Category Archives: Public Libraries

Around the World: 14 Beautiful Libraries [Photos]

Reprinted courtesy of: Truth Inside of You and

By: James W.P. Campbell

Photo credit: Will Pryce

Man Reading Book and Sitting on Bookshelf in LibrarySome book collectors do not care very much about where they store their books. The English King Henry VIII, had a fine collection of books, but when visitors came to view them they were horrified by the conditions they were stored in, commenting on how they were stacked randomly on the floor and in untidy heaps covering every available surface. Thankfully, since Roman times, if not before, others have cherished books and wished to show them off to their best advantage.

Incredibly, until now, there has been no single volume tracing the history of library buildings through the ages. For the last three years, I have been traveling the world together with Will Pryce the architectural photographer, visiting and photographing 85 of the world’s greatest libraries in 21 countries. The result is The Library: A World History (Chicago University Press), the most complete account of library buildings to date.

It is impossible to show all the magnificent libraries we have seen on our travels, but here are some of our favorite images from the book (all photos taken by Will Pryce).

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The Biblioteca Marciana in Venice, Italy
The first-floor entrance lobby to the Biblioteca Marciana (completed in 1564) in Venice is reached by a dramatic and richly decorated staircase from an outside doorway in the center of the grand facade facing the Doge’s Palace. Since 1596 the vestibule has housed the Grimani Collection of sculpture. Beyond is the reading room, one of the finest rooms in Venice. The ceiling roundels were painted by the leading artists of the day. It was originally furnished with 38 long wooden lecterns, 16 down each side of the room, arranged like desks in a school classroom. They displayed the priceless volumes left to Venice by Cardinal Bessarion in 1472, each volume secured to the desk by a long iron chain.

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The Library of the Chapter of Noyon Cathedral in France
Libraries have been ravaged by wars and destroyed in fires throughout the ages. We came across these evocative scarred books in the library of the Chapter of Noyon Cathedral in France. Noyon is an unusual survival from the early 16th century– a timber-framed library. Wooden library buildings were probably quite common in the late Middle Ages, but wherever possible when money became available they were rebuilt in stone or brick to reduce the risk of fire. Here it is the effects of war that has caused the damage, the shrapnel from a bomb ripping through the bindings and embedding itself in the exposed pages behind.

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The Biblioteca Malatestiana in Cesena, Italy
The Biblioteca Malatestiana in Cesena, near Rimini in Northern Italy is without doubt the best-preserved example of what a late medieval library looked like. Constructed in 1452 for Malatesta Novello, it was designed by the otherwise unknown architect Matteo Nutti. It still contains the books that Malatesta commissioned to be painstakingly copied out by hand. Each has been preserved in its original position, chained to the desks to prevent theft. In libraries such as this one, the readers went to the desk where the book was situated rather than requesting for the books to be brought to them. The brick vaults, covered in green painted plaster, were designed to resist fire. Continue reading Around the World: 14 Beautiful Libraries [Photos]

A Model School Library Program in Colorado

Reprinted courtesy of

nslpy-winners--220If you are seeking an exemplary school library, look no further than the one at Eaglecrest High School in Centennial, Colorado.

The library at the high school, which is a part of the Cherry Creek School District in the southeast Denver area, earned the 2014 National School Library Program of the Year (NSLPY) Award, which is awarded by the American Association of School Librarians’ (AASL), a division of the American Library Association (ALA) and sponsored by the Follett Corporation.

The school librarians at Eaglecrest seamlessly support, and in many cases take the lead on, integrating education and technological initiatives that best serve the students.

“The Eaglecrest High School library program is exemplary” said Sabrina Carnesi, NSLPY chair. “The committee was blown away by how the entire building is in agreement on the research process. Collaboration consistently occurs. Teachers work with the librarians on locating resources and the school librarians pull a variety of books at different reading levels and interests to meet a variety of learners. Both school librarians and teachers instruct students on the use of tech tools. This approach has resulted in double the amount of checked out books and students who are engaged and motivated to learn.”

Continue reading A Model School Library Program in Colorado

Video game champions in the public library

Reprinted courtesy of: Joystiq and

By: Matt Akers

For some, the image of the public library is one of quiet spaces and dusty hardback books, but for a handful of Massachusetts librarians, the term evokes something quite different: The preservation of video games.

12.20 f1Four such librarians work within the Minuteman Library Network, a consortium of 43 tax-funded institutions across MetroWest Massachusetts, just outside Boston. Their respective philosophies are unique, but they all agree that one of the public library’s most sacred tasks is to archive cultural artifacts and video games – just like books, music, and film – fit that bill.

On Being a Professional Video Game Collector

John Walsh is the Assistant Reference Supervisor at the Newton Free Library, a handsome, three-story brick building located in Newton, MA. It’s ‘New England old,’ built around 1870, and it loans out nearly two million items per year – one of the highest circulation rates of any public library in the state. Video games are some of Newton’s most popular items, but they haven’t been on shelves for long.

Walsh, being a general lover of public libraries, was perusing a nearby favorite two years ago in Watertown, MA., when he made a career-changing discovery: rows and rows of video games. “They have anime, manga, and video games next to each other. I want that [in my library],” Walsh remembered.

Continue reading Video game champions in the public library

The Lumberjack’s Boxcar Library

Reprinted courtesy of: The Exile Bibliophile: Adventures in book collecting and ephemera and

By: Benjamin L. Clark

railroad libraryThe problem of getting books into the hands of readers has been solved in many ways over the centuries. Of course, one of my favorites is the bookmobile. A classic, and staple of rural life in the 20th Century. But in 1919, there was something else in the works to get books into the hands of the lumbermen in the employ of the Anaconda Copper Mining Co. The Anaconda company is one of those “too big to fail” sorts in the history of Montana– it’s name was apt. But that’s not to say this wasn’t a great idea.

Beginning in 1919, this railroad boxcar was refitted to be a library on rails to serve the mobile timber camps in western Montana. The men and their families could be in these remote camps for a few months at a time, and undoubtedly anticipated the days when the library car came. That’s how it was at least where I grew up on bookmobile days. According to the info posted, it was perhaps administered by the Missoula Public Library. I would certainly love to hear more about how this “cooperative effort” really worked between the public library and the Anaconda Co.

library car floor plan library car interior 0 original

Continue reading The Lumberjack’s Boxcar Library

The Mystery Donor’s Tale: A Sister, A Brother And A New Library

Reprinted courtesy of: (New Hampshire News) and on January 17, 2014

By: Chris Jensen

For 100 years the library in Bethlehem occupied three small rooms in Town Hall. But over the weekend that changed with opening of a new library on Main Street. It was the conclusion of a tale involving a mystery donor, a brother who moved far away and a sister who stayed in the North Country.

At the tale’s center were two people.

One was Muriel Brown, who for more than three decades was the town’s beloved librarian.

The other was her brother, Arthur Jobin, known to the family as “Bud.”

Both grew up in Bethlehem.

They had a particularly strong relationship, the source of which wasn’t clear even to family members.

“I just think my mother had a special spot for him,” said Melody Nute, Muriel Brown’s daughter.

During World War II, Jobin joined the Army Air Force and was a tail gunner on a B-17 bomber.

He was shot down over Austria in 1944 and taken prisoner.

Muriel wrote letter after letter on special “Prisoner of War Post” stationary sent to Stalag Luft III camp.

She wrote about work, the weather, the family and her joy at getting his letters.

1.17 f2-4After the war Jobin went to college, moved to California and went to work for United Airlines as a liaison with the FAA.

He didn’t retire until he was 81.

And, all that time he saved his money, said Nute.

Continue reading The Mystery Donor’s Tale: A Sister, A Brother And A New Library

Community pulls together to help library

Reprinted courtesy of: Beaver County Times, Rochester, PA and on December 6, 2013 

By: Marsha Keefer

Faced with an ever-shrinking budget, Terri Gallagher, director of the Rochester Public Library, resorts to creative thinking to offset the losses in her attempt to keep the doors open.

community1Sometimes, she feels like a huckster peddling purses and jewelry, selling raffle tickets to Steelers’ games, conducting paranormal investigations of the Civil War era building, and hosting Victorian teas or champagne poetry nights with Robert Frost.

Though a firm believer that library programs should be free, Gallagher realizes that additional income must be generated to continue existing programs, buy books and computers, pay staff and maintain the building on Adams Street.

Since she took over as director seven years ago, Gallagher said the Rochester library has lost about half its government funding, now operating on a $60, 000 annual budget, because of cuts at the state level and an eroding local tax base.

“That’s huge,” she said. “That’s huge. Trying to make that up is so difficult.”

The situation, however, is not unique to the Rochester library.

Fifty-seven percent of libraries noted flat or decreased operating budgets in fiscal year 2011, up from 40 percent in fiscal year 2009, according to the American Library Association.

Half report insufficient staff to meet patrons’ job-seeking needs and 65 percent report having an insufficient number of computers to meet demand. A study by the Institute of Museum and Library Services, as reported by the Daily Beast, said 274 public libraries closed between 2009 and 2010. “It’s gotten really close, “Gallagher said of Rochester’s situation, running on what she calls a “bare-bones strategy.”

Many libraries, Rochester included, have been forced to scale back resources, lay off staff, and operate on reduced hours, unfortunately at a time when services are needed most, she said.

In the last decade, ALA said library visits have more than doubled.

Continue reading Community pulls together to help library

‘To Kill a Mockingbird’ finally going digital

Reprinted courtesy of: and on May 23, 2014

By: Hillel Italie

Harper Lee has signed on for Scout, Boo Radley and Atticus Finch to enter the electronic age.

tokillamockingbirdFilling one of the biggest gaps in the e-library, “To Kill a Mockingbird” will become available as an e-book and digital audiobook on July 8, HarperCollins Publishers announced Monday. Lee, in a rare public statement, cited a “new generation” of fans in agreeing to the downloadable editions of her Pulitzer Prize-winning classic.

“I’m still old-fashioned. I love dusty old books and libraries,” Lee, who turned 88 on Monday, said through her publisher. “I am amazed and humbled that ‘Mockingbird’ has survived this long. This is ‘Mockingbird’ for a new generation.”

Monday’s announcement came almost exactly a year after Lee sued her former literary agent, Samuel Pinkus, in order to regain rights to her novel. Lee, who lives in her native Alabama and has been in frail condition, had alleged she was “duped” into signing over the copyright.

Continue reading ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’ finally going digital

The Declaration for the Right to Libraries


School Library Declaration

School Libraries and certified School Librarians are critical for student success today more than ever! Download the Declaration for the Right to School Libraries here!


The Declaration for the Right to Libraries is the cornerstone document of ALA President Barbara Stripling’s presidential initiative, Libraries Change Lives, which is designed to build the public will and sustained support for America’s right to libraries of all types – academic, special, school, and public.

In the next year, libraries of all types will hold signing ceremonies, during which community members can visibly declare their right to have vibrant libraries in their community. The signing ceremony is intended to serve as the launching point for continued and vibrant community engagement to:

  • Increase public and media awareness about the critical role of libraries in communities around the country
  • Inspire ongoing conversations about the role of the library in the community
  • Cultivate a network of community allies and advocates for the library
  • Position the library as a trusted convener to help in the response to community issues

Continue reading The Declaration for the Right to Libraries

Tool libraries equip local do-it-yourselfers

Reprinted courtesy of:   The Seattle Times   and

By: Tom Watson

An environmental movement needs a little extra oomph to make a big impact.

n seattle tool libraryThe farmers market movement, for example, offers great food, brings people together and supports local farmers. The alternative-vehicle movement, steadily driving interest in electric and hybrid cars, keeps us out of the gas station and gives us fun new toys to drive.

Tool-lending libraries might seem too unusual to become a full-fledged environmental movement. But they already have a foothold in Seattle, and they do more than just help the environment and reduce climate change.

Eminently practical, tool libraries save the average Joe or Jane real money. Most important, they build community.

Check it out

The new “sharing economy” — car sharing, bike sharing, clothing swaps and more — has gotten lots of media attention. Tool sharing has been less visible, but tool libraries have quietly reinvented the traditional library model.

Continue reading Tool libraries equip local do-it-yourselfers

Photos of Public Libraries across the U.S.

Reprinted courtesy of: (Roughly) Daily and

“What is more important in a library than anything else – than everything else – is the fact that it exists”*…

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Library built by ex-slaves, Allensworth, Calif.

Since 1994, photographer Robert Dawson has photographed hundreds of the over 17,000 public libraries in this country.

“A public library can mean different things to different people. For me, the library offers our best example of the public commons. For many, the library upholds the 19th-century belief that the future of democracy is contingent upon an educated citizenry. For others, the library simply means free access to the Internet, or a warm place to take shelter, a chance for an education, or the endless possibilities that jump to life in your imagination the moment you open the cover of a book.”

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The first Carnegie library: the Braddock Carnegie Library, Braddock, Penn. “The once glorious but now faded interior included a gym, a theater, and a swimming pool, as well as book collections and reading rooms.”

Continue reading Photos of Public Libraries across the U.S.