omnium lux Civium which means, The Light of the Citizens. Also carved in the background are shells and dolphins representing the city’s seaport heritage. Above the doors, but below the state, library and Boston seals is a ribbon with a Greek key pattern that extends around the building. Between the spandrels of the arched windows are thirty-three granite medallions on three sides of the library which contain the trade devices of early printers. The medallions and Minerva were carved by Domingo Mora. Mora was a Spanish architectural sculptor brought to the United States by Augustus Saint-Gaudens. There are four large lanterns on each side and in between the doorways. They are of an Art Nouveau style that is black which sets it apart from the light grey marble exterior. It is said that Charles Follen McKim designed them himself.

When entering the BPL you first step into the vestibule where you are greeted by three sets of bronze doors. The doors weigh fifteen hundred pounds each! They were carved by Daniel Chester French. French was an American Renaissance sculptor from Massachusetts. He is also known for the sculpture of Lincoln in Washington, DC. The allegorical figures represent music and poetry on one set, knowledge and wisdom on the center doors and truth and romance on another. Passing though the center doors of Knowledge and Wisdom is the main entrance hall. Once through the vestibule you enter a room with mosaic tile ceilings with designs of vines and trellis’ with names of notable Bostonians. The next hour of the tour just got better and better, marble staircases, murals and sculptures.

Charles Follen McKim, of McKim, Mead and White of New York, was selected as architect. McKim studied under Henry Hobson Richardson who designed the Trinity Church which stands directly across the street from the library. The Boston Public Library was the first free library in an American city paid for by general taxation. McKim was charged with building a “Palace of the People”. For more information go to:

Gerry Deyermond
Memorial Hall Library
Andover, MA

A few years back I took myself on a ‘self-guided’ tour of music libraries around the world, which included the Bibliotheque Nationale (Paris), Sibley music library (USA), British Library, Biblioteca Palatina (Parma, Italy), as well as the Rimsky-Korsakov St Petersburg State Conservatory library and the national Library of Russia, looking for unpublished music manuscripts. There is not much English spoken in St. Petersburg, so I had to practice some key Russian phrases! Just getting through the interview stage in order to get a pass was an exercise! The archives there are dark and dingy and almost a little spooky. I came away with some useful information and a lifetime of memories.

Andrew Angus

A couple of years ago I was extremely fortunate whilst visiting Sweden to have a personal tour through the Swedish Parliamentary Library, the National Library of Sweden including the Library and Archives of Astrid Lindgren, which I must add was particularly memorable, but perhaps the most memorable was a visit and personal guided tour of The Bernadotte Library, located at the Royal Palace in Stockholm.

This library contains the royal book collection of approximately 100,000 books that have belonged to the Bernadotte kings and queens throughout the ages along with a collection of more than half a million photos related to the Bernadotte families. First completed in 1796 the library was originally built to house the Swedish National Library. The Royal Library is only open for visitors during special events such as theme visits or music evenings or for specific researchers. I was fortunate to have a Swedish colleague, Lena Tornqvist, former archivist at the National Library, who was able to arrange my visit and tour of the Royal Library and its very special collections.

Jenni Jeremy
Kelly & Co, Lawyers
Adelaide, South Australia

Several years ago, I was in a bad accident that resulted in my being in a rehabilitation hospital for a while, and I learned to use a wheelchair as the first step toward learning to walk again. The staff had what they called “out trips” when those of us who were in wheelchairs were taken out into the community and shown what life was going to be like, dealing with ramps that were too steep, automatic doors that closed too quickly, and the like. My strongest memory was when we went into the public library. It had been months since I’d been at my library, and the smell of books was almost too much for me. I felt as if I’d come home, and was actually weeping for a bit. Only when you’ve been away from that scent for a while do you realize how much it means in your life, and how much it permeates all around you.

Sue Brayman
The University of New Hampshire Library
Durham, NH

I visited McDermott Academic Library at the Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs several years ago. Dr. Young, the library director gave me a personal tour. He is a true southern gentleman and very knowledgeable.

I was absolutely amazed at the size of the library and its vast holdings, nearly 2,000,000 items. It has several small collections in rooms not often visited by outsiders.

McDermott Academic Library would be a wonderful place to work.

Diann Cullen
Boulder Labs
Boulder, CO

… is without a doubt my visit to the Library of Congress when I was in high school. I had studied US history, but to actually see the original US Constitution, Declaration of Independence, and Gettysburg Address in person (of course these were all under glass) was absolutely mind boggling – actually seeing such famous and old documents! The size of this library was also amazing – row upon row of books and documents! I could have spent my whole vacation there, but my parents had other ideas. Loved every moment of my visit!

Barbara Edwards
ENMU-Ruidoso Library
Ruidoso, NM

I was extremely pleased to attend the annual conference of the American Library Association held in New Orleans, Louisiana from June 22-28, 2006. ALA is the oldest and largest library association in the world and this huge yearly gathering is an extraordinary opportunity for librarians, educators, writers, publishers, and the like to attend informative meetings, programs on various topics, as well as tours and special events. What made this convention truly special to me was not only that it was held in my home state and in the city where I spent the whole of the 1990’s, but the fact that our presence obviously meant a great deal to the leaders and ordinary citizens of this crippled community. I was gratified and proud of this association when its executive board voted to stick with New Orleans after hurricanes Katrina and Rita devastated the region in August and September of ’05. “You are pioneers and you are sending a signal to the world that says New Orleans is okay”, Mayor Ray Nagin told us at the opening of the general session. It was one of many “lump in the throat” moments I experienced. The Crescent City is largely dependent on the tourism industry for its operating budget and the ALA annual conference and exposition was seen as a harbinger of recovery. Indeed it was the largest event of its kind post-Katrina, and pumped an estimated $20 million into their economy!

It was the last day, however that provided satisfaction of the deepest kind. June 26 was one of two service days in which roughly 1000 volunteers completed some 20 projects in libraries and schools all over the city. My ALA membership has never meant so much to me as I took part in a “Libraries Build Communities” project aimed at assisting in the recovery effort. The camaraderie, and yes humidity, was palpable as my group ventured into the hard hit 9th Ward to sort through and pack up the library collection at the original site of the Holy Cross School. The oldest boys school in the city, Holy Cross is determined to carry on their mission. The break in the Industrial Canal levee and its subsequent flood rendered the buildings unfit for use, but the school has since rebuilt their campus on Paris Avenue in the Gentilly neighborhood of New Orleans.

Michael Larose
Arlington Public Library
Arlington, Virginia

My most memorable experience of a library I visited is:

The Old Library and the Book of Kells exhibition located in the heart of Dublin City, Ireland. A walk through the cobbled stones of Trinity College, Dublin will bring visitors back to the 18th century, when the magnificent Old Library building was built.

The Book of Kells is celebrated for its lavish decoration; the manuscript contains the four Gospels in Latin. It must have been close to the year 8oo that the Book of Kells was written.

It is a lasting experience.

Ruby Haider
Montgomery College Library
Rockville Campus

I have visited many libraries – in fact whenever I go someplace new I make a point of visiting the local library. Quite a few years back, I was visiting my brother who lived in Beaufort, SC. He was giving me a tour of the town and I saw the sign for the Beaufort County Library.

Well, of course I wanted to go in. Once inside, as I was browsing the reference area I struck up a conversation with the circulation librarian. I mentioned that I worked at a public library in Williamsport, PA. She immediately quipped “Home of Brodart”.

I was so surprised. I had expected her to say “Home of Little League Baseball” because that is Williamsport’s claim to fame. I knew that everyone in my hometown was familiar with Brodart. They had either been employed by the company or knew someone who was. But I had never thought about Brodart being national. I learned a lesson that I never forgot that day.

Wilma L. Reeder
Snowden Library – Lycoming College
Williamsport, PA